Why (or why not) Add Anaconda to path?

The python.exe of the base environment resides in the

C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Local\Anaconda3 folder

If you add this folder to the PATH, you can call that version directly from the prompt and Python will also find many of the installed packages via that anchor folder. However, this is not true for e.g. the Numpy package which heavily depends on compiled C libraries. So you would also need to add the following folders to the PATH:


This is exctly what the activation is for, plus it also gives you the option to easily switch between environments.

Bottom line: Adding Anaconda to the PATH might help in simple cases, but the whole concept of Anaconda's dependency management depends on environments and their activation. It's better to use Anacona the proper way right from the beginning and NOT to add Anaconda to the PATH.

PATH is an environment variable that is a list of locations where executable programs lie (see also the wikipedia page.

Whenever you are in your command line and try to execute some program, for example regedit, then the cmd does not magically know that you mean C:\Windows\regedit.exe. Instead, it searches all locations in your PATH for an executable named regedit and finds it in C:\Windows which is one of the standard parts of PATH in Windows.

That is also, why messing with the PATH can be dangerous if you don't know what you are doing, because it might lead to things not working anymore if, for example you delete parts of the path or add custom directories to it.

That being said, you should now have an idea what happens when you "Add anaconda to path". It simply means, that Anaconda adds the directory where its executables lie to the PATH, hence making it findable when, for example you type conda in your cmd.

That being said, adding Anaconda to PATH is something that is convenient, because the commands can always be found automatically and they will also be found by other programs scanning your PATH for a python executable.

At the same time it is not necessary. When you use e.g. pycharm, then you can specify the path to the interpreter inside of pycharm. it does not necessarily need to be present in your PATH.


I personally have it on my PATH because I am too lazy to open an Anaconda prompt each time I need it in a cmd and I do not see the harm in it if you understand the consequences and its my only python installation anyway.

Also Helpful:

On windows, you can use the where command to find out from where commands are loaded. For example:

where regedit



This can be especially helpful when trying to debug PATH issues