in .bash_profile I accidentally set the path to:


and now the default path is gone. Nothing in Terminal works anymore:

Korays-MacBook-Pro:~ koraytugay$ ls
-bash: ls: command not found
Korays-MacBook-Pro:~ koraytugay$ mkdir test
-bash: mkdir: command not found

I can not see hidden files in Finder so I can not modify .bash_profile from Finder as well.

How can I fix this situation?

  • 1
    This may not work on a BSD-ish system: try restoring a default path with PATH=$(getconf PATH), otherwise do PATH=/bin:/usr/bin – glenn jackman Jun 22 '15 at 15:15
  • 1
    The "getconf PATH" suggestion does indeed work fine, on 10.10 at least. – calum_b Jun 22 '15 at 15:37
  • 3
    Since the PATH is mangled then glenn's suggestion will work with PATH=$(/usr/bin/getconf PATH) – fd0 Jun 22 '15 at 16:24

The simplest way is to restore from a backup e.g from Time Machine
However if the last backup is long enough ago that there is other changes you want to keep the you can edit .bash_profile

In terminal

In a terminal you can use the full path to the editors ( /usr/bin/emacs /usr/bin/vi or /usr/bin/nano) to edit ~/.bash_profile


/usr/bin/nano ~/.bash_profile

Or you could open it with the default text editor (by default TextEdit) via:

/usr/bin/open ~/.bash_profile

In GUI - from Dock or Finder

But also you can do this from TextEdit (or other GUI editors) by File->Open and go to your home directory. Depending on if you have set Finder to show all files or not show hidden ones (the default) you will either see .bash_profile in the list or you can hit ⌘ CMD+⇧ SHIFT+. which reveals hidden files in Open/Save dialogs. (the shortcut is from this answer)

  • 5
    Users who can't fix the described problem themselves probably are better of using nano instead of emacs/vi to edit ~/.bash_profile. – nohillside Sep 1 '16 at 13:15
  • @nohillside: How does using nano help prevent such issues? – Lelouch Jan 17 at 7:54
  • 2
    @lelouch it doesn’t. But nano is useable even for people not used to Terminal, emacs/vi ain’t. – nohillside Jan 17 at 9:11

Bring back a minimal PATH

Enter the following command to reset a minimal PATH:


Fix ~/.bash_profile

Edit your ~/.bash_profile with your preffered text editor vi, emacs or TextEdit. Always prefer a relative PATH construct:

export PATH

Test it

Before proceeding as too many beginners do by restarting your session, to discover that they can't anymore start a shell. Test your ~/.bash_profile: open another Terminal window, and check that it is working fine:

. ~/.bash_profile
  • 1
    There's no need to export your minimal PATH. Any process started by the current shell will inherit the minimal PATH. Though, I would useexport PATH in a shell config file. – fd0 Sep 1 '16 at 14:29
  • 1
    Right! I'm so used to type it this way in environnements where there are shell scripts at test. – dan Sep 1 '16 at 14:43

i came across this mistake which takes me a whole afternoon to overcome. ls, git, mkdir etc. bash commands became invalid and reported an error:"-bash:xx:can't find files or directory" because i modified the .bash_profile in installing zsh. enter the following command to restore your ~/.bash_profile

  1. in terminal of mac, enter:

    export PATH=/bin:/usr/local/sbin:/usr/local/bin:/sbin:/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/bin
  2. you can use your bash commands temporarily, enter:

    vim ~/.bash_profile
  3. restore PATH parameters by modifying

    export PATH=/bin:/usr/local/sbin:/usr/local/bin:/sbin:/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/bin
  4. save vim and exit, then enter:

    source ~/.bash_profile

OK, my computer works again!

  • It might be worth adding that one needs to be careful in step 3 do not destroy other content in the file. – nohillside Mar 4 '19 at 15:10
  • the .bash_profile was destroyed by my incorrect orders, there is nothing left except empty "export PATH = ", so this is the only way i had to re-back my mac – Yongsheng Yu Mar 6 '19 at 1:56

It because you overwrite the existing system PATH.

You can fix it by adding the "$PATH" in front of every line.


export PATH
  1. Open your bash_profile by running /usr/bin/vim ~/.bash_profile. (vim ~/.bash_profile will no longer work because the path is not right).
  2. Get rid of the path you just added that messed everything up.
  3. Exit and restart the terminal so that source ~/.bash_profile runs automatically. (Once again it won't work as is, because the path is not correct).

Open your .bash_profile, go to the line with your error command and put a # before it as first character of the line. Restart (to be sure).

  • How does he open his .bash_profile? – mmmmmm Jun 23 '15 at 15:52

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