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There are 3 types of rvmrc files, system user and project. They are discussed in detail below.
The system rvmrc file is loaded before RVM initializes and before the user's ~/.rvmrc. /etc/rvmrc settings are applied to all users on the system.
The users rvmrc file overwrites settings in /etc/rvmrc and is loaded before RVM initializes. $HOME/.rvmrc settings are applied only for the user belonging to $HOME.
Have RVM install rubies when used instead of only displaying a warning and exiting.
Have RVM compile using say, 3, compile threads.
Have RVM install to a different location (notice that it ends with /rvm).
Have RVM compile rubies and libraries as x86_64 on *Mac OS X*.
Similarly for i386 on *Mac OS X*.
More examples may be found in ~/.rvm/examples/rvmrc.
The project .rvmrc file is different than the system & user. System & user rvmrc files are meant for altering the settings and behavior of RVM. The project rvmrc files are intended to be used to setup your project's ruby environment when you switch to the project root directory.
As of RVM 1.8.0, after a survey where greater than 80% of respondants wanted the feature on by default, automatic loading of project .rvmrc files is opt-out by default (therefore on). In order to disable this feature, set the following value in either /etc/rvmrc or ~/.rvmrc:
As of 1.11.0 RVM supports multiple files to configure project, more details here: Project workflow