Skip to content


Switch branches/tags

Name already in use

A tag already exists with the provided branch name. Many Git commands accept both tag and branch names, so creating this branch may cause unexpected behavior. Are you sure you want to create this branch?
This branch is 14 commits ahead, 117 commits behind rbenv:master.

Latest commit

When using system-wide rubies, it is possible that a system location is
included in the list. E.g. `/usr/bin` or `/usr/local/bin`. This in turn
results in rbenv shims for all binaries in there, possibly causing
an infinite loop. The problematic location is always the default bindir.

Git stats


Failed to load latest commit information.
Latest commit message
Commit time

Groom your app’s Ruby environment with rbenv.

Use rbenv to pick a Ruby version for your application and guarantee that your development environment matches production. Put rbenv to work with Bundler for painless Ruby upgrades and bulletproof deployments.

Powerful in development. Specify your app's Ruby version once, in a single file. Keep all your teammates on the same page. No headaches running apps on different versions of Ruby. Just Works™ from the command line and with app servers like Pow. Override the Ruby version anytime: just set an environment variable.

Rock-solid in production. Your application's executables are its interface with ops. With rbenv and Bundler binstubs you'll never again need to cd in a cron job or Chef recipe to ensure you've selected the right runtime. The Ruby version dependency lives in one place—your app—so upgrades and rollbacks are atomic, even when you switch versions.

One thing well. rbenv is concerned solely with switching Ruby versions. It's simple and predictable. A rich plugin ecosystem lets you tailor it to suit your needs. Compile your own Ruby versions, or use the ruby-build plugin to automate the process. Specify per-application environment variables with rbenv-vars. See more plugins on the wiki.

Why choose rbenv over RVM?

Table of Contents

How It Works

At a high level, rbenv intercepts Ruby commands using shim executables injected into your PATH, determines which Ruby version has been specified by your application, and passes your commands along to the correct Ruby installation.

Understanding PATH

When you run a command like ruby or rake, your operating system searches through a list of directories to find an executable file with that name. This list of directories lives in an environment variable called PATH, with each directory in the list separated by a colon:


Directories in PATH are searched from left to right, so a matching executable in a directory at the beginning of the list takes precedence over another one at the end. In this example, the /usr/local/bin directory will be searched first, then /usr/bin, then /bin.

Understanding Shims

rbenv works by inserting a directory of shims at the front of your PATH:


Through a process called rehashing, rbenv maintains shims in that directory to match every Ruby command across every installed version of Ruby—irb, gem, rake, rails, ruby, and so on.

Shims are lightweight executables that simply pass your command along to rbenv. So with rbenv installed, when you run, say, rake, your operating system will do the following:

  • Search your PATH for an executable file named rake
  • Find the rbenv shim named rake at the beginning of your PATH
  • Run the shim named rake, which in turn passes the command along to rbenv

.ruby-version and .ruby-variant

Typically most projects will commit a .ruby-version file to their projects git repository. This causes conflicts when you are using a different variant of Ruby on the server.

For example, lets say that in development you have not installed fullstaq-rbenv and you have defined 2.6.3 in your .ruby-version file. On the server you have installed fullstaq-ruby and only installed 2.6.3-jemalloc. Rbenv will complain that 2.6.3 is not installed as that is what your .ruby-version has defined.

The solution to this is to add a .ruby-variant file to your project. For example if you are using the jemalloc variant simply put jemalloc in this file. Only when you are using fullstaq-rbenv will it combine the contents of .ruby-version and .ruby-variant to a single version string, ie. 2.6.3-jemalloc.

Choosing the Ruby Version

When you execute a shim, rbenv determines which Ruby version to use by reading it from the following sources, in this order:

  1. The RBENV_VERSION environment variable, if specified. You can use the rbenv shell command to set this environment variable in your current shell session.

  2. The first .ruby-version file found by searching the directory of the script you are executing and each of its parent directories until reaching the root of your filesystem.

  3. The first .ruby-version file found by searching the current working directory and each of its parent directories until reaching the root of your filesystem. You can modify the .ruby-version file in the current working directory with the rbenv local command.

  4. The global ~/.rbenv/version file. You can modify this file using the rbenv global command. If the global version file is not present, rbenv assumes you want to use the "system" Ruby—i.e. whatever version would be run if rbenv weren't in your path.

Locating the Ruby Installation

Once rbenv has determined which version of Ruby your application has specified, it passes the command along to the corresponding Ruby installation.

Each Ruby version is installed into its own directory under ~/.rbenv/versions. For example, you might have these versions installed:

  • ~/.rbenv/versions/1.8.7-p371/
  • ~/.rbenv/versions/1.9.3-p327/
  • ~/.rbenv/versions/jruby-1.7.1/

Version names to rbenv are simply the names of the directories in ~/.rbenv/versions.

System-wide Ruby Installations

Rbenv also supports system-wide Ruby installations. Such installations are available to all users on the system because they are not located in a home directory. This works through the RBENV_SYSTEM_VERSIONS_DIR environment variable: if it is set, then rbenv will look there in addition to looking in ~/.rbenv/versions.

For example, suppose that RBENV_SYSTEM_VERSIONS_DIR is set to /usr/local/lib/rbenv/versions. You might then have those versions installed:

  • /usr/local/lib/rbenv/versions/2.4.0/
  • /usr/local/lib/rbenv/versions/2.6.2/

Note that ~/.rbenv/versions has priority over RBENV_SYSTEM_VERSIONS_DIR. If a Ruby installation exists in both ~/.rbenv/versions and RBENV_SYSTEM_VERSIONS_DIR, then rbenv will use the one in ~/.rbenv/versions.


Compatibility note: rbenv is incompatible with RVM. Please make sure to fully uninstall RVM and remove any references to it from your shell initialization files before installing rbenv.

Homebrew on macOS

If you're on macOS, we recommend installing rbenv with Homebrew.

  1. Install rbenv.

    $ brew install rbenv

    Note that this also installs ruby-build, so you'll be ready to install other Ruby versions out of the box.

  2. Set up rbenv in your shell.

    $ rbenv init

    Follow the printed instructions to set up rbenv shell integration.

  3. Close your Terminal window and open a new one so your changes take effect.

  4. Verify that rbenv is properly set up using this rbenv-doctor script:

    $ curl -fsSL | bash
    Checking for `rbenv' in PATH: /usr/local/bin/rbenv
    Checking for rbenv shims in PATH: OK
    Checking `rbenv install' support: /usr/local/bin/rbenv-install (ruby-build 20170523)
    Counting installed Ruby versions: none
      There aren't any Ruby versions installed under `~/.rbenv/versions'.
      You can install Ruby versions like so: rbenv install 2.2.4
    Checking RubyGems settings: OK
    Auditing installed plugins: OK
  5. That's it! Installing rbenv includes ruby-build, so now you're ready to install some other Ruby versions using rbenv install.

Upgrading with Homebrew

To upgrade to the latest rbenv and update ruby-build with newly released Ruby versions, upgrade the Homebrew packages:

$ brew upgrade rbenv ruby-build

Basic GitHub Checkout

For a more automated install, you can use rbenv-installer. If you prefer a manual approach, follow the steps below.

This will get you going with the latest version of rbenv without needing a systemwide install.

  1. Clone rbenv into ~/.rbenv.

    $ git clone ~/.rbenv

    Optionally, try to compile dynamic bash extension to speed up rbenv. Don't worry if it fails; rbenv will still work normally:

    $ cd ~/.rbenv && src/configure && make -C src
  2. Add ~/.rbenv/bin to your $PATH for access to the rbenv command-line utility.

    • For bash:

      $ echo 'export PATH="$HOME/.rbenv/bin:$PATH"' >> ~/.bash_profile
    • For Ubuntu Desktop:

      $ echo 'export PATH="$HOME/.rbenv/bin:$PATH"' >> ~/.bashrc
    • For Zsh:

      $ echo 'export PATH="$HOME/.rbenv/bin:$PATH"' >> ~/.zshrc
    • For Fish shell:

      $ set -Ux fish_user_paths $HOME/.rbenv/bin $fish_user_paths
  3. Set up rbenv in your shell.

    $ ~/.rbenv/bin/rbenv init

    Follow the printed instructions to set up rbenv shell integration.

  4. Restart your shell so that PATH changes take effect. (Opening a new terminal tab will usually do it.)

  5. Verify that rbenv is properly set up using this rbenv-doctor script:

    $ curl -fsSL | bash
    Checking for `rbenv' in PATH: /usr/local/bin/rbenv
    Checking for rbenv shims in PATH: OK
    Checking `rbenv install' support: /usr/local/bin/rbenv-install (ruby-build 20170523)
    Counting installed Ruby versions: none
      There aren't any Ruby versions installed under `~/.rbenv/versions'.
      You can install Ruby versions like so: rbenv install 2.2.4
    Checking RubyGems settings: OK
    Auditing installed plugins: OK
  6. (Optional) Install ruby-build, which provides the rbenv install command that simplifies the process of installing new Ruby versions.

Upgrading with Git

If you've installed rbenv manually using Git, you can upgrade to the latest version by pulling from GitHub:

$ cd ~/.rbenv
$ git pull

How rbenv hooks into your shell

Skip this section unless you must know what every line in your shell profile is doing.

rbenv init is the only command that crosses the line of loading extra commands into your shell. Coming from RVM, some of you might be opposed to this idea. Here's what rbenv init actually does:

  1. Sets up your shims path. This is the only requirement for rbenv to function properly. You can do this by hand by prepending ~/.rbenv/shims to your $PATH.

  2. Installs autocompletion. This is entirely optional but pretty useful. Sourcing ~/.rbenv/completions/rbenv.bash will set that up. There is also a ~/.rbenv/completions/rbenv.zsh for Zsh users.

  3. Rehashes shims. From time to time you'll need to rebuild your shim files. Doing this automatically makes sure everything is up to date. You can always run rbenv rehash manually.

  4. Installs the sh dispatcher. This bit is also optional, but allows rbenv and plugins to change variables in your current shell, making commands like rbenv shell possible. The sh dispatcher doesn't do anything invasive like override cd or hack your shell prompt, but if for some reason you need rbenv to be a real script rather than a shell function, you can safely skip it.

Run rbenv init - for yourself to see exactly what happens under the hood.

Installing Ruby versions

The rbenv install command doesn't ship with rbenv out of the box, but is provided by the ruby-build project. If you installed it either as part of GitHub checkout process outlined above or via Homebrew, you should be able to:

# list all available versions:
$ rbenv install -l

# install a Ruby version:
$ rbenv install 2.0.0-p247

Alternatively to the install command, you can download and compile Ruby manually as a subdirectory of ~/.rbenv/versions/. An entry in that directory can also be a symlink to a Ruby version installed elsewhere on the filesystem. rbenv doesn't care; it will simply treat any entry in the versions/ directory as a separate Ruby version.

Installing System-wide Ruby versions

rbenv install always installs to ~/.rbenv/versions/. If you want to install a Ruby version system-wide (i.e. you're going to use RBENV_SYSTEM_VERSIONS_DIR) then here's how to do it with ruby-build:

# if ruby-build is installed as an rbenv plugin:
$ sudo "$(rbenv root)/plugins/ruby-build" 2.6.2 "$RBENV_SYSTEM_VERSIONS_DIR/2.6.2"

# if ruby-build is installed standalone:
$ sudo ruby-build 2.6.2 "$RBENV_SYSTEM_VERSIONS_DIR/2.6.2"

The use of sudo in the above example is under the assumption that RBENV_SYSTEM_VERSIONS_DIR is only writable by root. You can omit sudo if the directory is writable by the current user. Note however that you should then carefully think about what appropriate permissions should be: it is generally a bad idea for a Ruby installation directory to be writable by multiple users.

Again (as an alternative to using ruby-build), you can download and compile Ruby manually as a subdirectory of RBENV_SYSTEM_VERSIONS_DIR.

Installing Ruby gems

Once you've installed some Ruby versions, you'll want to install gems. First, ensure that the target version for your project is the one you want by checking rbenv version (see Command Reference). Select another version using rbenv local 2.0.0-p247, for example. Then, proceed to install gems as you normally would:

$ gem install bundler

Unless the corresponding Ruby installation was installed system-wide, you don't need sudo to install gems. Typically, the Ruby versions will be installed and writeable by your user. No extra privileges are required to install gems.

Check the location where gems are being installed with gem env:

$ gem env home
# => ~/.rbenv/versions/<ruby-version>/lib/ruby/gems/...

Uninstalling Ruby versions

As time goes on, Ruby versions you install will accumulate in your ~/.rbenv/versions directory (or in RBENV_SYSTEM_VERSIONS_DIR).

To remove old Ruby versions, simply rm -rf the directory of the version you want to remove. You can find the directory of a particular Ruby version with the rbenv prefix command, e.g. rbenv prefix 1.8.7-p357.

The ruby-build plugin provides an rbenv uninstall command to automate the removal process. That command however only supports removing from ~/.rbenv/versions, not from RBENV_SYSTEM_VERSIONS_DIR.

Uninstalling rbenv

The simplicity of rbenv makes it easy to temporarily disable it, or uninstall from the system.

  1. To disable rbenv managing your Ruby versions, simply remove the rbenv init line from your shell startup configuration. This will remove rbenv shims directory from PATH, and future invocations like ruby will execute the system Ruby version, as before rbenv.

rbenv will still be accessible on the command line, but your Ruby apps won't be affected by version switching.

  1. To completely uninstall rbenv, perform step (1) and then remove its root directory. This will delete all Ruby versions that were installed under `rbenv root`/versions/ directory:

     rm -rf `rbenv root`

    If you've installed rbenv using a package manager, as a final step perform the rbenv package removal. For instance, for Homebrew:

     brew uninstall rbenv
  2. If you installed any Ruby versions system-wide, then also be sure to remove the entire RBENV_SYSTEM_VERSIONS_DIR directory:

    sudo rm -rf "$RBENV_SYSTEM_VERSIONS_DIR"

Command Reference

Like git, the rbenv command delegates to subcommands based on its first argument. The most common subcommands are:

rbenv local

Sets a local application-specific Ruby version by writing the version name to a .ruby-version file in the current directory. This version overrides the global version, and can be overridden itself by setting the RBENV_VERSION environment variable or with the rbenv shell command.

$ rbenv local 1.9.3-p327

When run without a version number, rbenv local reports the currently configured local version. You can also unset the local version:

$ rbenv local --unset

rbenv global

Sets the global version of Ruby to be used in all shells by writing the version name to the ~/.rbenv/version file. This version can be overridden by an application-specific .ruby-version file, or by setting the RBENV_VERSION environment variable.

$ rbenv global 1.8.7-p352

The special version name system tells rbenv to use the system Ruby (detected by searching your $PATH).

When run without a version number, rbenv global reports the currently configured global version.

rbenv shell

Sets a shell-specific Ruby version by setting the RBENV_VERSION environment variable in your shell. This version overrides application-specific versions and the global version.

$ rbenv shell jruby-1.7.1

When run without a version number, rbenv shell reports the current value of RBENV_VERSION. You can also unset the shell version:

$ rbenv shell --unset

Note that you'll need rbenv's shell integration enabled (step 3 of the installation instructions) in order to use this command. If you prefer not to use shell integration, you may simply set the RBENV_VERSION variable yourself:

$ export RBENV_VERSION=jruby-1.7.1

rbenv versions

Lists all Ruby versions known to rbenv, and shows an asterisk next to the currently active version.

$ rbenv versions
* 1.9.3-p327 (set by /Users/sam/.rbenv/version)

rbenv version

Displays the currently active Ruby version, along with information on how it was set.

$ rbenv version
1.9.3-p327 (set by /Users/sam/.rbenv/version)

rbenv rehash

Installs shims for all Ruby executables known to rbenv (i.e., ~/.rbenv/versions/*/bin/*). Run this command after you install a new version of Ruby, or install a gem that provides commands.

$ rbenv rehash

rbenv which

Displays the full path to the executable that rbenv will invoke when you run the given command.

$ rbenv which irb

rbenv whence

Lists all Ruby versions with the given command installed.

$ rbenv whence rackup

Environment variables

You can affect how rbenv operates with the following settings:

name default description
RBENV_VERSION Specifies the Ruby version to be used.
Also see rbenv shell
RBENV_ROOT ~/.rbenv Defines the directory under which Ruby versions and shims reside.
Also see rbenv root
RBENV_DEBUG Outputs debug information.
Also as: rbenv --debug <subcommand>
RBENV_HOOK_PATH see wiki Colon-separated list of paths searched for rbenv hooks.
RBENV_DIR $PWD Directory to start searching for .ruby-version files.
RBENV_SYSTEM_VERSIONS_DIR Defines the directory under which system-wide Ruby versions reside.


The rbenv source code is hosted on GitHub. It's clean, modular, and easy to understand, even if you're not a shell hacker.

Tests are executed using Bats:

$ bats test
$ bats test/<file>.bats

Please feel free to submit pull requests and file bugs on the issue tracker.


Rbenv modified to support DEB/RPM packaging








No packages published


  • Shell 96.7%
  • Ruby 1.4%
  • C 1.3%
  • Other 0.6%