I understand the basic difference between an interactive shell and a non-interactive shell. But what exactly differentiates a login shell from a non-login shell?
Can you give examples for uses of a non-login interactive shell?
A login shell is the first process that executes under your user ID when you log in for an interactive session. The login process tells the shell to behave as a login shell with a convention: passing argument 0, which is normally the name of the shell executable, with a
When you log in on a text console, or through SSH, or with
It's rare to run a non-interactive login shell, but some X settings do that when you log in with a display manager, so as to arrange to read the profile files. Other settings (this depends on the distribution and on the display manager) read
When you start a shell in a terminal in an existing session (screen, X terminal, Emacs terminal buffer, a shell inside another, …), you get an interactive, non-login shell. That shell might read a shell configuration file (
When a shell runs a script or a command passed on its command line, it's a non-interactive, non-login shell. Such shells run all the time: it's very common that when a program calls another program, it really runs a tiny script in a shell to invoke that other program. Some shells read a startup file in this case (bash run the file indicated by the
† I'm simplifying a little, see the manual for the gory details.
In a login shell,
And then in some situations it behaves differently depending on its "login shell" status. E.g. a shell, that is not a login shell, would not execute a "logout" command.
A shell started in a new terminal in a GUI would be an interactive non-login shell. It would source your .bashrc, but not your .profile, for example.
To tell if you are in a login shell:
Information can be found in
"A login shell is one whose first character of argument zero is a -, or one started with the --login option."
You can test this yourself. Anytime you SSH, you are using a login shell. For Example:
The importance of using a login shell is the any settings in
"When bash is invoked as an interactive login shell, or as a non-interactive shell with the --login option, it first reads and
executes commands from the file /etc/profile, if that file exists. After reading that file, it looks for
Now if any user is associated with any "shell" in
Now if any user is logged in and he wanted to switch to any other shell for whatever be the reason that shell is non-login shell.
NOTE : Be careful when you are using