12 Solutions to Fix “The System Cannot Find the Path Specified” Error on Windows

The System Cannot Find The Path Specified Error Featured

You may have seen the error message, “The system cannot find the path specified,” while copying a file/folder path or installing a program. It mostly occurs when the direct link for a file or folder item is broken or invalid. If not that, your device may be infected with a virus. Try one of the following solutions to fix the error in Windows 10 and Windows 11.

Tip: dealing with a snipping tool error instead? We show you what to do.

What Is “The System Cannot Find the Path Specified” Error?

“The system cannot find the path specified” error means the currently logged-in PC user does not have the proper permission to access a file or folder. It’s encountered in the Command Prompt while navigating to a directory path using cd or trying to open unavailable files from their links using a dir.

System Cannot Find The Path Specified Error Details

The error message also shows on a Windows desktop while attempting to install or start a program.

System Cannot Find The Path Specified Error On Desktop Screen

The path specified errors used to be a common annoyance in Windows 7 and earlier versions. They may still occur in Windows 10 and its predecessors (due to user mistakes) but are increasingly rare in Windows 11 because of its support for advanced malware control. Here’s how to deal with this error if it ever shows up.

1. Fix the Invalid Folder Path

While typing within Command Prompt, users may mistakenly type an invalid folder path. (It’s so much easier to copy-paste them.) To rectify this, cross-check the actual folder path and make changes.

  1. Browse to the designated folder using File Explorer.
  2. Right-click to view the folder’s Properties. In the following example, we are fixing the invalid folder path for desktop.
System Cannot Find The Path Specified Folder Right Click Properties
  1. Go to the “General” tab and copy-paste the folder’s path from “Location.”
System Cannot Find The Path Specified Check Properties Of Folder
  1. Paste the actual folder path in Command Prompt to check whether the path specified error still persists.
System Cannot Find The Path Specified Correct Invalid Folder Path

2. Delete Invalid Environment Path Variables

To help navigate the files and folders, Windows uses a series of shortcut commands called environment variables, the most important of which is the %path% variable. You can manually check its entire list to determine whether there are any invalid entries, which should be deleted immediately.

  1. Open “View advanced system settings” from the Control Panel or Windows search menu.
System Cannot Find The Path Specified View Advanced System Settings
  1. Navigate to the “Advanced” tab and click “Environment Variables” under “Startup and Recovery.”
System Cannot Find The Path Specified System Properties Environment Variables
  1. Select the “Path” entry under “System variables,” and click “Edit.” This will open a new pop-up window.
System Cannot Find The Path Specified System Variables Path Select
  1. Explore each and every path variable and copy the entire path.
System Cannot Find The Path Specified Edit Environment Variables Path Select
  1. Using Windows 11’s File Explorer tabs or the address bar in Windows 10, search for the path variable’s existence.
  2. If a path does not exist, go back to the previous screen to delete its variable. This will prevent the path specified errors.
System Cannot Find The Path Specified Check Environment Variables Path

3. Modify Owner for File/Folder Permissions

Whether you log in as an administrator or otherwise, you may find yourself not having the permissions for the file or folders you want to access. This can be fixed by modifying the owner as shown.

  1. Right-click the inaccessible folder and click “Properties.”
System Cannot Find The Path Specified Right Click Properties
  1. Under the “Security” tab, you can see the entire list of usernames associated with the folder’s permissions.
  2. Click “Advanced” to change the permissions.
System Cannot Find The Path Specified File Properties
  1. Under the “Advanced” options, you can see the folder’s current “Owner.” Click “Change” to modify the Owner.
System Cannot Find The Path Specified File Pwner Permissions Change
  1. If you’ve logged in as the administrator, search for the object name administrator under “Check names.”
System Cannot Find The Path Specified Select User Or Group
  1. The correct user or group name should be highlighted with an underscore beneath the object. Click “OK” to confirm.
System Cannot Find The Path Specified File Pwner Permissions Administrator
  1. When the folder’s current owner has been changed to the logged-in user (or administrator), you should not see the error again.
System Cannot Find The Path Specified Modified System Owner

Good to know: File Explorer not functioning the way it’s supposed to? Try these fixes for common problems.

4. Ensure File/Folder Path Location Is Accessible

A file or folder path location may be inaccessible for many reasons. Find out by going to the designated folder and right-clicking the file to view its Properties. If the folder can be opened directly from its folder path (which can be viewed in “Location” under the “General” tab), it means there are no problems enabling folder access.

There are many other techniques to view inaccessible folders, as covered in this example for opening the WindowsApps folder in Windows.

System Cannot Find The Path Specified Path File Location

5. Check If the File/Folder Wasn’t Deleted

Sometimes you may just find one of the files or folders missing because they got deleted without your knowledge. As a result, the system cannot find the specified path in Command Prompt and other modes. To check the current status of deleted files and folders, use the search icon in its File Explorer window, which will display a list of currently available items. Also, check the Recycle Bin to see if those deleted files are still there.

System Cannot Find The Path Specified File Is Deleted

6. Recreate Shortcuts for the Concerned File/Folder

The path specified error may occur spontaneously if there were corruptions in shortcuts for a folder. In such cases, you need to delete those shortcuts and recreate them again in the File Explorer window.

  1. It is very easy to create a new shortcut for the given folders: right-click and go to “Show more options” as displayed here.
System Cannot Find The Path Specified Show More Options
  1. Click “Send to” and select “Desktop” in the list of shortcuts for the file or folder.
System Cannot Find The Path Specified Recreate Shortcut Windows11

7. Turn On Controlled Folder Access

There are some third-party apps that can make changes to your folder’s permissions without your knowledge, including making their paths inaccessible. To prevent this, Windows offers a security feature called Controlled Folder Access, which can undo any changes that are harmful to your device.

  1. Using the Run command Win + R, type windowsdefender: to launch a Windows Security window.
  2. Look under “Virus & threat protection -> Ransomware protection” for a menu option called “Controlled folder access.” If it’s turned off, turn it back on.
System Cannot Find The Path Specified Windows Security Controlled Folder Access On
  1. Click on the “Protected folders” linkk which will take you to a new page where you can “Add a protected folder.”
  2. Browse your computer’s folders to add it to the “Protected folders” list. You can add an entire drive, such as C:\ drive, as shown below. This will cover everything under your PC’s settings.
System Cannot Find The Path Specified Windows Security Add A Protected Folder

8. Check Device Performance and Health

If your Windows device is not healthy, you may have trouble with malware that can bring undesirable changes to your system. To undo the damage, it is helpful to check device performance and health and take corrective actions where required.

  1. Open “Windows Security” followed by the home page. It will give you the entire “Security at a glance.”
  2. Make sure there is a green checkmark next to each of the device security options. If not, take the recommended action.
  3. Open the “Device performance and health” menu item.

System Cannot Find The Path Specified Windows Security Device Performance And Health
  1. Check the health report for each of the options: storage capacity, battery life, apps and software, and Windows time service.
  2. If any of these display issues, they need to be fixed at the user end. For example, if certain apps are conflicting with your system’s security, they should be uninstalled immediately.
System Cannot Find The Path Specified Health Reports Device Performance And Health

Tip: if you’re not a fan of Windows’s built-in security suite, you can permanently disable the Windows Defender.

9. Enable Virus & Threat Protection Settings

If a piece of malware was snuck into your computer, you can remove it easily using Windows Defender’s Virus & Threat Protection settings.

  1. The “Virus & Threat Protection” settings option can be opened from a Windows search in System settings or the Windows Security window as covered in earlier steps.
System Cannot Find The Path Specified Virus And Threat Protection Search
  1. Turn on all the protection settings, including “Real-time protection,” “Cloud-delivered protection,” “Tamper protection,” and “Automatic sample submission.”
System Cannot Find The Path Specified Enable All Virus And Threat Protections
  1. Perform a quick scan in Windows Defender for viruses and other threats to help identify and quarantine the malware on your device.
System Cannot Find The Path Specified Virus And Threat Protection Quick Scan

10. Update Security Intelligence

Chances are a new malware variant may have arrived, causing problems with file and folder access. This can be rectified by using Windows Defender’s Security Intelligence feature, which fights zero-hour threats.

  1. Open Windows Security and navigate to “Virus & threat protection.”
  2. Go to “Protection updates” and check whether the “Security Intelligence” on your device requires an update.
  3. If the updates haven’t arrived, your device is vulnerable to virus and spyware changes. Click “Check for updates” to rectify the issue.
System Cannot Find The Path Specified Protection Definition Updates
  1. It takes a few minutes for the Security Intelligence to update itself. After that, a green checkmark is displayed, which will take care of new threats.
System Cannot Find The Path Specified Protection Updates Up To Date

11. Download & Install All Pending Windows Updates

If you haven’t updated a Windows device, it can introduce errors in system folders, rendering them inaccessible. Therefore, finishing a pending update is the best way to address this.

  1. Go to “Settings -> Windows Update” and click “Check for updates.”
  2. Download all necessary and cumulative updates for your Windows device as shown.
System Cannot Find The Path Specified Check For Windows Updates

12. Use Troubleshooting in Advanced Startup Mode

If all else fails, you can fix the specified path access errors using troubleshooting steps in Advanced Startup mode.

  1. It can be viewed from “Settings -> System -> Recovery -> Recovery options -> Advanced startup.”
  2. Click the “Restart now” button to proceed with an advanced troubleshooting step.
System Cannot Find The Path Specified Advanced Startup
  1. A blue troubleshooting screen will flash after a restart. There are many good solutions in this window. You can uninstall any recent updates that may be causing the system errors. Another option is to open Command Prompt and type sfc/scannow or DISM.exe, which are proven ways to repair corrupt registry files.
System Cannot Find The Path Specified Advanced Startup Uninstall Updates

Tip: you can give Windows 11 a go, without fully removing Windows 10 from your system.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean when the system cannot find the path specified, but it exists?

If you see a system cannot find the path specified error, but it exists (check solutions 4 and 5), it means something on your PC is preventing you from accessing a network location or drive with the file or folder.

How do I fix broken file paths?

One way to fix broken file paths in Windows is to delete special characters in file names, as they can interfere with the path variables in Windows. You can also check for any shortcut files related to your broken file paths and delete them. These shortcuts can be recreated later.

How to fix the system cannot find the path specified in Task Scheduler?

While defining an automated task in Windows Task Scheduler, you may come across a path specified error. An SFC scan should fix the problem along with other methods such as changing task conditions and clean booting Windows.

Image source: Pexels. All screenshots by Sayak Boral.

Sayak Boral
Sayak Boral

Sayak Boral is a technology writer with over eleven years of experience working in different industries including semiconductors, IoT, enterprise IT, telecommunications OSS/BSS, and network security. He has been writing for MakeTechEasier on a wide range of technical topics including Windows, Android, Internet, Hardware Guides, Browsers, Software Tools, and Product Reviews.

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