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What are PATH and other environment variables, and how can I set or use them?

In Windows 2008 Server R2, once I set an environment variable in the command line, how can I make it stick? For example, it's easy to write:

set path=%path%;

much easier than the crummy right-click My Computer method. But once I set this, the changes disappear with my command window. How to make them stick? I want to do the same with JAVA_HOME and some others as well.

  • setx may be best.. But cmd /? also mentions HKLM or HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Command Processor\AutoRun a bat file there could have the set PATH=.... line. – barlop May 27 '11 at 8:05
  • @barlop: Setting "permanent" envvars through cmd's AutoRun is a hack. The page @slhck linked to has a better location - HKCU\Environment, which is loaded by Winlogon itself. (It's what setx uses, too.) – user1686 May 27 '11 at 14:11

As mentioned in more detail in How do I set PATH and other environment variables?, you can use setx to set a variable permanently:

setx MyVariable "C:\Path\to\Folder"
setx JAVA_HOME "C:\Path\to\Java"

et cetera.

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