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On my fedora VM, when running with my user account I have /usr/local/bin in my path:

[justin@justin-fedora12 ~]$ env | grep PATH

And likewise when running su:

[justin@justin-fedora12 ~]$ su -
[root@justin-fedora12 justin]# env | grep PATH

However, when running via sudo, this directory is not in the path:

[root@justin-fedora12 justin]# exit
[justin@justin-fedora12 ~]$ sudo bash
[root@justin-fedora12 ~]# env | grep PATH

Why would the path be different when running via sudo?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Take a look at /etc/sudoers. The default file in Fedora includes this line:

Defaults    secure_path = /sbin:/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/bin

Which ensures that your path is clean when running binaries under sudo. This helps protect against some of the concerns noted in this question. It's also convenient if you don't have /sbin and /usr/sbin in your own path.

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Ah, I see that in my file. So, not that I want to, but if I added /usr/local/bin to this directive then I would see it in my path when running via sudo, right? – Justin Ethier Mar 5 '11 at 16:25
I just tried it and now I see /usr/local/bin. Thank you so much for explaining this! – Justin Ethier Mar 5 '11 at 16:27
What about adding your users's path for scripts and binaries, so you don't have to write the absolute path when you must sudo for example a script in your ~/bin (or whatever path you use)? I just made the change - it works, only thought there might be a flip side to it? – Emanuel Berg Oct 15 '12 at 2:01

In most linuxes, you install programs via the package management, and get updates in a regular way. If you install something circumventing the package management it will be installed in /usr/local/bin (for example, or .../sbin, or /opt) and not get regular updates.

I guess therefore the programs aren't considered to be that secure, and not put into roots PATH by default.

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+1 - Cool, I was wondering why it was not in the path, and that makes sense. For what it's worth, I was building node.js from scratch to play around with it, so it makes sense why it would have been put there, and why sudo would exclude this directory by default. – Justin Ethier Mar 5 '11 at 16:29
@Justin Ethier: off topic, but see – mattdm Mar 6 '11 at 18:53

I've just tried this out for myself and I didn't see the behaviour you were seeing - my path remained the same, so maybe your sudo configuration is different. If you check man sudoers you'll see there is an option called secure_path which resets PATH - it sounds like this option might have been enabled.

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Interesting. This was on Fedora 12, for what it's worth... – Justin Ethier Mar 5 '11 at 16:22

Because when you use sudo bash, bash doesn't not act as a login shell. Try again with sudo bash -l and you should see the same result as su -.

If that is correct, then the difference in PATH lies in the configuration files: /etc/profile, ~/.bash_profile, ~/.bash_login, ~/.profile are executed (in that order) for a login shell, while ~/.bashrc is executed for a non-login interactive shell.

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The command su - will execute the root users profile and take on that user's environment including path etc. sudo does not do that.

If you'd like sudo to behave like su - then use the option sudo -i [command which will execute the user's profile

If you'd like su - to behave like sudo then don't use the hyphen - just use su [command]

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