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How to install Notepad2 and replace Windows Notepad

Update: The Setup installer of the latest Notepad2 will automatically replace the Windows Notepad using the registry hack described below. It will also install Notepad2 to C:\Program Files\Notepad2 or an appropriate folder.

Original Post:
This has been tested in Windows 7 64-bit edition, however should work in other versions and 32-bit editions as well.

In the days of Windows 2000, it was easy to replace "notepad.exe" with your own custom version of Notepad, such as the light-weight but powerful Notepad2. Simply find the file and overwrite.

But with Windows XP and later versions, a new feature called "Windows File Protection" prevents you from doing so.

However, you can now replace Notepad system-wide without even touching the original "notepad.exe" using a simple registry hack.

  1. Download Notepad2 (either 32-bit or 64-bit depending on your system). The original version will work fine. There is no need for any hacked versions such as this.
  2. Extract the downloaded archive into an empty folder. This folder should now contain Notepad2.exe and other supporting files.
  3. "Install" Notepad2 by simply copying the folder containing extracted files into "C:\Program Files" (This is not necessary but helps keep your system organized by keeping software in the Program Files folder.)
  4. Start Registry Editor by clicking the Start button and typing in "regedit".
  5. Navigate to "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Image File Execution Options"
  6. Right-click this folder and create a new key called "notepad.exe" (no quotes)
  7. Inside this new folder, create a new string value (REG_SZ) called "Debugger" (no quotes)
  8. Paste the full path of the new Notepad2.exe file with quotes, and add "/z" at the end. An example would be: --- "C:\Program Files\Notepad2\Notepad2.exe" /z --- but remember that your folder might be different (you can rename the folder).
  9. That's it! Test by running Notepad from the Start Menu and/or double-clicking some TXT files in Windows Explorer.


    1. Evil Tip: Try using this registry hack as a prank! For example, make Windows start WordPad when the user tries to run Microsoft Word.


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