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Advanced Mac users using the command line may occasionally encounter a “command not found” error when trying to run something on the command line. The “command not found” error in the Terminal can surface in the command line of MacOS and Mac OS X for several reasons, as we’ll discuss here, and of course we’ll provide solutions to these problems.
Why you see “command not found” error messages on the command line
The four most common reasons why you see the “command not found” message on the Mac command line are as follows:
- the command syntax was entered incorrectly
- the command you are trying to run is not installed
- the command has been deleted, or worse, the system directory has been deleted or changed
- the user $ PATH is incomplete, or $ PATH is incorrectly set, reset or cleared – this is the most common reason to see the message ‘command not found’
Fortunately, you can fix all these issues and get the general working again as expected. If you simply entered the syntax incorrectly, entering it correctly will fix that, easy! Furthermore, we will start with the most common reason, which is that the user’s $ PATH is not set correctly or has been reset in some way.
Fix “Command Not Found” Terminal messages in Mac OS with $ PATH setting
The most likely reason why Mac users unexpectedly see the message ‘Command not found’ on the command line is that something went wrong with the user $ PATH, or the path where the command resides is not set. You can check the $ PATH with “echo $ PATH” if you feel like it, otherwise you can just run the following commands to set the default default path Mac OS uses in the command line:
export PATH = “/ usr / local / bin: / usr / bin: / bin: / usr / sbin: / sbin”
Hit return and run your command again, it should work fine.
By the way, while we’re focusing on Mac OS here, the same idea applies to other unix and linux variants as well.
Note that if the intended command you are trying to use is in a non-standard directory or some other location (/ usr / local / sbin / etc), you can always add that new $ PATH on the command line to edit. indicate where to look as needed.
Previously, where the message “command not found” is displayed up running simple command line ls and cd:
After that, with those commands working successfully as expected:
How did this happen? Sometimes it can be incomplete or incorrect export $ PATH command, failed environment variable modification, among other reasons.
You may need to refresh the command line shell for the change to take effect. If you restart the Terminal and get the “command not found” error again, add the export $ PATH commands to the users .bash_profile, .profile or the relevant shell profile if you have an alternate shell in the Terminal app used.
“Command not found” because the command is not installed? Use HomeBrew
If the command is just not installed on the Mac, for common examples like wget, htop or the many other useful unix commands available as Homebrew packages not otherwise preinstalled in Mac OS, then the easiest solution is to use Homebrew to install and use on the Mac to access those command line tools. Homebrew is a great tool anyway, so if you’re going to be spending time in the Terminal, you’ll probably want it.
“Command not found” because a system folder is missing? Recover the missing system files
Occasionally, Mac users may find themselves in a situation where they have deleted system files from Mac OS accidentally or unintentionally. Usually this happens when someone experiments with the rm / srm commands and a wildcard, or maybe they got overly diligent with the recycle bin when logged in as root. In any case, read here how to restore deleted or missing system files to Mac OS and Mac OS X – it usually involves restoring from a backupup or reinstalling the system software itself.
Do you know of any other reason why you see the “command not found” error in Mac OS Terminal? Maybe you have a better solution than what is offered above? Share it with us in the comments below!
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