PowerShell Basics: $Env:Path

PowerShell Basics_ $Env_Path

PowerShell’s Path Environmental Variable

On this page I will show you how to view, and how to change the Path variable using PowerShell commands.

One benefit of the path variable is less typing; if you type just the name of an executable, the operating system locates the program by searching through the values stored in this variable.

Topics for Windows PowerShell’s Env:Path

List $Env:Path with PowerShell

You can also see path values in the Control Panel; navigate to the System section and then click on the link to ‘Advanced system settings’.  Our purpose is employing PowerShell to list these paths.

Remember that we are dealing with an Environmental Variable, hence $Env.

# List Paths

#Sample Output for Path Environmental Variable
C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Windows Live;C:\Program Files (x86)\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Windows Live;C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Microsoft Online Services;C:\Windows\System32\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0\

Note 1: You really do need that $dollar sign.  Plain Env:Path does not work.

Note 2: Observe a semi-colon between each item; this is valuable information if you need to append more Path values.

See here for a refresher on PowerShell’s Environmental Variables’ drive.

[Environment] Method
Here is an alternative method which lists the path values, but employs the base .Net Framework elements.

# List PowerShell's Paths

Note 3: My point is to plant the idea that you could modify the “Path” with the sister command SetEnvironmentalVariable.

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Problem Changing Environment Variable Values with PowerShell

When you change the value of an environment variable using PowerShell commands, the changes only affect the current session. This behavior mimics using the Set command of previous Windows operating systems.

You can use PowerShell to make a persistent change, the technique involves making changes the registry values.  Firstly, we will display the Environment values in the registry, then we will append another location.

I have also seen suggestions for putting SetEnvironmentalVariable commands in the profile files, Microsoft.PowerShell_profile, Microsoft.PowerShellISE_profile or profile.ps1.

Retrieving Path Info from the Registry

The solution to the temporary nature of PowerShell’s changes to the environmental variable values is to script persistent registry modifications.  This is the equivalent of making changes to the Advanced system settings in the Control Panel.

# List PowerShell's Paths
$Reg = "Registry::HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Environment"
(Get-ItemProperty -Path "$Reg" -Name PATH).Path

Permanently Modifying the Env:Path

$AddedLocation ="D:\Powershell"
$Reg = "Registry::HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Environment"
$OldPath = (Get-ItemProperty -Path "$Reg" -Name PATH).Path
$NewPath= $OldPath + ’;’ + $AddedLocation
Set-ItemProperty -Path "$Reg" -Name PATH –Value $NewPath

Note 4: The key command is Set-ItemProperty.

Note 5: Remember that you need a semi-colon to separate the values.

System Properties GUI

Firstly, if there is a GUI that corresponds to my PowerShell script, then I like to examine its menus to check that my script is working, and to give me ideas to improve my code.  The screenshot below is taken from the Control Panel.

PowerShell Env:Path

The registry script (above) achieves the same result as pressing the ‘Edit…’ button in the Advanced tab of the System Properties.

Function Add-Path


Function Global:Add-Path {
PowerShell function to modify Env:Path in the registry
Includes a parameter to append the Env:Path
Add-Path -NewPath "D:\Downloads"
Param (
[String]$NewPath ="D:\Powershell"
Begin {
} # End of small begin section
Process {
$Reg = "Registry::HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Environment"
$OldPath = (Get-ItemProperty -Path "$Reg" -Name PATH).Path
$NewPath = $OldPath + ’;’ + $NewPath
Set-ItemProperty -Path "$Reg" -Name PATH –Value $NewPath -Confirm
    } #End of Process
# This is what you type to call the function.

Note 5: My function has a built-in value for $NewPath, you may wish to change “D:\PowerShell” to the value required by your project; for example:
Add-Path -NewPath “C:\Project”

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Further Research on Env:Path

Here are ideas to discover more about Environmental Variables.

In addition to Env:Path, there is a variable called Env:PathExt


#Sample Env: extensions

In this instance, Get-Member provides more methods than properties.

$Env:Path | Get-Member

Help About_Environment_Variables
For find out more about Environmental Variables, PowerShell provides this Help About… file.

Help About_Environment_Variables

Note 6: This shows that PowerShell considers Env: as a drive, similar to regular file system drives such as C:\.

List Environmental Variables
Change the location to the Env: drive and then call for GCI (Get-ChildItem).

# List PowerShell's Environmental Variables
Set-Location Env:


There are other ways of listing the environmental variables, for example:
Get-Item Env:

See more about PowerShell’s Environmental Variables »

Summary of PowerShell’s Env:Path

If you wish to add locations to the path environmental variable then you can use PowerShell rather than the GUI in the Control Panel.  If you type just the name of an executable, the operating system locates the program by searching through the values stored in the Path Variable.

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See more Windows PowerShell  examples of variables

Syntax   • PowerShell Variables   • Get-PSProvider   • PowerShell Env:Path  • Free WMI Monitor

PowerShell Functions   • Get-PSDrive   • PowerShell New-PSDrive   • Remove-PSDrive

PowerShell Home   • PowerShell Environmental Variable   • PowerShell Dollar Variable

Please email me if you have a better example script.  Also please report any factual mistakes, grammatical errors or broken links, I will be happy to  correct the fault.