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I need to replace the explorer.exe in the C:\Windows directory.

I have tried to do this, through both the GUI and command prompt (ran as administrator), but I get an access denied error. It seems that being an admin on your machine is not the highest permission level after all, and only Trusted Installer can modify the file.

Does anybody know a way to replace explorer.exe that works?

(I was about to boot into safe mode and try that, but wanted to get some feedback before I do anything in-depth.)

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Oct 30 '09 at 21:43

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Explanation: It's not that you (Admin) don't have the rights but you are using Explorer.exe to replace it. You cannot delete any running program. –  Henk Oct 30 '09 at 22:21

5 Answers 5

boot from a Windows Live CD (e.g. BartPE) and replace explorer.exe

(you may have to integrate current controller drivers, how to do this is explained on the website)

if you don't have an optical drive, you can easily create a bootable pen drive from your BartPE disc with WinToFlash

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+1 but I recommend UBCD for Windows instead of BartPE: ubcd4win.com - well worth the effort to create the disc. –  Ricket Mar 10 '10 at 3:55

One can always boot a small Linux LiveCD, such as Puppy Linux, mount their NTFS partition, and replace your explorer.exe that way. I don't know if that will trigger a warning or not when you boot back into Windows, though.

It's a brute force way, in any case.

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None of this bootable CD creation stuff is necessary (although undoubtedly fun). Just use the MoveFile Sysinternals tool. Backup first!

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Boot a machine from bootable CD of USB drive and replace whatever you want in the system in question. Make sure to back up stuff you're replacing.

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You need to take ownership of the file (as by default its owned by a system user - which is the root admin), once you have done this open a command prompt as an an administrator and then use task manager to kill explorer.exe

Then, and only then, you can replace explorer.exe without problem.

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you should also deactivate explorer as a shell. –  majkinetor Nov 8 '09 at 10:50

protected by Diago Dec 21 '10 at 17:54

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