Is there any command line tool that can be used to edit environment variables in Windows?

It would be nice if this was smart tool, for example:

  • When adding some path to let's say the PATH variable and this path is already there it shouldn't double this entry.
  • Inserting a new path to the PATH variable should be possible before/after some other path or in specific order (the first, the 7th, the last etc.).
  • It should be possible to change only part of variable's value (in case of the PATH a given path from a list of all paths).

And the last but not the least - I want my changes to persist between sessions so simple SET is out of question...

There's very nice GUI tool for this called Path Editor and I need something like this but for command line.

  • 4
    Technically, yes. It's called SET. I know it's not pretty, but you can't get much more straightforward than just setting the variables with the tools at hand. – Michael Todd Jul 27 '09 at 16:59
  • Interesting. I thought for sure there would be a fairly well-known third-party tool for this. – Sasha Chedygov Jun 26 '10 at 8:49
  • What version of Windows are you running? – Sasha Chedygov Jun 26 '10 at 8:52
  • @musicfreak Vista Home Premium 64bit – Piotr Dobrogost Aug 14 '11 at 18:38

I don't know any tool that does this, but maybe you can use the regcommand:

reg query "HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Environment" /v Path

to read the current path, and

reg add "HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Environment" /v Path /d "newPath" /f

to write your new value.

You need admin rights for hsving right acccess in HKLM. If that is a problem, consider modifying the user specific path setting in HKCU\Environment instead.

  • 1
    This answer should have been accepted, it can change any environement variable and can even be encapsulated in a batch file so one only needs to enter the name and the new value. – Tom Wijsman Jun 26 '10 at 12:13
  • If this is combined with Vi, it'd come closer to meeting the questioner's criteria. e.g. a batch file that writes the path to a temporary text file, opens it in vi, then when you close vi it writes the file to the path. That way you can easily edit your path via command line. I did something like that in XP, with a batch file, notepad and those reg commands. – barlop May 22 '13 at 22:54
  • 1
    WARNING do NOT copy-paste this mindlessly unless you want to do something silly... – n611x007 Jul 11 '14 at 16:01

If you need a generic way to set any environment variable and have the changes persist, then setx.exe would be the tool to use. It cannot do the "smart" things you are asking for, though...

setx.exe is included with Windows Vista or later; if you use an earlier version of Windows, you can use the above download link to get it.

For the current program, there is path:

Displays or sets a search path for executable files.

PATH [[drive:]path[;...][;%PATH%]

Type PATH ; to clear all search-path settings and direct cmd.exe to search only in the current directory.

Type PATH without parameters to display the current path. Including %PATH% in the new path setting causes the old path to be appended to the new setting.

However, this is pretty much the same as set PATH.

For environment variables to persist you have to edit the registry or use setx.

I just discovered the ability to allow the users to run the Environment Variables edit dialog without elevated privileges.

From the Start menu, run the following:

rundll32 sysdm.cpl,EditEnvironmentVariables
  • 1
    +1 for a command line way of getting to the GUI edit widget, because that's certainly more straight forward than the click path, even though the answer is off-topic because Q is about editing PATH from command line. – matt wilkie May 22 '13 at 21:25

set PATH

(help set)

  • 1
    this is only for the terminal session, and to add/change values you need to retype the entire old path as well. – John T Jul 27 '09 at 17:02
  • 2
    Not true. SET PATH=%path%;c:\newpath – Michael Todd Jul 27 '09 at 17:03
  • 2
    you still typed it, just unexpanded :) That also won't save, try exiting the command prompt and opening a new one then check your path. – John T Jul 27 '09 at 17:07
  • He didn't specify whether it needed to persist between sessions. – sangretu Jul 27 '09 at 18:26
  • 4
    Well if you checked out what patheditor (his suggestion) does, it saves it permanently. set PATH is only really used in build scripts for programs because it is temporary. – John T Jul 27 '09 at 18:32

I wrote a set of batch scripts for this. addpath.bat adds elements to the path, rmpath.bat removes elements from the path, and lpath.bat just lists the path. But then I needed some support scripts, so there is also chkpath.bat .

It ended up being not trivial and required tr.exe and cat.exe, a couple of unix-style utilities. The reason its not trivial: no backticks in cmd.exe (though you can use for loops for this), and short names versus long names.


@echo off
set cwd=%~dps0

goto testit


call %cwd%chkpath "%~1"
if %errorlevel%==2 (
  set path=%path%;%~1


if not _%1==_ goto loopy

call %cwd%lpath.bat

endlocal & set path=%path%


@echo off
goto START


checks path for existence of the given segment.
Returns 1 if present, 2 if not present, 0 if not checked.

The matching and checking complicated by case sensitivity and "short pathnames".

created sometime in 2003 and lovingly maintained since then.


setlocal enabledelayedExpansion
set rc=0
set cwd=%~dps0
set curdrive=%~d0
set tr=%curdrive%\bin\tr.exe
set regexe=%windir%\system32\reg.exe

if _%1==_ goto Usage

@REM convert arg 1 to a fully-qualified, short path name,
@REM and then convert to uppercase.
set toupper=%~fs1
call :ToUpper
set tocheck=%toupper%

if not _%TEMP%==_ goto GotTemp
call :gettemp

set d=%DATE:~4%
set stamp=%d:~6%%d:~3,2%%d:~0,2%%TIME::=%
set d=
set tempfile1=%TEMP%\chkpath1-%stamp%.tmp

echo %path% | %tr% ; \n  >  %tempfile1%

@REM check each element in the path for the match:
for /f  "delims=^" %%I in (%tempfile1%) do (
  if !rc!==0 (
call :CheckElt "%%I"

if %rc%==0 set rc=2
goto END

* checkelt
* check one element in the path to see if it is the same
* as the TOCHECK string. The element is first canonicalized.

@REM remove surrounding quotes
set ERF=%1
if [x%ERF%]==[x] goto CheckEltDone
@REM convert to fully-qualified, short paths, uppercase
set TOUPPER=%~fs1%
call :ToUpper
if _%TOCHECK% == _%TOUPPER% set rc=1

* backtick
* invoke a command and return the result as a string.
* This is like backtick in csh or bash.
* To call, set variable BACKTICK to the command to be run.
* The result will be stored in the env variable of the same name.

FOR /F "usebackq delims=" %%i IN (`%backtick%`) DO (
  SET backtick=%%i
goto backtick_done
  SET backtick=nothing to exec

* gettemp
* get the temporary directory, as stored in the registry.
* Relies on backtick.
* The result set TEMP.

set regkey=HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders
set regvalname=Local AppData
set backtick=%regexe% query "%regkey%" /v "%regvalname%"
call :backtick
for /f "tokens=4" %%a in ("%backtick%") do (
  set temp=%%a

* ToUpper
* Convert a string to all uppercase.
* To call, set variable TOUPPER to the thing to be converted.
* The result will be stored in the env variable of the same name.

  FOR /F "usebackq delims=" %%I IN (`echo %toupper% ^| %tr% a-z A-Z`) DO (
SET toupper=%%I

  if _%tempfile1%==_ goto CleanUpDone
  if exist %tempfile1% del %tempfile1%

echo Usage: chkpath ^<path^>
echo checks if path element is included in path variable.
echo returns 1 if yes, 2 if no, 0 if not checked.
goto END

call :CleanUp


endlocal & set errorlevel=%rc%
@REM set errorlevel=%rc%
@REM echo %errorlevel%


@set curdrive=%~d0

@REM This form post-fixes a | at the end of each path element. Useful for debugging trailing spaces.
@REM @path | %curdrive%\cygwin\bin\sed.exe -e s/PATH=// -e 's/;/^|\n/g' -e 's/$/^|/g'

@REM This form shows bare path elements.
@REM @path | %curdrive%\cygwin\bin\sed.exe -e 's/PATH=//' -e 's/;/^\n/g'
@path | %curdrive%\utils\sed -e "s/PATH=//" | %curdrive%\utils\tr ; \n
  • I think the for loop could be used instead of tr/cat too. – grawity Jul 28 '09 at 6:57

You might wanna check out pathed of the gtools collection:

It provides a set of commands for the command promt like

pathed /APPEND %CD% /USER

to append the current path for example. I haven't really checked it out to be honest, as I'm totally fine with using a GUI.

Other options are:

  /MACHINE: print machine PATH
     /USER: print user PATH
      /ADD: add variable at the head
   /APPEND: add variable at the tail
   /REMOVE: remove path / index
     /SLIM: strip duplicate vars
      /ENV: environment variable, defaults to PATH

Together with which of the same collection, you got yourself some good tools, I suppose. Which "locates executable files on the PATH".

 /EXTENSION: search for extension , can be a ; separated list
       /DIR: add directory , can be a ; separated list
 /RECURSIVE: search directories recursively
    /SINGLE: stop after the first find result
       /ENV: environment variable, defaults to PATH
FILE {FILE}: one or more files to find


  • 1
    Can you explain what you're linking to? Link-only answers can become invalid if the linked content becomes unavailable. – bwDraco Feb 10 '13 at 22:49
  • Shure. Sorry i was implictly refering to the question. – hugo der hungrige Feb 11 '13 at 0:31
  • Seems the URL for Gtools and pathed is now dead. – DevPlayer Jan 3 '15 at 7:12
up vote 0 down vote accepted

Path Manager (pathman.exe) from Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit Tools is the closest match I could find. It was already available in NT Resource Kit.

  • maybe try setx.exe – n611x007 Jul 11 '14 at 16:00
  • @n611x007, setx is for general environment variables; pathman is specifically for manipulating (i.e., parsing) the path. – Synetech Mar 23 '16 at 20:50

How to check if directory exists in %PATH%? on Stack Overflow has an outstanding description of what makes Windows PATH editing difficult along with a batch file to overcome them. Figuring out how to properly use addpath.bat took a bit of practice as it's calling structure was new to me, but this works:

set _path=C:\new\directory\to\add\to\path
call addpath.bat _path
set _path=

and repeated firings won't add the new directory if it's already present. This doesn't address making the edits persistent across sessions.

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