Command Line PHP on Microsoft Windows

This section contains notes and hints specific to getting PHP running from the command line for Windows.


You should read the manual installation steps first!

Getting PHP to run from the command line can be performed without making any changes to Windows.

C:\PHP5\php.exe -f "C:\PHP Scripts\script.php" -- -arg1 -arg2 -arg3

But there are some easy steps that can be followed to make this simpler. Some of these steps should already have been taken, but are repeated here to be able to provide a complete step-by-step sequence.


    Both PATH and PATHEXT are important pre-existing system variables in Windows, and care should be taken to not overwrite either variable, only to add to them.

  • Append the location of the PHP executable (php.exe, php-win.exe or php-cli.exe depending upon your PHP version and display preferences) to the PATH environment variable. Read more about how to add your PHP directory to PATH in the corresponding FAQ entry.

  • Append the .PHP extension to the PATHEXT environment variable. This can be done at the same time as amending the PATH environment variable. Follow the same steps as described in the FAQ but amend the PATHEXT environment variable rather than the PATH environment variable.


    The position in which you place the .PHP will determine which script or program is executed when there are matching filenames. For example, placing .PHP before .BAT will cause your script to run, rather than the batch file, if there is a batch file with the same name.

  • Associate the .PHP extension with a file type. This is done by running the following command:

    assoc .php=phpfile

  • Associate the phpfile file type with the appropriate PHP executable. This is done by running the following command:

    ftype phpfile="C:\PHP5\php.exe" -f "%1" -- %~2

Following these steps will allow PHP scripts to be run from any directory without the need to type the PHP executable or the .PHP extension and all parameters will be supplied to the script for processing.

The example below details some of the registry changes that can be made manually.

Example #1 Registry changes

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

"Content Type"="application/php"

@="PHP Script"




@="\"C:\\PHP5\\php.exe\" -f \"%1\" -- %~2"

With these changes the same command can be written as:

"C:\PHP Scripts\script" -arg1 -arg2 -arg3
or, if your "C:\PHP Scripts" path is in the PATH environment variable:
script -arg1 -arg2 -arg3


There is a small problem if you intend to use this technique and use your PHP scripts as a command line filter, like the example below:

dir | "C:\PHP Scripts\script" -arg1 -arg2 -arg3
dir | script -arg1 -arg2 -arg3
You may find that the script simply hangs and nothing is output. To get this operational, you need to make another registry change.
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

Further information regarding this issue can be found in this » Microsoft Knowledgebase Article : 321788. As of Windows 10, this setting seems to be reversed, making the default install of Windows 10 support inherited console handles automatically. This »  Microsoft forum post provides the explanation.

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User Contributed Notes 5 notes

pimroes at gmail dot com
5 years ago
Make sure your run CMD.exe as an administrator, otherwise you'll get an "access denied" when you run the commands.
elhadjouattara at gmail dot thrcom
9 months ago
On Windows 8, with php 5.6.8 win32 VC11 in command line, need to indicate path with / rather than backslash \
Hence C:\Users\toshiba\Documents\php\test.php shall be C:/Users/toshiba/Documents/php/test.php
rudigerw at hotmail dot com
1 month ago
On Windows 10 starting php by only typing the script name in an elevated command prompt pops up a dialog to choose an app.
It turns out Windows does that when the program associated with phpfiles through ftype cannot be executed. In this case this happens because it is trying to run php.exe in non-admin mode, even when launched from an elevated command prompt. To fix this, locate your php.exe, right-click, "Properties",  "Compatibility", under Settings check "Run this program as an administrator; then also click "Change settings for all users".
vechenjivot at gmail dot com
29 days ago
On Windows 10, the above registry entries didn't work for me. In order for them to work, you need to write to
for which you don't have access, even if you run regedit as admin (probably because of the Hash key).
The solution is actually much easier - right-click a PHP file in Explorer and associate it to always open with php.exe.
And then you need to modify the PATH variable:
setx PATH "%PATH%;c:\path\to\php" /M
if you want to execute files with commands like
php file.php
ckelley at ca-cycleworks dot com
3 years ago
Note that the default behavior of php-cli is short_open_tag=off, which means PHP scripts using short tags `<?  ?>` won't execute and instead show source code.

To fix this, you must edit the php.ini file and add short_open_tag=on
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