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A bit of important background: my company has a generic login VBS script that makes modifications to the user PATH environment variable upon login and allows me to run software that has dependencies on mapped DFS fileshares. I also recently installed the Windows Powershell SDK to my Windows 7 Enterprise machine and attempted to try out modifying my PATH environment variable from the Powershell command line.

Following this, I noticed that I could no longer run applications that correspond to these login PATH modifications and that the environment variable editor PATH was set to something different than what was showing up when I issued an 'echo %PATH%' from the command prompt.

So for example (simplification), from the environment variable editor (My Computer properties -> Advanced System Settings -> Environment Variables) I had

 C:\MyDir\; C:\MyOtherDir

whereas when I did 'echo %PATH%' from a command prompt I got:


Has anyone else had a similar issue and was there some sort of resolution? When I googled for help, I came upon this:

(Related?) StackOverflow Thread

It occurred to me that if the login script was initiated by something other than my Explorer.exe environment, then that was the problem. However, when I ran the login script myself, my PATH from command prompt was unchanged. What would this have to do with PowerShell? I'm missing how this is connected to that install completely.

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How did you modify the path in powershell? Where did you echo %PATH%? In cmd.exe? – Werner Henze Jul 30 '13 at 8:25
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Windows has two classes of environment variables system environment variables and user environment variables. If you are using echo %PATH% you will see your user environment variable PATH. Only if there is no user variable defined, the system variable will be in effect for user processes.

The PATH separator ; should not be followed by a blank.

The following Microsoft note might be helpful:

You can modify user environment variables by editing the following Registry key:


You can modify system environment variables by editing the following Registry key:

               SYSTEM \ 
    CurrentControlSet \ 
              Control \ 
      Session Manager \ 

Note that any environment variable that needs to be expanded (for example, when you use %SYSTEM%) must be stored in the registry as a REG_EXPAND_SZ registry value. Any values of type REG_SZ will not be expanded when read from the registry.

Additional remark: Whenever a process changes its environment (rather than the registry settings which define the environment for new processes), the changes are only visible for child processes.

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I would like to emphasise Axel's point if you need to modify the Environmental Variables, then you need to make the change in the registry. Actually I created a PowerShell function to help with this: – Guy Thomas Jul 30 '13 at 12:18
There are no values to be modified, only two variables tmp and temp. Are you sure that this is the path for user, that should be modified? – Johnny_D Sep 19 '13 at 9:42

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