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Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Hack XP's Start Button

I've gotten so many requests on how to change the Windows XP Start button, I'm going to teach you how to hack it to pieces manually.

Before you get started, you might want to print out this page for easy reference.

Change the Start text

1. First of all, make sure you download Resource Hacker. You'll need this puppy to edit resources inside your Windows shell.

2. Locate explorer.exe in your c:\Windows directory. Make a copy of the file in the same directory and rename it explorer.bak.

3. Now launch Resource Hacker. In the File menu, open explorer.exe. You'll now see a bunch of collapsed folders.

4. Expand the String Table folder and then find folder No. 37 (folder No. 38 if you're in Windows Classic mode).

5. Click on resource 1033 and locate the text that says "Start." This is your Start button, and now you've got control over what it says! Change the "Start" text to your text of choice. You don't have a character limit, but the text takes up valuable taskbar space, so don't make it too long.

6. Click on the button labeled Compile Script. This updates the settings for your Start button. But nothing will happen until you complete through step #20, so keep going!

Change your hover text

7. While you're here, why not also change the text that pops up when your mouse hovers over your Start button?

8. Right now it says "Click here to begin." Well, duh! We already know that's where to begin!

9. Open folder No. 34 and click on resource 1033.

10. Find the text that says "Click here to begin" and change it to something cooler. Might I suggest "Click here for a good time, baby."

11. Click on the Compile Script button to update this resource.

Customize your Start icon

12. For an added bonus, you can also change the Windows icon to the left of the text, too.

13. Collapse the String Table folder and expand the Bitmap folder at the top of your folder list.

14. Click on folder No. 143 and click on resource 1033. You should see that familiar Windows icon.

15. Go to the Action Menu and select "Replace bitmap." Select "Open file with new bitmap", and locate the replacement image on your machine. Note: The image must have a .bmp extension and a size of 25 pixels by 20 pixels. Then click the Replace button.

Here's the image I've been using instead of the Windows icon, in case you want to use it.


16. Now that you've made your changes, save the file in your Windows folder with another name, such as newstartbutton.exe. Don't name it Explorer.exe, because that file is already being used by your system. Close all open programs and restart your system.

17. Boot into Safe Mode With Command Prompt by pressing F8 on startup. Then choose Safe Mode in the command prompt.

18. Log on as administrator and enter your password.

19. When the command prompt comes up, make sure you're in the right directory by typing "cd c:\windows" (without the quotes).

20. Now type "copy c:\windows\newstartbutton.exe c:\windows\explorer.exe" (no quotes). Type "yes" (no quotes) to overwrite the existing file, then restart your system by typing "shutdown -r" (no quotes).

When Windows relaunches, you'll see your new Start button in all its glory!

Take care,

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» This is a tip that I thought some of you might en from Jeff's Basement
This is a tip that I thought some of you might enjoy. Back when I was running win98 in college, I did something like this and now I know how to do it once again. Right now my start menu reads "stop." If you change yours, leave a comment and let me kn... [Read More]

» [Res]Hacking The XP Start Menu from adrenalineonline
It's been a while since I've done any interface tweaking, so I spent an hour or so this afternoon refreshing my memory on how to alter some of the graphics and text in the XP start menu. I used a tool called Resource Hacker, and some advice from ... [Read More]

» re: Start Button Wish from Dave Donaldson's Blog
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this was one of my favorite tips. i love not having that ugly button anymore. thanks sarah ~_^


Is the bmp file still 20x25 pixels on windows classic or is that only when you're using the ugly green and blue theme? :D

silver surfer

thank you. this was my favorite tip that i bookmarked and hoped to do later but g4 didn't bring over your tips or at least i can't seem to find it in that mess they call a website.


My command propmt where is it? When I boot in safe mode it doesn't come up


When I select Safe Mode with Command Propt it never starts Windows. It coems with a black screen with white lettering for a long time. I let it run for 9 mins and nothing changed so I gave up. Any suggestions?


ITS BUGGIN TO NO END... i have a linksys router, a westell modem, i am trying to talk on yahoo and i dont have the talk icon can you help me its what i use to talk to my family.

thanks for your help



Hey Sarah love the show very helpfull, even though the new G4 website is not :). Anyways I was wondering if there is a way to change the color of the start button. That green just clashes with the rest of my theme. I would apreciate any help?


Thank you Sarah. You changed my life. Not really, but its a pretty good hack. Thumbs up to tha big man.




I made this to remove the logo and text to create a nice looking (plain) button for Windows XP's Start button. Enjoy ya'll !


How do you change the color of the start button? (love the hack)


Hey Sarah

I have made serveral attempts to change the colour of the start button but I cann't seem to change it. I've tried changing the Luna.msstyles file with resource hacker. It works until I restart my computer (I replace the bmp with a one i have) then it loads Windows Classic I don't understand. And I have disabled the file recovery one my computer (I have edit logonui.exe, the "start" text and bmp and the ntoskrnl.exe files so that isn't the problem)I have also tried copying it renaming it and editing the (name).theme in notepad to the new (name).mysstyles file so that way it is the same but has a different name and i've only edited the one bmp file so i don't understand!!!

If you can help that would be awesome

P.S. I no there is a way with style XP but i want to alter it without a skinner (only a 4GB HD)

Feel free to email me

Hack King

You must first download a program called Styles XP once you install it, reboot your machine. Browse to X:\winnt\resources\themes and replace x:\winnt with the path to your windows dir. Now, make a copy of the stylesXP_1 folder. Rename this to stylesXP_2
Open stylesXP_2.theme with notepad and browse to the bottom of the file, find this line : Path=%ResourceDir%\\Themes\\StylesXP_1\\StylesXP_1.msstyles change that to: Path=%ResourceDir%\\Themes\\StylesXP_2\\StylesXP_2.msstyles Open stylesXP_2.msstyles with Resource Hacker You should know by now, how to use resource hacker. Open the Bitmap folder. Click Action, replace bitmap, find the COLORHERE_STARTBUTTON_BMP (colorhere = blue, homestead or metallic) Find the bitmap of your new startbutton and click replace, then File > Save. Now, right click on your desktop, Properties. Themes : stylesXP_2

That's it! If the start button dosen't change its most likely that your not using the color of the startbutton you changed, ie : you changed the silver button but your using the blue color theme.

If you run into problems, try copying your "Luna" folder and rename the copied version to stylesXP_2. Then copy Luna.theme and rename the copied version of it to, stylesXP2.theme. (Ofcourse edit that file like I said above).


hi i have 2 windows in my pc (98 & xp)my brother but a password on xp i can open his folders from 98 . is there any way to enter xp ?
note : the admininstrator has a password too .
thank u


I did the Start button tweak and it works except for the picture. I created a 25x20dpi, .bmp, and saved it on the Windows directory.

I see the new picture in Resource Hacker after I click Replace, but when I restart windows I see the new text I changed but not the piture. When I load the modified explorer.exe with Resouce Hacker I see the changes are there. Why can't I see the new picture?

Thank you


I got it! On my Windows XP Home Edition I had to change the picture on number 176 instead of number 143. Bothe of these contain the same picture. Now have the picture of my choice on the Start button. Cool tweak.


Tyler Major

I am havin major problems with this tweak. I am new so i cant even find the directory to make the copy of the folder to even start this dang thing. Even if i did i would't knot how to make a copy of the thing, I would like some more detailed stuff for a noob, I would really like to do this. Peace


how do you do any of this


hi sara i just change my star button and now it reads andy thanks for the tip it looks great any other tip that you can tell me about


i was wondering if any body could tell me what the step type yes to overwrite the existing file means and where i type cuz when i do it says theta yes is not a valid internal command prompt


anyone know of any sites that have a selection of 25x20 bmp's to download?


when I reboot my computer and hit f8 at startup and nothing happens, what do I do.


Great tweak sarah, I loved it!!! My pretty little start button now has the almighty class "Got r00t?" in it haha. It has a little linux penguin beside it... so lovely! Thanks for the tweak. Keep the cool stuff coming!


Hey Sarah, I just did a cool start button and it's the bomb. got a pic of a grizzly bear and the start button says "Grizzly Bear" and when ya put the mouse pointer over it, it says," click here for a big bear hugg." Way to cool.
thanks a bunch, you windows hacking geek.


It look's like the hack for windows start button doesn't work on Service pack 2. I've tried it and it jacked up my computer...had to reinstall windows, which it sucked. If I'm wrong please post it. Though I am sure.


Theres a service pack 2? lol


Whenever I try to edit the picture in XP Pro, every change I have made is undone. I guess it really likes that windows image. A quicker way to view your changes than rebooting, though, is this:

1) Open Task Manager (Ctrl-Alt-Del)
2) Open a command prompt (cmd or command)
3) Open Resource Hacker and open explorer.exe with it
4) Using Task Manager, end the process explorer.exe
5) Perform your hacks, save them to new.exe
6) In the command prompt, type "cd \windows" without quotes, where windows is whatever your windows directory is
7) type "copy explorer.exe old.exe" without quotes
8) type "copy new.exe explorer.exe" without quotes, and press Y when prompted
9) Alt-tab back to Task Manager
10) In the File menu, click on "New Task (Run...)"
11) Type "explorer" without quotes

Your new and improved explorer will appear right before your eyes, no system reboot required.


yes there is...go to kevin's website. he annouced it himself!!! j-unit


Cool stuff


Can this also be used in 98?


Yeah Hi, our ex IT followed your instructions, he's been sacked for it, and now we don't know how to reverse it. Can you please help?


Somehow I saved the changed settings as windows.exe and now the only thing that changes is the hoover. How can I make it so that the rest of the things work?


i want to hack windows xp. tell me what are the technic
to hack windows xp. and what are the step tn hack xp.
reply me on my e-mail.


It worked!!! :D


same problem with SP2. Had the Start menu tweak in explorer.exe I just installed SP2, now explorer.exe fails on startup of windows everytime. Tried putting in my backup verion but to no avail. Stupid me didn't realize that it probably changed explorer.exe upon SP2 so now my orig explorer.exe wont work either. Currently searching online to find a fix.


I used your start button hack and I recently downloaded the new Windows Service PAck 2 and it changed the start button back to the original 'start'. Can this be changed the same way again or has something in explorer change?

Thank you

Jesse Chavez

I upgraded my operating system with service pack 2 and my start button changed back to "start". I was wondering if I could still do your start button hack. Can you still change it the same way or did microsoft change explorer.exe. Thank you.


mine screwed up with sp2 all that came back on was my wallpaper heres what to do to reverse it. ctrl alt del to open task manager then restart in safe command promt. follow basically the same as before except slightly different

cd c:\windows
then copy c:\windows\explorer_original.exe c:\windows\explorer.exe hit return then type yes and hit return now type shutdown -r and all should be well . it worked for me good luck


I did the hack after installing SP2 and it screwed my computer up. If anyone is having this problem and don't know how to fix it and don't want to reinstall windows, call Microsoft but don't tell them you hacked the start button, just tell them that after you installed SP2 your computer wouldn't work. After a lot of goofing around with things you already know don't work they will help you uninstall SP2. That's what happened to me. The tech guy said that they are having problems with SP2 and to NOT install it, just download the updates and wait a few months before installing SP2. I hope I helped out! Because I know I didn't want to reinstall Windows and lose everything! Good luck!


OK guys... i've run into the same problem as you... and i fixed it by doing a windows repair... not a recovery!! This worked for me but you'll have reinstall SP1 and SP2.... I'm sure something must have changed in the explorer.exe file.... but i'm assuming its a little too soon to look for a fix... or maybe not.. lol we shall see.


I had SP2 installed before the tweak but, unlike Sarah's tweak, it was done using a free hex editor and I only changed the text to " stop" (that's an empty space to keep the 5 character spacing).

It's been a few days and so far the only side effect is that the start/stop menu's Search button is completely disabled, to search I have to use the keys Ctrl+F in any opened folder. Hence, my continued search to a better way of doing it brought me here.

When I point the registry back to the original explorer.exe file name, all is well again (HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon) string: Shell.

It's always a good idea to do a full back up before tweaking around.




Correction from the above post.

This thing works like a champ. Prior to tweaking explorer.exe, I so happen to have had SP2 already installed.



so does anyone know the hack for the start button with sp2 installed??

Stephen Crowe

Instead of restarting or anything like that, after you have edited explorer.exe but have not saved it, do Control-ALT DLT, go to proccesses, and quit explorer.exe. Then you can save the edited version through ResHack. After you save, go to the task manager again and go File>New Task... and type in explorer.exe . Hope this helps!


Yes, it's true, you could do the ctrl,alt,del routine but I prefer not to, a reboot just seems cleaner to me.

Does anyone know where to get a variety of clean start button images that can be downloaded for free?

Note: You can completely remove the start button by using a blank image. You can than use the windows key to bring up the start menu.


After reading a post by Matt (July 5, 2004 10:44 PM) on his so-called solution to replacing the luna.msstyles, and I have to say....WHAT A LOAD OF CRAP!! "You must first download a program called Styles XP"....NO YOU DON'T!! Until recently I was using a small patch on the uxtheme.dll (to be found at http://freethemes.forthnet.gr/preview/310804.html) which allowed me to use StyleBuilder along with a little help from Photoshop) to build and replace the luna theme. But I have since worked out how replace the theme without ANY third party software.

Max had the right idea. First I had to make a copy of the luna.msstyles file and save to another file. I used the bitmaps from the theme I had built (I had to convert some of the.png files to bitmap so that ResHacker would accept them) to replace the old ones. Where Max went wrong is that he was trying to replace the XP default one without working in safe mode. If you replace the old luna.msstlye file in safe mode, you will have no probs.

As an aside, the msstyles file DOES NOT CONTAIN ALL THE INFO FOR A DEFAULT WNDOWS THEME. Much of the internal colours and file bitmaps are contained in the shellstyle.dll, one of which sits in each of the Luna folders (ie, metallic, homestead or NormalColour)

Well, all I can say is have fun and let windowblinds beware, lol



Sorry to Matt....jsut realised the name of the poster sits UNDERNEATH the posting...which makes the post even more laughable given the user nic "Hack King"....keep trying mate, lol



I just tweaked my start menu text to say "fsckoff" looks pretty tight, kinda scares the sh*t out of people but ohwell. Now im trying to figure out how to manipulate the start menu to pop up on the bottom right of the screen instead of on the bottom left when clicked on. I'm sure i'll figure something out.


To do that I reckon you will have to hack the scripting in the .msstyles file.....all I can say if that is the case is "good-luck".....you start playing with that and you had better know what the hell you are doing and I wouldn't use res-hack for the job. You need a hex-editor and a lot of know-how, otherwise the file simply won't work.


Ooo here is another point for those wanting to change the start button (or other buttons)....you can go further than simply changing the colour of the start button. You can rebuild the start button completely, shape, style and all...just be sure to keep the size the same or you will run into probs. I am in the process at the moment - all my buttons on the window frame are now round and the start button oval shaped. Have also gone for an "aqua" style with the buttons and scroll bars (see http://www.iheartny.com/howto_01.html for tutorial on how to create these)....the buttons now "light up" when used. Still got some work to do yet as I get the time, but can send a screenshot if anyone wants for some ideas.



This is lame, this guide is originally from this site:


and it work's on Windows with SP2 installed just fine, you shouldn't post things and try to passed them as your own work.


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