There has been a disclaimer box on the original 'Change Text on XP Start Button' page for a number of years now warning that some functions of the Start button might be broken if the procedure was followed. Four or five years ago I published this quick little tutorial on changing the text on the XP Start button. I didn't really give it much thought at the time and it seemed to work well enough without causing any problems. I don't remember if XP was still a Gold release then or if XP1 had been released, but somewhere along the line it was pointed out that this tweak killed the search function from the Start button context menu along with a few other problems. I've meant to go back and change the procedure for ages to eliminate the problems, but you know the deal and how things get pushed aside. At any rate, I've finally taken care of making the changes.

The changes that have been made are really very minor, but they are important and do resolve the issues that have been reported. That said, you are still making changes to the registry and no matter how careful you are, there is the potential to screw up the system to the point where it becomes unusable and you may suffer data loss or have to reinstall the operating system. Make sure you have tested backups for all data as well as the skills and necessary media to restore or reinstall the operating system and all programs, if necessary. You've been warned.

I’ve read a number of articles on the internet about changing the text on the Start button in XP. On more than one occasion I’ve seen references to a five (5) letter limitation when the button is renamed. I always wondered if this was true or just an assumption someone made because the default ‘start’ just happened to fit the button size. So, I decided to run a test and see if there really was a five character limit.

As you can see from the screen capture above it would seem that the five character limit isn’t etched in stone. The button expanded to accept the text I entered with no problem. I’ve been using the system for a few weeks now with no adverse effects. That’s not to say I won’t discover something down the road a bit, but for now I feel comfortable with the changes. If you’d like to try the procedure I used, the instructions follow.
Step 1 – Modify Explorer.exe File

In order to make the changes, the file explorer.exe located at C:\Windows needs to be edited. Since explorer.exe is a binary file it requires a special editor. For purposes of this article I have used Resource Hacker. Resource HackerTM is a freeware utility to view, modify, rename, add, delete and extract resources in 32bit Windows executables and resource files (*.res). It incorporates an internal resource script compiler and decompiler and works on Win95, Win98, WinME, WinNT, Win2000 and WinXP operating systems. Navigate through download.com to download Resource Hacker.

The first step is to make a backup copy of the file explorer.exe located at C:\Windows. Place it in a folder somewhere on your hard drive where it will be safe. Start Resource Hacker and open explorer.exe located at C:\Windows\explorer.exe as shown in Fig. 01.

The category we are going to be using is String Table. Expand it by clicking the plus sign then navigate down to and expand string 37 followed by highlighting 1033. If you are using the Classic Layout rather than the XP Layout, use number 38. The right hand pane will display the stringtable as shown in Fig. 02. We’re going to modify item 578, currently showing the word “start” just as it displays on the current Start button.

There is no magic here. Just double click on the word “start” so that it’s highlighted, making sure the quotation marks are not part of the highlight. They need to remain in place, surrounding the new text that you’ll type. Go ahead and type your new entry. In my case I used ElderGeek as shown in Fig. 03.

Compare the screen captures in Fig. 02 and Fig. 03 and you’ll notice that after the new text string has been entered the Compile Script button that was grayed out in Fig. 02 is now active in Fig. 03. I won’t get into what’s involved in compiling a script, but suffice it to say it’s going to make this exercise worthwhile. Click Compile Script and then save the altered file using the Save As command on the File Menu. See Fig. 04

Do not use the [Save] command – Use the [Save As] command.
Name the file explorer.exe
Save the explorer.exe file to C:\Windows\inf directory.

Note: There are two things that are very important at this stage of the process. First, it's important the modified file must be named explorer.exe as this is what allows the Start button context menu search function to operate properly. Second, it's important that explorer.exe be saved somewhere in C:\Windows 'other' than in C:\Windows itself. In this example, I used C:\Windows\inf, but it could be in another C:\Windows directory as long as it doesn't already contain an explorer.exe file.

Step 2 – Modify the Registry

Now that the modified explorer.exe has been created it’s necessary to modify the registry so the file will be recognized when the user logs on to the system. If you don’t know how to access the registry I’m not sure this article is for you, but just in case it’s a temporary memory lapse, go to [Start] (soon to be something else) [Run] and type 'regedit' in the Open: field. Click [OK] to open the registry and navigate to:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ SOFTWARE\ Microsoft\ Windows NT\ CurrentVersion\ Winlogon

In the right pane (Fig. 05), double click the Shell entry to open the Edit String dialog box as shown in Fig. 06. In Value data: line, enter the directory name and file name that was used to save the modified explorer.exe file, separating the directory and filename with a forward slash. Click OK.

You can refresh the registry after you have made the entry to make sure it is correct. As you can see in Fig. 07 below, Shell is now pointing to inf/explorer. exe rather than the original explorer.exe file which is still located untouched in C:\Windows.

Close Registry Editor and either log off the system and log back in, or reboot the entire system if that’s your preference. If all went as planned you should see your new Start button with the revised text. Just so you know, Fig. 08 was taken from XP Pro w/RC1 of SP3 running in a VMware virtual machine.