How to set the path and environment variables in Windows

Windows 8 users
Windows Vista and Windows 7 users
Windows 2000 and Windows XP users
What is the default Windows Environment Path?
Setting path in the MS-DOS and Windows command line

Windows 8 users

  1. From the Desktop, right-click the very bottom left corner of the screen to get the Power User Task Menu.
  2. From the Power User Task Menu, click System.
  3. Click the Advanced System Settings link in the left column.
  4. In the System Properties window, click on the Advanced tab, then click the Environment Variables button near the bottom of that tab.
  5. In the Environment Variables window (pictured below), highlight the Path variable in the "System variables" section and click the Edit button. Add or modify the path lines with the paths you want the computer to access. Each different directory is separated with a semicolon as shown below.

    C:\Program Files;C:\Winnt;C:\Winnt\System32

Windows environmental path settings

Note: You can edit other environment variables by highlighting the variable in the "System variables" section and clicking Edit. If you need to create a new environment variable, click New and enter the Variable name and Variable value.

Windows Vista and Windows 7 users

  1. From the Desktop, right-click the Computer icon and select Properties. If you don't have a Computer icon on your desktop, click the Start button, right-click the Computer option in the Start menu, and select Properties.
  2. Click the Advanced System Settings link in the left column.
  3. In the System Properties window, click on the Advanced tab, then click the Environment Variables button near the bottom of that tab.
  4. In the Environment Variables window (pictured below), highlight the Path variable in the "System variables" section and click the Edit button. Add or modify the path lines with the paths you want the computer to access. Each different directory is separated with a semicolon as shown below.

    C:\Program Files;C:\Winnt;C:\Winnt\System32

Windows environmental path settings

Note: You can edit other environment variables by highlighting the variable in the "System variables" section and clicking Edit. If you need to create a new environment variable, click New and enter the Variable name and Variable value.

Windows 2000 and Windows XP users

The path is now managed by Windows 2000 and Windows XP and not the autoexec.bat or autoexec.nt files as was done with earlier versions of Windows. To change the system environment variables, follow the steps below.

  1. From the Desktop, right-click My Computer and click Properties. If you don't have a My Computer icon on your desktop, click the Start button, right-click the My Computer option in the Start menu, and select Properties.
  2. In the System Properties window, click on the Advanced tab.
  3. In the "Advanced" section, click the Environment Variables button.
  4. Finally, in the Environment Variables window (as shown below), highlight the Path variable in the Systems Variable section and click the Edit button. Add or modify the path lines with the paths you want the computer to access. Each different directory is separated with a semicolon as shown below.

    C:\Program Files;C:\Winnt;C:\Winnt\System32

Windows environmental path settings

Note: You can edit other environment variables by highlighting the variable in the "System variables" section and clicking Edit. If you need to create a new environment variable, click New and enter the Variable name and Variable value.

What is the default Windows Environment Path?

The path is based on programs installed on the computer, so there is no "default path". However, the Windows minimum path is typically the path below.

%SystemRoot%\system32;%SystemRoot%;%SystemRoot%\System32\Wbem

Note: Keep in mind that as you install programs, the path is updated with the paths for the newly installed programs. So, if you have erased your path after installing other programs, those programs may be affected.

Setting path in the MS-DOS and Windows command line

To view and set the path in MS-DOS and in the Windows command line, use the path command.

Additional information