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I have a bash script myhome.sh containing only one line:

echo $HOME

The script's owner is a user:

$ ls -l myhome.sh
-rw-rw-r-- 1 user user <date> <time> myhome.sh

In Ubuntu 16.04 and 17.10 I get:

$ echo $HOME
/home/user

$ sudo echo $HOME
/home/user

$ bash myhome.sh
/home/user

$ sudo bash myhome.sh
/home/user

In Debian Buster/Testing I get:

$ echo $HOME
/home/user

$ sudo echo $HOME
/home/user

$ bash myhome.sh
/home/user

# WHY ?
$ sudo bash myhome.sh
/root

I don't understand why inside the script in Debian, if it's executed with sudo, I always get $HOME=/root while in Ubuntu I get $HOME=/home/user. Does anyone know what have the Ubuntu developers changed?

0
68

Both Debian and Ubuntu ship an /etc/sudoers file that contains Defaults env_reset, which resets environment variables.

However, the behavior of env_reset was changed from not touching $HOME to resetting it to the home of the target user.

In releases up to 19.04, Ubuntu had patched their version of sudo to keep the previous behavior (of not changing $HOME): https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/sudo/+bug/760140

This was undone for 19.10, and starting since, Ubuntu does what upstream sudo and all other Linux distributions do, and changes $HOME to that of the target user. See this Q&A on askubuntu.com for all the details: How does sudo handle $HOME differently since 19.10?. The reversal was not done for earlier releases, so 18.04 LTS still has the Ubuntu-specific behaviour.


The following is the old text of this answer, and applies to Ubuntu releases up to 19.04, including 18.04 LTS.

In Ubuntu, in order to reset the $HOME environment variable to the target user, one has to set either Defaults always_set_home or Defaults set_home (in which case only sudo -s will get HOME updated) in their /etc/sudoers.

This bug at Ubuntu tracker has some more rationale on not setting $HOME in sudo: https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/sudo/+bug/1373495

See comment #4:

If HOME is removed, then e.g. vim, bash, etc., will use /root/.vimrc, /root/.bashrc, etc rather than the user's ~/.vimrc, ~/.bashrc, etc. While it's a bad idea to run X clients via sudo, they too would likely look in the wrong locations for configuration files, and there's a chance that X11 clients may not even be able to connect to the X11 server if they are aimed at the wrong .Xauthority file.

It's a conscious decision by Ubuntu developers.

This answer has more details on the sudoers options such as always_set_home: https://unix.stackexchange.com/a/91572/281844


There's a second issue in your question, which is the sudo echo $HOME which still displays the user's home even in Debian.

That happens because the shell is expanding $HOME before running the sudo command.

So this:

$ sudo echo $HOME

Is first expanded by the shell into:

$ sudo echo /home/user

And then sudo executes echo /home/user as root...

This should demonstrate the difference too:

$ sudo bash -c 'echo $HOME'
/root

Or get a full root shell and see the environment variable there:

$ sudo -s
# echo $HOME
/root
4
  • 1
    This changed yet again with 19.10: askubuntu.com/q/1186999/158442
    – muru
    Mar 30 at 10:41
  • 1
    I took the liberty of updating the answer here, since filbranden hasn't been around for a while. Go ahead and re-edit or revert as you like, of course. @muru, can you check I didn't leave any stupid mistakes?
    – ilkkachu
    Mar 30 at 12:16
  • 2
    filbranden still seemed active on Vi and Vim, but yes, I'd have edited myself but I was on my phone then. Thanks @ilkkachu!
    – muru
    Mar 30 at 13:25
  • Thanks for the edits!
    – filbranden
    Mar 30 at 14:14

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