If I add export HISTCONTROL=ignorespace in .bashrc, bash won't record any commands which have whitespace before them into history. But I do not understand under what situations it will be useful. Can anyone give some examples?

5 Answers 5


If your commands contain passwords or other sensitive informations

  • 4
    @acgtyrant then you never entered a command with a password. The idea is if you provide a password on the commandline just put a space before the command and it won't get recorded to the HISTFILE Apr 27, 2013 at 10:57
  • 3
    mysql commands can accept the password of the user that you're connect to the database with, there are too many to list here. The point @Ulrich Dangel made is spot on. If you're typing commands with passwords, don't leave them in the history.
    – slm
    Apr 27, 2013 at 11:34
  • 5
    I'll also add that when you're and administrator you often don't want the history on because if an attacker were to get into the system you're leaving him a trail of where things are on the box and what types of commands are typically run on the box.
    – slm
    Apr 27, 2013 at 11:35
  • 1
    If you don't have any commands with sensitive information, then you're not the target audience for that feature. Not every feature in a program is used by every user. (That's one reason why programs have "feature creep": everyone uses a dozen features, but a different dozen, and wonders what all the other useless cruft is for.)
    – Kaz
    Apr 28, 2013 at 4:22
  • 1
    Keep in mind that command-line arguments are often visible in ps, or by looking in /proc. Some systems make the environment visible to other users as well. A mode 0700 file on a tmpfs, OTOH, doesn't have these problems.
    – derobert
    Apr 29, 2013 at 15:13

Another usage is for commands that you don't want to accidentally repeat, such as rm -rf *. I make extensive use of history and occasionally hit Enter accidentally when the command I've retrieved from history is not the one I was looking for. Granted, the real solution is to always read commands carefully before executing them. But being a bit clumbsy, I prefer to also keep particularly destructive commands out of my history as an extra precaution.

  • 14
    I'd add that I found it very convenient to further ignore some dangerous commands even if I forget to include a space: HISTIGNORE=" *:rm -f*:rm -r*:*--force*". This prevents rm -f and rm -r from being saved into history, as well as anything that contained --force.
    – Petr
    Apr 27, 2013 at 18:45
  • This is the/a real solution. Don't leave knives around, saying the real solution is to not poke yourself with them. As the old proverb goes “you can't un-wee in the river” — meaning don't clean the river, instead stop dumping rubbish into it. Jun 16, 2014 at 13:31

A former coworker of mine did this with most cd and ls commands, to record only the "useful" commands.

  • 3
    I almost never run nethack at work without doing this... (or top, or man...) Apr 27, 2013 at 20:57
  • Actually, someone can add export HISTCONTROL=ingoredups in .bashrc to tell bash not to store duplicates so make history more clear. You can read this article
    – acgtyrant
    Apr 28, 2013 at 12:01

Data privacy. The moment law enforcement breaks down your door, you may not want them to find residues of

  • where you wget the latest pron^Wwarez from
  • what movies you recently ripped and fed to a torrent
  • passwords passed via arguments to encryption/decryption programs

Seriously, it's probably the equivalent to a strict privacy setting in your browser, stopping it from recording surf history.


If you version control .bash_history it's a useful way to mark certain commands as "special". Combined with history-search-*, it's a way to press simply Space+m+Up+Enter to run make --directory ~/dev/tilde clean and Space+e+Up+Enter to run editor ~/.bash_history, both of which I use for maintenance of the Bash history file.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .