You can modify system environment variables by editing the following Registry key:
Note that any environment variable that needs to be expanded (for example, when you use %SYSTEM%) must be stored in the registry as a REG_EXPAND_SZ registry value. Any values of type REG_SZ will not be expanded when read from the registry.
Session Manager \
Note that RegEdit.exe does not have a way to add REG_EXPAND_SZ. Use RegEdt32.exe when editing these values manually.
However, note that modifications to the environment variables do not result in immediate change. For example, if you start another Command Prompt after making the changes, the environment variables will reflect the previous (not the current) values. The changes do not take effect until you log off and then log back on.
To effect these changes without having to log off, broadcast a WM_SETTINGCHANGE message to all windows in the system, so that any interested applications (such as Windows Explorer, Program Manager, Task Manager, Control Panel, and so forth) can perform an update.
SendMessageTimeout(HWND_BROADCAST, WM_SETTINGCHANGE, 0,
(LPARAM) "Environment", SMTO_ABORTIFHUNG,
Article ID: 104011 - Last Review: Jul 18, 2008 - Revision: 1