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How to Set the Default Shell in Linux and MacOS

To set the default shell in a Unix-like operating system, such as Linux or macOS, you typically use the chsh (change shell) command. This command allows you to change the login shell for your user account. Here’s how you can do it:

1. Find Available Shells

First, you might want to see a list of all shells installed on your system. You can do this by checking the /etc/shells file:

cat /etc/shells

This command will display a list of valid login shells available on your system. Common entries include /bin/bash, /bin/sh, /bin/zsh, /bin/csh, etc.

2. Change the Default Shell

To change your default shell, use the chsh command followed by the -s option (to specify the shell), and the path to the desired shell. For example, to change to zsh, you would use:

chsh -s /bin/zsh

Replace /bin/zsh with the path to your desired shell as listed in /etc/shells.

3. Enter Password (if prompted)

You may be prompted to enter your password to confirm the change.

4. Restart or Log Out

For the change to take effect, you may need to log out and log back in, or restart your terminal session.

Important Notes

  • macOS Users: If you are using a recent version of macOS (Catalina or later), the default shell is already zsh. To change it to bash or another shell, the same method applies.
  • System-Wide Changes: The chsh command changes the shell for your user only. To change the shell system-wide (which is not recommended for typical use cases), you would need to modify the default shell for each user account individually or change the system configuration, which requires administrative privileges.
  • Administrative Users: If you are an administrative user and want to change the shell for another user, you can use sudo chsh -s shell_path username, replacing shell_path with the desired shell and username with the target user’s username.

Always be cautious when changing the default shell, especially if you’re new to the command line, as it can affect how your terminal behaves and how scripts are executed.

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