Editing the Windows System Path Variables

Martin Brinkmann
Apr 15, 2008
Updated • Oct 1, 2015
Software, Windows tips

If you ever tried to change Windows system path variables then you may have cursed Microsoft for creating such a tiny form to edit them in as the editor Microsoft created offfers not enough space to display all path variables at once.

The system path is being used by Windows and applications to find executable and dependencies in Windows. This is for instance used to find an application if you use the run box in Windows for instance. A system wide path and a user defined path exists with the system wide path having priority over the user defined one.

The order of the entries is important as well since the first hit will be selected by Windows. Now if you take a look at your system paths you notice that the Windows form is completely useless. You can access those variables by accessing the System Properties in the Control Panel, clicking on the Advanced tab there and then on the Environment Variables button. If you highlight the path variable and click on Edit you know what I mean.

Update: Another option, useful if you run newer versions of Windows is to use Windows-Pause to open the System Control Panel applet, and to click on the Advanced tab there on its left side.

The window that is opening is displaying 30 or 40 chars only and you have to scroll to see all entries which is not really helping as you will never be able to see all variables listed on the screen at the same time.

You could copy and paste the line into a text editor, edit it there and copy and paste it back when your finished but there is a better solution available.

Redmond Path 1.0 [via Shell Extension City] displays the path variables the way Microsoft should have done it a long time ago. I'm wondering why those things are never fixed in updates or new Windows releases. You can raise and lower variables, remove them, edit them and add new ones.

Redmond path comes with a rollback option, supports Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 2003 and requires the .net framework.

Update: Redmond Path appears to be no longer available. I suggest you check out the excellent Rapid Environment Editor instead which works with all recent versions of Windows.

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  1. Nitin said on July 6, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    I accidently edited path variable from windows xp, my pc is not starting xp, when i select xp it reboots again and again,

    Now i have vista installed on my pc,
    pls tell me how to edit xp environment variables from vista?? reply to [email protected]

  2. Angelo R said on April 16, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    Thanks for this one Martin, it normally takes me a couple minutes of going through the list before I get sick of it and just copy and paste everything into notepad. That way I can at least somewhat make sure I’m not adding things/removing things that I shouldn’t be.

    As soon as I ran it, I noticed a few entries that been double-entered as well as one entry that was pointing in the right location.

  3. tireless said on April 16, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    easiest way:
    reg add “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Environment” /v Path /t REG_EXPAND_SZ /d “%path%;c:\test” /f

    nircmd sysrefresh

    1. david said on January 11, 2012 at 7:19 pm

      note that your editor “corrected” your normal quotes in the reg add command to smart quotes that aren’t supported by the reg add syntax.

  4. mouser said on April 16, 2008 at 12:22 am

    cough cough..
    from 2005: System Path Commander


    “System Path Commander is a power-user tool that allows you to easily and safely non-destructively enable and disable directories in your windows system path environment variable (the paths searched when launching programs).”

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