[Tip] How to Modify System Files Using Resource Hacker in Windows

Resource Hacker is one of our favorite tools to customize Windows appearance. Its free and allows you to completely change Windows look-n-feel. You can edit system files such as DLL, EXE, CPL, etc using Resource Hacker and then you can replace existing images, text strings, menus, etc which you generally see in Windows Explorer and other dialog boxes. Its an ultimate software for Windows customization lovers.


Whenever we post a tutorial to customize Windows UI, most of the times it requires use of Resource Hacker to modify a system file. Although we post all required steps clearly but many times people find it difficult to modify system files using Resource Hacker.

I receive so many emails on daily basis complaining about various error messages while using Resource Hacker tool. Generally people complain that they can't save the modified file in Resource Hacker. Windows doesn't allow them to save the file which is obvious because the system file is in use by Windows and Windows will never allow you to modify a system file directly.

That's why today in this tutorial, I'm going to mention all the required steps in details which are required when you want to modify a system file using Resource Hacker.

So if you also want to edit a system file in Resource Hacker and if you face a problem while saving the modified file, check out following simple steps which will definitely help you in modifying the file successfully without any problem:

STEP 1: DO NOT modify any system file directly in Resource Hacker!

Many people make this common mistake. They try to directly modify the system file in Resource Hacker which is wrong. Actually Windows automatically protects system files using a built-in service "Windows File Protection (WFP)" which doesn't allow users to modify or delete system files. That's why if you modify a file using Resource Hacker and then try to save the file, you get error message.

So first of all copy the system file which you want to modify and paste it at a different location for example Desktop.

STEP 2: Now open the file present at new location (Desktop in our example) in Resource Hacker.

STEP 3: Do whatever you want to do with the file. Replace or delete resources and once you finish editing the file, save the file. Now you'll not receive any error message because the file is not in use by Windows.

STEP 4: Now its time to replace original system file with the new modified file. For this task, you'll need to first take ownership of the original system file because by default users do not have any control over system files.

You can take ownership of the original system file using any of following methods:

STEP 5: After taking ownership of the original system file, rename it to some other name for example if the system file name is shell32.dll then you can change its name to shell32_back.dll or shell32.dll.backup or any other name.

STEP 6: Now copy new modified file from Desktop and paste it in the folder containing original system file. For example if the system file is present in C:\Windows\System32 folder, then paste the new modified file in the same folder i.e. C:\Windows\System32 folder.

STEP 7: At last restart your system and after reboot Windows will start using new file and then you can safely delete the original system file which you renamed in step 5.

That's it. If you follow all above mentioned steps properly, you'll never face any problem in modifying system files using Resource Hacker...

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Posted in: Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP

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  • Thank you so much VG. Very helpful article. :)

  • I have been following the same procedure but I'm sure it'll help many people out there. Good job.

  • It's not recommended to use Resource Hacker for replacing icons in shell32.dll if you want to use Internet Explorer 10 in Windows 7. Sometimes it saves icons not correctly, so IE just doesn't work and gives you an error. You can read more in the forums. I faced with this problem too.

  • Does this work on 64-bit Windows 7 too?

  • @Anjan

    Yes, this program supports 64-bit files.

  • Thanks VG.

  • Thanks , Nice Guide lines VG.

  • hey vg , i did these steps before you posted this . I tried to modify the shell32.dll on my win 8 pro x86 . everytime I used to keep ie , win explorer , win media player , task manager open . I also used to make a restore point . After editing , I put my file in system32 . Then I used to close all open windows . And the next time I try to open any of these , it says shell32.dll missing from your computer . When I restart pc , user login service fails to load . When I boot with my cd and try to system restore , it says you must have a windows installation to continue . The only solution was to reinstall windows . This method works effectively on win 7 but will crash the pc in win 8. I advice you to never do it on win 8 . Sorry vg for this long comment.

  • too old tip VG!!
    i dont know why did u share it again......

  • ^^ Read the 3rd and 4th paragraph. ;)

  • Also, if you want modify files directly from Windows CD download and install 7-zip, insert your DVD or Extract the iso, go to I386 or AMD64, search file you want edit then copy into other location, okay and the last extract the file and then use Resource Hacker!

  • Hai Vishal,
    How can i change the look of minimize,maximize and close buttons?There are thousands of entries in aero.msstyles file.

  • VG

    ^^ Check the STREAM resource.

  • @VG,
    Hai Vishal,
    Please tell which entries represent Minimize,maximize and close in STREAM resource?

  • VG

    ^^ The titlebar buttons are clearly visible in STEAM resource. You just need to replace existing part of image with your desired button images.

  • Hai Vishal,
    Thank you.One more question.How to change the background of live thumbnail window in taskbar?

  • VG

    ^^ I cant remember the exact resource but its also present in .msstyles file.

  • How can we edit a .dll file with Resource Hacker with a .res file using cmd?
    How to make it autorun? ( other ways than that of by using WinRar SFX archive )

    Please send me a reply ............

  • VG

    ^^ Did you try the Script method?


  • If you want to change Google Chrome icon that is shown on the Windows Taskbar once Google Chrome is started, then you should follow this link:

    The answer is given in comments: you need to change icons that are stored in chrome.dll using Resource Tuner (use Trial version) or Resource Hacker (free).

    I've used IcoFX (Trial version) to generate various .ico icons.

    Currently I'm running 4 separate instances of Google Chrome v37.0.2062.124. One instance is installed and three other instances of Google Chrome are portable, downloaded from:

    Here's how my Windows 7 Taskbar looks like when all 4 instances of Chrome are opened:


  • Pl. explain how to explore .exe file.

  • yo how to keep that system modified files forever because they roll back to the previous one durring some update process????? please answer me.

  • VG

    ^^ If a new Windows update contains new version of a system file, it'll overwrite existing file with new one and you'll need to modify the new file again. You can only disable automatic updates if you want to keep your modified files forever which is not recommended.

  • hey VG,

    im wondering if this resource viewer program, or tuner, can change more than just appearance of an exe file, or dll file. reason im asking is because ive been researching some SMB worms that edit and modify code (inject) into .exe .dll system files etc.. is this possible with this program, and if not is there public code for this? (im using recst)udio to reverse these files and having some difficulty as some are compressed , encrypted etc...) you can email me priv response or post don't matter. thanks

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