How to Reset user files (.profile, .bashrc, etc) in Debian & Ubuntu

This simple tutorial shows how to reset user’s default hidden files, including ‘.profile’, ‘.bashrc’, ‘.bash_profile’, ‘.bash_login’, etc, in Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, and other Linux.

Each user has a few hidden files, that are created automatically, when adding the user account.

They include .bashrc, a script that run automatically at login. Without it, your terminal or command console will lose colors, ‘Tab’ key auto-completion will refuse to work, bash history and alias commands may also no longer work.

Another file is .profile or .bash_profile, .bash_login depends on your Linux system. Which is used to configure user’s $PATH variable. Most apps are installed to system $PATH, so you can run them without typing full path to executable file. For example, your may run firefox instead of /usr/bin/firefox to launch web browser, because it’s installed in your $PATH. If you accidentally remove or break the .profile file, then apps installed to .local/bin, $HOME/bin, or other custom $PATH directories will not work properly.

Reset .profile, .bashrc etc files

Most Linux has a copy of these default user files, available in /etc/skel. Every time when creating a new user account, it automatically copies these files into user’s home directories.

So, to reset these user files, just do copy and paste again from the /etc/skel to your user home!

To do so, first launch terminal either from start/application menu or ‘Activities’ overview depends on your desktop environment.

Then, run command to copy the hidden files to user home:

sudo cp -rT /etc/skel ~/

NOTE: This command will reset all the default user files. In some Linux (e.g., Manjaro), it even reset user defined app shortcuts and auto-start applications.

To be safe, run this command (with ‘-n’ option) instead:

sudo cp -rTn /etc/skel ~/

Which only copy the missing files to user home, while leaving all existing files un-changed.

Or, you may run sudo cp /etc/skel/.file_name ~/ (replace file_name) to reset a certain file to factory state.

After that, you need to run one more command:

sudo chown -R $USER:$USER ~/

Which will change the ownership for all the files in user home to yours!

When done, log out and back in to take place.


In short, the /etc/skel keeps a copy of user default files. Copy them back to user’s home, and change the ownership will reset them to factory state.

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