Emacs in Microsoft Windows FAQ

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

Where to download emacs for Windows?

Download Emacs for Windows/Mac/Linux/Android

Where is emacs's init file?

You have to create it.

On {Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista} , by default, emacs looks at the following directory/file.

The .emacs file is old emacs convention.
The .emacs.d\init.el is modern convention.

The init file may be byte-compiled, ending in .elc . If a fileName.elc exist, emacs will load those instead.

If you have the environment variable named HOME, then it's at:

HOME should not be confused with HOMEPATH.

(info "(emacs) Find Init")

How to list environment variables?

  1. Launch PowerShell: press the ❖ Window key, then type powershell.
  2. in PowerShell prompt, type dir env:

How to Set Environment Variable?

In PowerShell, run this:

[Environment]::SetEnvironmentVariable("HOME", "c:/Users/xah/", "User")

[see PowerShell: View/Set Environment Variables]

Once you run it, you need to restart PowerShell for the variable to be available in current session, in case you want to start emacs from the PowerShell console.

Create a Environment Variable HOME

I highly recommend you create a environment variable named HOME. Because the HOME directory is heavily used by emacs from the unix convention.

Set the value of environment variable HOME to the same value as the environment variable HOMEPATH. For example: c:/Users/xah/

Create a Emacs Init File

I recommend you create a emacs init file at


How to find out if emacs init is loaded?

Put the following code in your init file:

(set-background-color "honeydew")

If emacs starts with honeydew background color, then it's loaded.

How to Start Emacs by Command Line?

Launch PowerShell , then type for example: C:\Users\xah\Downloads\emacs-27.1-x86_64\bin\runemacs

How to start emacs in graphical user interface?

Go to emacs folder, then in the “bin” dir, then click on file runemacs.exe

How to start emacs with default dir at home dir?

Create a Windows shortcut, then set the “Start in” field.

Windows 10 emacs shortcut bXv5F
Windows 10 emacs shortcut

To create a file shortcut:

  1. Hold Alt then drag that runemacs.exe icon to desktop.
  2. In the newly created alias icon, right click to open file properties. Then, in the “Start in” field, enter your home directory.
  3. In the “Target” field, you can add emacs command line options. For example: %home%\apps\emacs-24.1\bin\runemacs.exe -q --load=%home%\ErgoEmacs_dev\init.el --load=%home%\.emacs. Here, i suppress loading init files by -q, but load ErgoEmacs init files, then load my personal init files.

When i type Ctrl+Space, Windows switches me to other language input. What to do?

You can disable the Windows shortcut that switches you among input methods of different languages.

On Microsoft Windows 10:

Press ❖ Window, then type Advanced keyboard settings

Windows 10 advanced keyboard settings 2021-02-03
Windows 10 advanced keyboard settings 2021-02-03

Click on input language hot keys.

Windows 10 text services input language 2021-02-03
Windows 10 text services input language 2021-02-03

When i type Ctrl+Alt+s, HP System info came up. How to disable that?

Disable Ctrl+Alt+S Shortcut for HP Support Info

How to run Bash shell or PowerShell inside emacs?

By default, the command named shell will run “cmd.exe” inside emacs.

You can use eshell.

[see Emacs: eshell]

For powershell, install the powershell package. [see Emacs: Install Package with ELPA/MELPA]

Setting Environment Variable for Emacs Only

Emacs: Set Environment Variables within Emacs

Install Linux Tools

Some of emacs's features require unix utilities. The essential ones are these:

There are several ways to get linux tools for Microsoft Windows.

I recomment:

For old school you may try Cygwin Installing Cygwin Tutorial

Alternatively, i recommend not rely on unix {find, grep, diff}, because they are 30 years old technology.

You can easily use PowerShell for unix find/grep/diff. See PowerShell Examples

For find/replace/grep needs within emacs, try Emacs: Find Replace in Pure Elisp, xah-find.el

XahTV 2021-03-02. Q and A. Emacs Init for Windows. Why Interest in Math?

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