How to See a Detailed History of the Commands Run in Linux

This guide will show you how to use the “history” command to review all of the commands that you’ve run on your Linux computer.

If you use or administer a Linux machine it can be quite useful to be able to take a look at the history of commands that have been executed on a machine. This can be pretty useful when debugging and issue. I usually use the command history to help me with this.

# history

946 rpm -R mutt-1.4.1-11.rhel4.i386.rpm
947 rpm -qR mutt-1.4.1-11.rhel4.i386.rpm
948 sudp rpm -qa | mail
949 sudo rpm -qa | mail
950 sudo rpm -qa | grep mail
951 rpm -qR sendmail-8.13.1-3.2.el4
952 cd scripts/log_parse/

This command gives me a straightforward list of the commands executed on this machine by the user I’m currently logged in as. However, sometimes I need a lot more information than just this. I need to know which command was executed at what time. For this I make a small modification to the commands settings, adding the date and time to the information output by the command:

# export HISTTIMEFORMAT=”%F %T “

Now run the history and see the difference:

# history

946 2009-07-20 08:12:33 rpm -R mutt-1.4.1-11.rhel4.i386.rpm
947 2009-07-20 08:09:33 rpm -qR mutt-1.4.1-11.rhel4.i386.rpm
948 2009-07-20 09:49:44 sudp rpm -qa | mail
949 2009-07-20 10:37:33 sudo rpm -qa | mail
950 2009-07-20 10:17:13 sudo rpm -qa | grep mail
951 2009-07-20 10:12:23 rpm -qR sendmail-8.13.1-3.2.el4
952 2009-07-20 10:22:43 cd scripts/log_parse/

Add this command to your users .bashrc file to make the change permanent. We also have a guide that explains how to tweak the history command even more.

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