Automatically Logout Of Your Shell

For security reasons, you’ll possibly automatically logout of your user sessions. If you didn’t know, you can actually do that with your shell, in the terminal. There’s already a variable (TMOUT) just for this reason, should you want to add it as a layer of security.

Basically, for today, we’re going to set it up so that it automatically logs inactive users out of their shell session. It doesn’t log you out of your complete user session, it just logs you out of your shell – after a set period of activity. It even closes the open terminal windows when it does so.

So, depending on the interval you use, you can set it up to log you out of your shell instances after just a few minutes of inactivity. If you have nosy neighbors, like people physically near your computer, it can be a nice way to make sure things are all locked before you head off to the bathroom.

It’s useful for that sort of stuff. It’s just an added layer of security. I think that it is a pretty handy feature. I’ll explain how to enable it on a user-by-user basis and how to make it system-wide, giving you a choice. It’s actually pretty easy, so read on!

Automatically Logout Of Your Shell:

Like most good things in the Linux world, you’ll need an open terminal to take advantage of this article. If you don’t know how to open the terminal, you can do so with your keyboard – just press CTRL + ALT + T and your default terminal should open.

Both of these ways are pretty simple, in each case you add some text (using nano) to a profile file. The text in either case is the same. If you want to do it for just one user, the user you’re currently using, then run the following:

Add the following:

So, if you wanted it to be 10 minutes of inactivity before being logged out, you’d use TMOUT=600, because 600 seconds is 10 minutes. As you’re using nano, you can press CTRL + X, then Y, and then ENTER to save the file.

You’ll then force the profile to load, the command taking effect immediately, with this:

If you want to do it with the full system, the online guides will tell you to edit /etc/profile and that it’ll work if you do. My experiences are different and this is tested across multiple systems. You’ll be editing /etc/bash.bashrc, just like you did above but with sudo. (Using /etc/profile has not worked for me.)

Again, you add ‘TMOUT=600″ or however many seconds you want to wait. Personally? I scrolled to the bottom of the file, made a new line, and added the text that way. You could be all professional and add a comment indicating when and why you were there. I did nothing of the sort.

Unlike the first command, you’ll not be able to reload the second method (system-wide configuration) with ‘source ~/…’. As near as I can tell, you’ll have to restart the system for the changes to take place. If someone has a way to load it without rebooting, I’ll update the article. Please leave a comment if you do know of a way!


There you have it, another article! This one tells you how to automatically logout from your shell. I’m not sure if it works for all shells, so feel free to test and see what sort of results you get. I’m pretty sure the 2nd option could be reloaded without rebooting, but I can’t think of which command. Which service would need restarting? I dunno?

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Last Updated on November 15, 2021 by KGIII

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Author: KGIII

Retired mathematician, residing in the mountains of Maine. I may be old and wise, but I am not infallible. Please point out any errors. And, as always, thanks again for reading.

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