My bash shell will no longer change directory with cd. I noticed it earlier when working and found that any new shells I opened (terminal or xterm etc) would be stuck in the home directory and could not get out (already open terminals continued to work fine).

[~]$ pwd
[~]$ cd /
[~]$ cd Documents/
[~]$ pwd
[~]$ type cd
cd is a shell builtin
[~]$ alias
alias l.='ls -d .* --color=auto'
alias ll='ls -l --color=auto'
alias ls='ls --color=auto'
alias vi='vim'
alias which='alias | /usr/bin/which --tty-only --read-alias --show-dot --show-tilde'

I thought it must be some weirdness I didn't have time to deal with such as a handler out of memory (having checked that cd wasn't aliased and using the builtin version).

So I (yes, I know) rebooted the machine.

Fresh boot, exactly the same problem.

CSH on the other hand works fine, so immediately after the snippet above:

[~]$ csh
[~]$ cd /
[/]$ pwd
[/]$ cd ~/Documents/
[~/Documents]$ pwd

I haven't installed anything new or performed any updates in the last few days and it was working fine until late this evening.

Ideas/assistance/HELP much appreciated!

** UPDATE **

So digging around I found this line in .bashrc

export PROMPT_COMMAND="cd"

If I unset PROMPT_COMMAND then everything works as normal.

But... WTF. I didn't put this line in the .bashrc and everything was working perfectly until tonight. Should I just comment it out, manually unset it, or just burn the computer as a witch?

  • OS is CentOS 6.3 Final, Kernel is 2.6.32-279.11.1.el6.x86_64, command-line expansion through tab if I put in a full directory name and type/more etc again if I put in a FQ file path work fine. If that helps.
    – Dave C
    Mar 5, 2013 at 22:55
  • 3
    If something on your system recently changed, and you are the only user and you didn't make that change, then perhaps your system has been compromised?
    – Zoredache
    Mar 5, 2013 at 23:10

2 Answers 2


Setting PROMPT_COMMAND to cd is a pretty common prank, if you didn't set it, and you're the only user, then yes, you've been compromised.

If friends have access though, this is a prank I've seen numerous times, talk with them.

  • 6
    Or if you're in an environment where you might have left your terminal unlocked. It depends on the corporate culture, but since unlocked terminals are a frowned upon practice, pranking between sysadmins is fairly common.
    – Andrew B
    Mar 6, 2013 at 0:22
  • 4
    I think I've been pranked. +1 to my lab colleagues for a Linux prank. -1 to me for leaving the screen unlocked. Don't think I've been compromised, well at least I hope not - everything else looks well. Thanks to all for your answers.
    – Dave C
    Mar 6, 2013 at 15:59
  • 1
    Technically, this is still a compromise, even if it was done "for fun". Depending on who you are and where you are, it could lead to you and/or your colleagues getting told off or worse, or it might be your responsibility to report the compromise to IT staff (by law).
    – Kusalananda
    Aug 18, 2019 at 7:08

If PROMPT_COMMAND environment variable is set, the value is executed as a command prior to issuing each primary prompt. In other words, the contents of this variable are executed as a regular Bash command just before Bash displays a prompt:

[vivek@vivek-desktop man]$ PROMPT_COMMAND="echo Yahooo"
[vivek@vivek-desktop man]$ date
Tue Oct 20 23:50:01 IST 2009


cd without arguments returns to the home directory (handy!).

.bashrc gets executed when spawning each shell, that's why the old terminals were unaffected.

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