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Missing C:\Windows\system32 in Path but everything is working

Posted on 2016-11-18
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Last Modified: 2016-11-23
Lately around the office I am seeing that C:\Windows\system32 is missing from the path on my desktops.  I do not even see any symptoms, except when I as an admin try to run "ping, nslookup" or other command line stuff.  I have seen it 3 times now.  It is easy to fix, I just add it.

I have looked and run some virus scans, and nothing appears out of the ordinary.  Does anyone have any thoughts on this?  Should I be concerned?
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Question by:loftyworm
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by:John Hurst
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Open cmd.exe with Run as Administrator and type PATH. It may be there from a command line.

The PATH does not remove entries on it own, so it not there by Command line, the try the following:

1. Run SFC /SCANNOW from an admin command prompt, shut down, start up and test.

2. Run another full virus scan followed by a scan with Malwarebytes.
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by:McKnife
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The path variable is saved to the registry. So you can easily audit the registry key to see who/what changes it and when.
The location is HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\ControlSet001\Control\Session Manager\Environment
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by:loftyworm
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I have searched more of my network and found a box that I have not fixed.  I will try the sfc now....
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I have more information.  It appears this was a legacy security setting from an earlier time.  

I do find it extremely interesting that windows will run at all, with almost no impact with those variables removed.  Even wonder if it is actually a good idea to leave it that way
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by:John Hurst
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Thanks. It is useful to upgrade legacy software as it usually causes issues. If it is all working, leave it until you can upgrade the software.
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by:McKnife
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"It appears this was a legacy security setting from an earlier time" - can you provide details, please?
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by:John Hurst
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I find older software (older versions of new software) can cause problems. I keep things up to date and have few issues as a result.  Anti Virus and VPN are two prime examples.
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by:loftyworm
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What John says is true, but in this case it was deliberately removed (I believe as a security measure) by the previous admin.
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by:loftyworm
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It was the solution
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