Environment variables are special settings that store information about the system and the programs installed on it. They can be used to customize the behavior of applications, scripts, and commands. But can environment variables be deleted? The answer is yes, and that’s a good thing, as sometimes, you may need to modify or remove an environment variable. For example, to change a configuration option or to fix a problem. In this article, I’ll show you how to edit or delete environment variables, as well as how to unset environment variables in Windows using different methods and tools, including Command Prompt and PowerShell.
NOTE: The instructions in this guide apply to both Windows 11 and Windows 10, as everything related to handling environment variables is the same in both operating systems.
To make many of the edits shown in this article, you first need to open the Environment Variables window. This guide explains how to do that and shows you the basics about working with environment variables: What are environment variables in Windows?.
If you want to skip reading it, one path that works the same in Windows 11 and Windows 10 is to open the Run window (Win + R) and execute the command:
TIP: You can run the command in Command Prompt, PowerShell, or Windows Terminal to the same end, too.
If you want to change the value of an existing environment variable, first select it in the Environment Variables window. Then, click or tap Edit.
You are shown a window where you can edit both the name and the value of the variable. Make the modifications you want and press OK. Then, press OK one more time in the Environment Variables window.
You can create a new environment variable or edit the value of an existing environment variable (but not its name) from the Command Prompt too. If you want to create a user environment variable, enter this command:
If you want to create a system environment variable, add the m argument to the command like this:
For example, I wanted to create a user variable named TEST with the value C:\digitalcitizen. To that end, I had to run this command:
To change the value of an environment variable, run the same setx command but specify a new value for the variable. For instance, to change the value of my TEST environment variable to C:\DC, I have to execute this command:
That works because the setx command rewrites the existing value with the last one you type. Therefore, if you use this command multiple times on the same variable, the variable will keep the last value you typed.
If you want a variable to have multiple paths in its value, you must specify them all in a single setx command, like in the next screenshot. Make sure that each value you enter is separated from the previous one by a semicolon, without spaces.
TIP: You can get a list of all the environment variables available by running the command:
Note that the command is set, not setx, and there aren’t any parameters added to it. Moreover, if you just created or edited an environment variable, you must close and reopen Command Prompt for the changes to show up.
You can also create or edit the value of an existing environment variable from PowerShell. If you want to create a user environment variable, the PowerShell command is:
If you want to create a system environment variable, the command is this one:
For instance, in order to create a user environment variable called TEST with the value digitalcitizen.life, I ran the command:
To change the value of the variable later, you can run the same command using a different value. Just like setx in Command Prompt, this command rewrites the value of the specified variable each time you run it.
If you want to assign multiple values to a variable, type all of them in the command, with semicolons between each value, as illustrated below.
TIP: In PowerShell, you can get a list of all the environment variables by running the command:
However, if you just created or edited an environment variable, you must close and reopen PowerShell for the changes to show up.
If you want to remove the value of an environment variable (while keeping its name), you can’t do it with the mouse and keyboard from the Environment Variables window. If you select a variable and press Edit, you can delete the value, but you cannot press OK, as this button gets grayed out. Therefore, you can’t save your changes.
However, you can clear the value of an environment variable using Command Prompt. To unset an environment variable from Command Prompt, type the command:
For example, because I wanted to unset my TEST variable and give it an empty value, I ran this command:
Next, let’s see how to remove an environment variable.
If you no longer want to use a particular environment variable, select it in the Environment Variables window. Then, press Delete. Windows does not ask for any confirmation of this action.
Therefore, if you’ve changed your mind, you must press Cancel to NOT apply the removal. If you want to proceed with the deletion, press OK.
To delete an environment variable from Command Prompt, run this command:
… if it’s a user environment variable, or run this command if it’s a system environment variable:
For example, to remove my TEST environment variable from my user’s profile, I ran:
To unset and remove an environment variable with PowerShell, type the command:
…if it’s a user profile variable, or run this command if it’s a system-wide variable:
For example, to have PowerShell remove my TEST environment variable from my user profile, I had to run this command:
You now know that Windows can unset environment variables. You’ve seen how to use PowerShell to delete environment variable values and how to use PowerShell to remove environment variables completely. Moreover, you also know how to use CMD to delete any environment variable. But why did you want to change or edit environment variables? Was it because there were leftover variables on your system from certain apps that you no longer used? Or was it because you have a special setup and you need to work with environment variables? Let me know in the comments section below.