Repair dot files

Although it is highly unlikely that your dot files can do anything to permanently damage your data or your user account (unless you code them to do just that), a misconfigured file can mess up X Windows. In fact, the most common result of a badly designed configuration is that you will not be able to log in at all. You will know this is the case when the system recognizes your password, starts logging in for a second or two, and then kicks you back to the login screen. Luckily, there are some very easy ways to correct this problem:

  • Edit the file directly. If you edited one of the above dot files and your X Windows environment is now messed up, remove the changes you made. Your account should now start fine.
  • Run resetenv. The most drastic--and most effective--way of fixing your dot files is to run the following command: /usr/local/bin/resetenv. This script copies all of your current dot files to a backup directory and then copies the default files from ~template into your home directory. This effectively reverts your X Windows system back to the defaults. Be sure to read the output from the resetenv command carefully. It will tell you which dot files have been set to the defaults and which ones have been kept the same. It also tells you the directory where your old dot files have been stored.

Of course, it is difficult to attempt any of these repairs if the system will not let you log in to begin with. One way around this is to SSH to a CSE Labs machine. This will allow you to log in to your UNIX account without starting the majority of your X Windows system. You can run SSH from a computer in one of the Windows labs or from most off-campus machines that have an SSH client installed and are connected to the Internet.