I typed a bunch of commands and when I ran history I saw they were not present in there.

Beside the case when the command start with a (space) what are the cases when commands will not be logged in history?


2 Answers 2


You've already mentioned the leading space, and another answer has mentioned settings that will intentionally change what is saved in the history such as the HISTIGNORE setting and simply turning history off.

Another scenario is multiple interactive shells run by the same user. The Z shell has a share_history option that makes it possible to have more than one Z shell instance updating a shared history file. It re-reads the file looking for new entries, and it applies timestamps to each entry.

The Bourne Again shell does not have this built-in (albeit that one can sort of do so using shenanighans to execute commands when the prompt is printed). The default history file behaviour that this is altering is that neither shell expects anything other than itself to be writing to the history file, and does not update the history after every command line executed.

The default behaviour in the Bourne Again shell, specifically, only updates the history file when the shell exits or one explicitly tells it to with the history command. This means not only that one shell will simply overwrite the history written by another when a user has multiple interactive shell sessions; but also that it is possible for a shell that is not terminated cleanly to not write out the history file and thus to lose whatever command history occurred between the shell being uncleanly terminated and its last (explicit) update of the history file.

Further reading


The history in mostly controlled by shell parameters.


HISTCONTROL is one of these parameters.

Here is what man bash says:

     A  colon-separated  list of values controlling how commands are
     saved on the history list.  If  the  list  of  values  includes
     ignorespace,  lines  which begin with a space character are not
     saved in the history list.  A value of ignoredups causes  lines
     matching  the  previous history entry to not be saved.  A value
     of ignoreboth is shorthand for ignorespace and  ignoredups.   A
     value  of erasedups causes all previous lines matching the cur‐
     rent line to be removed from the history list before that  line
     is  saved.   Any  value  not  in the above list is ignored.  If
     HISTCONTROL is unset, or does not include a  valid  value,  all
     lines  read  by the shell parser are saved on the history list,
     subject to the value of HISTIGNORE.  The second and  subsequent
     lines  of a multi-line compound command are not tested, and are
     added to the history regardless of the value of HISTCONTROL.

Type echo $HISTCONTROL to see how it is set for you.

  • ignoredups - ignore same commands following eachother
  • ignorespace - ignores commands beginning with space as you said
  • ignoreboth - both of the above
  • erasedups - delete old commands when they are used again

My guess is that you have erasedups enabled and commands are missing, because they have been reused at a later point.


It is also possible to completely ban certain commands or patterns from appearing in the history.

Type echo $HISTIGNORE to see which are banned for you. The list of patterns is separated by colons :. It is also possible to ban a pattern like history* would ban all commands starting with the word history.

Disabled history

Also the history can be disabled althogher.

If none of these cases applies to you, you could clarify your question, by adding a sequence of commands not fully preserved in the history.

  • 2
    HISTIGNORE seems to be an important element
    – Jeff Schaller
    Sep 18, 2017 at 12:51
  • I tried to reproduce the situation and noticed that if putty closes unexpectedly, some commands no longer appear in the history, but I cannot reproduce it 100% Sep 18, 2017 at 13:27
  • @EduardFlorinescu: interesting, I tried an invalid command and a cancelled command myself. They appeard in the history. Maybe your command is not part of the history because it not only crashed putty, but the whole shell?
    – HannesH
    Sep 18, 2017 at 13:29
  • I discussed around and a colleague of mine confirmed that when you have multiple ssh(putty) connections to the same machine some of the commands don't register. Sep 18, 2017 at 13:37
  • @EduardFlorinescu: that makes sense, because usually the history file is user-specific. Like ~/.bash_history for me. With mutliple shells it becomes a problem how and when to save, so nothing is lost. Crashes likely increase this problem.
    – HannesH
    Sep 18, 2017 at 13:44

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