Modifying explorer.exe

For Win98 and WinMe
First, go to any download site and look for a hex editor. I use phred, but there's many others. (This can be done with Write from Win3.1.)

Note! Don't let the words 'hex editor' scare you. This is easy.

Anyway! Got it? Good. Copy Explorer.exe from c:\windows\ to someplace convenient for you, and open it with the hex editor. The right-hand column is editable text; scroll through until you see things that look familiar and change them to suit you. Remember to only replace letters, don't add extras. For example, you'll see:
in there somewhere; that's the Start button caption. Change it to:
or something else that's five letters. (You can use periods too; the dots between the letters aren't periods and should be left alone.)
(Interesting side note: go to Start menu -> Settings, hold down the Ctrl key, and click Taskbar & Start Menu to see the disabled Deskbar Options tab. You'll be able to change that tab and its buttons, too.) Follow the guidelines above so you won't be left with an unstable Explorer. I've changed almost every single letter in mine, and it's never crashed.

For Explorer.exe and other Windows executables, you can use the freeware (// ResHacker. Much easier.

Finally, make it your Windows shell by opening c:\windows\system.ini in Notepad and changing the 'shell=Explorer.exe' line to point to your hacked explorer, including the full path, i.e. c:\hacks\explorer.exe. Here's the top five lines from my own sys.ini:

drivers=mmsystem.dll power.drv

NOTE!: If something went wrong, Windows won't load and you'll get a terse message box telling you that you MUST reinstall Windows. If that happens, use (you know where it is in your system, right? That's's on the boot disk you made before you touched the registry) to change the 'shell= ' line back to Explorer.exe and reboot. No problem.

Windows XP note:
Edit the registry key:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon\Shell

Now the Start menu icon. Get an icon editor (my choice is Microangelo - ; it costs WAY too much, but it's also way too cool) that can open icon libraries. Using Microangelo: copy the file c:\windows\system\user.exe to a convenient place, and open with Microangelo Librarian. You'll see all the icons in user.exe, which includes the Windows default flag icon that's on your Start button now (WindowsXP note: the start button image is in Explorer.exe). Double-click it to change it to your taste. Now exit to DOS and copy your hacked user.exe to c:\windows\system. Example: C:>copy c:\windows\desktop\user.exe c:\windows\system\user.exe and overwrite with confidence because you made a backup, didn't ya, Sparky?
Sure ya did!

A few notes:
c:\windows\system\shell32.dll has system icons; I like to paint the open folder icon red so I can see where I am in Explorer at a glance, but it's very picky about being edited, so always have a spare.
Windows Millenium kept track of and deleted my modified explorer.exe after using System Restore, even though I changed the name and moved it to another partition. Keep the backups zipped.
You may want to start with c:\windows\notepad.exe first; it's smaller, and you can see your changes immediately. Change the icon the same way as for explorer.
c:\windows\system\kernel32.dll has the system error messages.
Hacked explorers, notepads and others work the same on different machines as long as you use the same operating system on them. I save copies to use after my periodic clean installs, which leads to my final note:
It may be illegal to sell, give away or post for download any executable that someone else wrote without asking for permission. It may even be illegal to do any of this for your own use. Therefore it probably wouldn't be a good idea to have a link to my WinME sysfiles or my old win98 sysfiles, explorer.exe, user.exe and shell32.dll. Imagine that!

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