How to permanently replace Notepad with a serious text editor on Windows 2000

Before You Begin

In this step by step guide, I will show you how to permanently replace Notepad on Windows 2000 with the text editor of your choice. I am using EditPad Pro in the example but the procedure works with any decent Notepad replacement. I am showing how to do it with EditPad Pro simply because it is the editor I use all the time. This web site was created entirely in EditPad Pro, except for the graphics.

Note that you must be logged in as Administrator. Otherwise, you will not have sufficient access rights to Windows 2000 to make these changes.

I have tried to keep these instructions as simple as possible, so that anybody can follow them. You can keep your web browser open while following these instructions. Just make sure that Notepad is not running.

Note that it is important to follow these instructions exactly. If I say that you need to overwrite Notepad, then you should do so. Otherwise, I cannot guarantee that these instructions will have the proper effect.

Making a backup of Notepad.exe

If you would ever like to restore plain old Notepad.exe, you will need to make a backup copy first. Without the backup copy, you will have no easy way of restoring the original Notepad.

To make the backup copy, insert a floppy disk into your computer. The floppy disk should have at least 100 KB of free space on it.

Find Notepad.exe in the C:\WINNT folder using Windows Explorer. Right-click on it, and select copy from the context menu (screen shot).

Then right-click on the floppy disk drive in Windows Explorer, and select Paste from the context menu (screen shot). Windows will now place a copy of Notepad.exe onto the floppy disk.

Important: It is important that you copy Notepad, and do not move it. Leave the original Notepad in place, so we can overwrite it later.

Part 1: Make a copy of EditPad Pro
and rename it to Notepad.exe

Step 1: Find EditPadPro.exe (screen shot)
By default, it is installed into C:\Program Files\JGsoft\EditPadPro\EditPadPro.exe. If the option to hide extensions of known file types is activated on your computer (it is by default), then the file will appear as "EditPadPro" instead of "EditPadPro.exe".

Step 2: Copy EditPadPro.exe (screen shot)
Right-click on EditPadPro.exe and pick Copy from the context menu.

Step 3: Paste EditPadPro.exe (screen shot)
Right-click on the empty space in the right pane in Windows Explorer, and pick Paste from the context menu. You will then see a new file appear with the name "Copy of EditPadPro.exe".

Step 4: Rename Copy of EditPadPro.exe (screen shot)
Right-click on the new file "Copy of EditPadPro.exe" and pick Rename from the context menu.

Step 5: Type Notepad.exe as the new name (screen shot)
Type in Notepad.exe on the keyboard and press the Enter key to rename "Copy of EditPadPro.exe" into "Notepad.exe".

Part 2: Move the new Notepad.exe
into the DllCache folder.

Windows 2000 has a feature that protects vital system files from being modified. Notepad is considered a vital system file. Therefore, we must first overwrite the hidden backup copy of Notepad with our EditPad Pro in disguise. The hidden backup copies of the vital system files are kept in a secret DllCache folder. We will first change some settings to make it visible. (If you wondered why a naked Windows 2000 installation takes so much disk space, that's because almost everything is installed twice. One copy that you'll actually use, and one copy for backup.)

Step 6: Select Tools|Folder Options from the menu (screen shot)

Step 7: Turn ON "show hidden files and folders" and turn OFF "hide protected operating system files" (screen shot)
In the Folder Options screen that appears, turn ON "show hidden files and folders". Then turn OFF "hide protected operating system files". Windows will then ask you if you really want to turn off the option to hide protected files. Click on Yes. You can leave all other options as they are. Press OK to close the screen after changing options as needed.

Step 8: Cut the new Notepad.exe (screen shot)
Right-click on the copy of EditPadPro.exe that we have renamed to Notepad.exe, and pick Cut from the context menu. After you do that, the Notepad.exe icon will look ghostly compared to the other icons.

Step 9: Paste Notepad.exe into WINNT\System32\dllcache (screen shot)
Use the folders pane in Windows Explorer to navigate to the C:\WINNT\System32\dllcache folder. Then right-click in the empty space of the right hand pane listing all the files in the dllcache folder. In the context menu, select Paste.

Step 10: Confirm to replace Notepad.exe (screen shot)
Windows will now ask if you are sure you want to replace Notepad. Click Yes. (As you can see on the screen shot, on my computer running Windows 2000 SP2, the confirmation screen showed the blue Notepad icon for both the original Notepad and the renamed EditPad, rather than showing the green EditPad icon for the renamed EditPad. If the same happens on your computer, don't worry about it.)

Part 3: Copy the new Notepad.exe
into the Windows folder.

Step 11: Copy the new Notepad.exe (screen shot)
Right-click on the new Notepad.exe that you just pasted into the dllcache folder (and now shows with a green EditPad icon), and select Copy from the context menu.

Step 12: Paste Notepad.exe into the WINNT folder (screen shot)
Navigate to the C:\WINNT folder. Right-click in the empty space of the right hand pane and select Paste from the context menu. Windows will again ask you to confirm (screen shot). Just click Yes.

Step 13: Tell the Windows File Protection to get lost (screen shot)
Wait half a minute or so. After a while, Windows will detect that you have just replaced one of it's "vital system files" (he he). It will then notice that the copy in the dllcache folder has also been tampered with! So Windows will ask you to insert your original Windows 2000 CD into your computer, so it can restore plain old Notepad. Do not insert the CD. Just click Cancel. Windows will insist, and ask if you are sure. Click Yes to say that you are sure.

Part 4: Congratulations

Step 14: Turn "hide protected operating system files" back on (screen shot)
To prevent bad mistakes, it is a good idea to turn on the option to hide protected system files. Tampering with some of those files can really make your computer stop working, so it is best to hide them so nobody can mess with them by accident. Pick Tools|Folder Options from the menu in Windows Explorer, and activate "hide protected operating system files" again.

That's all, folks!

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Last Modified: 07 May 2002
Copyright © 2002 Jan Goyvaerts. All rights reserved.