Test Environment:

  • Windows 10 professional edition x64, True
  • Windows Server 2003 R2 x86, False
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise x64, False
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 DataCenter x64, True

There are 2(or 3 depends on x86 or x64) notepad.exe in Windows\, respectively Windows\notepad.exe; Windows\System32\notepad.exe; Windows\SysWOW64\notepad.exe. In the mentioned environments marked as True, all these three show this behavior below.


when I copy notepad.exe (to any location), the copied executable will not launch when executed, no matter where I put it. there is no warning, there is no process being created. For this I checked serveral settings:

  1. file permission.
    • file permission looks OK, i.e. has the execution permission set.
  2. file ownership.
    • actually this should be irrelevant, but just in case, I checked that ownership of original notepad is "TrustedInstaller", the copied executable's owner is Administrator Group, grant ownership back to TrustedInstaller didn't help, either.
  3. Software Restriction Policy & AppLocker Policy
    • there are no such policies on my system when I use gpedit.msc to check them. ( I thought of hidden defaults, but that theory won't hold as it does not seem to be the case for other executables in System32, such as calc.exe/cmd.exe etc.)

Other Behaviors:

I have tried launching the copied executable using cmd/powershell/start, but no avail.

I tried copy cmd.exe/calc.exe/other executables in System32/other random executables I have/ to system32/, only notepad.exe seems to showing this behavior.

I tried to takeown of the original notepad.exe, and rename it to notepad2.exe, then it won't launch, if you change the name back to notepad.exe, it will launch again.

The Question:

I wonder what's the mechanism that does this?

  • I was unable to reproduce this problem on any of my Windows Server VMs – Ramhound May 31 '17 at 2:22
  • What happens if you do the same thing with other executables?  Have you tried running them from the Command Prompt, with or without the start command? Please do not respond in comments; edit your question to make it clearer and more complete. – Scott May 31 '17 at 2:23

Nothing should prevent it from running. However I haven't ever thought of copying notepad on a different windows because windows always comes with if. Despite that it's the crappiest text editor ever, why do you need to copy it?

  • I was looking for a simple, portable program that's available on every windows to do my bidding, but this happened. – Sajuuk May 31 '17 at 3:28
  • It should be on every Windows system without you having to copy it there. – Ben Richards May 31 '17 at 3:39
  • Now I'm curious about the cause of this problem. as it may help me to understand Windows more. – Sajuuk May 31 '17 at 3:47

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