Easy Tutorial on How to Run a .sh File on Linux and macOS

how to run a .sh file

How to Run a .sh File

Running a .sh file is a common task in the world of Linux and Unix-based systems. These files, known as shell scripts, contain commands that the shell interprets and executes. If you’re new to this, you might find it a bit daunting, but fear not. This guide will walk you through the process step-by-step, ensuring you understand each part of running a .sh file effectively and securely. Also read: how to create a .sh file

Understanding .sh Files

A .sh file is essentially a script written for the Bourne shell, or one of its compatible shells like Bash (Bourne Again SHell). These scripts are used to automate tasks that would otherwise be performed manually in the terminal. They can include commands, functions, loops, and conditional statements, making them powerful tools for system administrators and developers.


Before running a .sh file, you need:

  1. Access to a Unix-based system: This includes Linux distributions, macOS, or Windows with WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux).
  2. Basic knowledge of the terminal: Familiarity with navigating directories and executing commands will be helpful.

Step-by-Step Guide to Running a .sh File

  1. Open the TerminalFirst, you need to open your terminal application. This can usually be found in your system’s applications menu or by searching for “terminal.”
  2. Navigate to the DirectoryUse the cd command to navigate to the directory containing your .sh file. For example:
    cd /path/to/your/script
  3. Make the Script ExecutableBefore you can run the script, you need to make it executable. This can be done using the chmod command:
    chmod +x script.sh

    The +x flag adds executable permissions to the file.

  4. Run the ScriptThere are two primary ways to run your script:
    • Using the relative or absolute path:

      The ./ indicates the script is located in the current directory. For a script located elsewhere, you would provide the full path, like /path/to/your/script.sh.

    • Using the sh or bash command:
      sh script.sh


      bash script.sh

      These commands explicitly call the shell to execute the script.

Additional Tips for Running .sh Files

  • Check the Shebang: The first line of your script should specify the interpreter, commonly #!/bin/bash or #!/bin/sh. This line is called the shebang and tells the system which shell to use.
  • Error Handling: Use set -e at the beginning of your script to make it exit on errors. This can prevent partial executions and ensure better script reliability.
  • Debugging: If your script isn’t working as expected, run it with the -x option to debug:
    bash -x script.sh

    This will print each command and its arguments to the terminal as they are executed, helping you identify where issues may be occurring.

Running .sh Files on Windows

If you’re using Windows, you can still run .sh files using the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL). Here’s how:

  1. Install WSLOpen PowerShell as an administrator and run:
    wsl --install

    This will install WSL and a default Linux distribution.

  2. Open WSLOnce installed, open WSL from the Start menu.
  3. Navigate and ExecuteNavigate to your script’s directory using cd and follow the steps mentioned earlier to make it executable and run it.

Security Considerations

Running scripts can pose security risks, especially if they come from untrusted sources. Here are some safety tips:

  • Review the Script: Always read through the script to understand what it does before running it.
  • Use Virtual Environments: If possible, run untrusted scripts in a controlled environment or a virtual machine.
  • Keep Systems Updated: Ensure your system and its security features are up to date to protect against known vulnerabilities.

Running a .sh file is a straightforward process once you understand the basics. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can efficiently execute shell scripts to automate tasks and enhance your productivity on Unix-based systems. Always remember to handle scripts with caution, especially those from unknown sources, to maintain the security of your system. With practice, running and creating your own shell scripts will become second nature, empowering you to harness the full potential of your terminal.