How to replace Explorer.exe in Windows? (2015 Update)

Do you want to replace the Explorer.exe? Some Windows 7 themes that you can download on this site will come with a file “explorer.exe”. This is a very important system file, so please be careful, make a backup and follow the instructions closely when you learn how to replace the explorer.exe.

How to replace explorer.exe in Windows 7

Note: Please do not proceed with this guide if you don’t like tinkering around with your PC or are afraid of breaking your PC. It is a good idea you learn how to restore your PC using sfc.exe should you encounter any problems.

The Methods

The easiest and shortest way to replace the explorer.exe and any other system files is to download a registry hack that will add the option Take Ownership to your right-click context menu.

Download this script: Download TakeOwnership.zip and double-click on the .reg (registry) file to add an option “Take Ownership” to your contextual menu (the right-click menu).

You can then right-click on your system files and take ownership of them. After that, you can rename all files and replace the system file / explorer.exe easily.


There are three methods, one for the beginners and the other for advanced users, click on the links below to start:

Method 1: Change registry path to explorer.exe

The easiest method to replace explorer.exe is to open the registry and then change the path to the explorer.exe.

If you still need the system icons: Volume, Network Connections, Battery and Action Center, then don’t use Method1 because changing the registry path to explorer2.exe will disable them.

0. Make sure to know the difference between a 64-bit explorer.exe and a 32-bit explorer.exe. You can’t use a 64-bit explorer.exe on a 32-bit system. Should you have no clue, please read this: What Windows Version do I have? 32 or 64?
1. Step Rename your new explorer.exe to explorer2.exe and copy it into the Windows directory: C:\Windows\
2. Step Open the registry: Click on “Start” and enter regedit into the search field:

Regedit.exe

3. Step Right-click on regedit at the top and select “Run as administrator”
4. Step Uncollapse the following path: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE>Software>Microsoft>Windows NT>CurrentVersion>Winlogon
5. Step Change explorer.exe to explorer2.exe.
6. Step End the process explorer.exe via the task manager and start a new process by entering “explorer2.exe”.

If 6. is too complicated for you: Reboot or read below for more instructions how to end the process explorer.exe.

Method 2: Take Ownership + Edit Permissions via Interface

Assign Ownership of Explorer.exe

1. Step Right-click on explorer.exe and click on “Properties“. Go to the tab “Security“, click on “Advanced“:

Explorer.exe Take Ownership

2. Step Go to the tab “Owner” and click on “Edit“:

Explorer.exe Edit Owner

3. Step Assign the ownership to your administrator account by selecting your “Administrator account” (usually  Administrators(username\Administrators)) and click on “Apply“:

Explorer.exe assign ownership to administrator

The current owner should now be your administrator account. Confirm that!

Change Permissions of Explorer.exe

4. Step Click on “OK” and you will be back at the security tab of explorer.exe. There click on “Edit”:

Explorer.exe: Change Permissions

5. Step Select your administrator account (usually Administrators(username\Administrators ) and check the option “Full Control“. Click on “Apply“:

Full Control Explorer.exe

6. Step Now you can rename your explorer.exe to explorer.exe_old and copy your new explorer.exe into the Windows folder.

Restart your PC or restart explorer.exe (instructions below).

Method 3: Take Ownership via Command Prompt

Copy your new explorer.exe to C:\

Take Ownership of new Explorer.exe

Next, we take control of it!

You can either download this script: Download TakeOwnership.zip (it will add the option “take ownership to your context menu) or you can do it manually.

I usually do it manually:
Enter cmd.exe into the search field on the Start menu and right-click on cmd.exe, click on “Run as administrator”.

  • Enter cd C:\Windows\
  • Enter TAKEOWN /F explorer.exe

Terminate Explorer.exe

Open up the task manager (CTRL+ALT+DEL) and right-click on Explorer.exe and terminate it:

Replace Explorer.exe

New Task (Run…)

Don’t be shocked, your taskbar will disappear. You can always make it reappear again by launching a new task and entering “explorer.exe”.

New Task

Now click on “New Task” and enter:

  • runas /u:Administrator cmd.exe (this will launch cmd.exe as administrator)

You will be prompted for your password, enter it. If it does not work, read this tip:

Tip: If the command prompt immediately closes you did not enter an administrator password. First active the hidden administrator account of Windows 7 and then set a password for that account. Then you are able to open a command prompt via runas /u:Administrator cmd.exe.

If you receive the error: No mapping between account names and security ID’s was done please try another method of this tutorial or try running this after logging into the real admin account.

Take Ownership of old Explorer.exe

5. Step Take ownership of the real explorer.exe and grant permission to administrators to modify it :

  • cd C:\Windows\
  • TAKEOWN /F explorer.exe
  • ICACLS explorer.exe /grant administrators:F

Final Step: Rename and move Explorer.exe

Rename the explorer.exe and paste the new explorer.exe into the Windows folder:

  • Enter rename explorer.exe explorer.exe_old
  • Enter move C:\explorer.exe C:\windows\

Back in the taskmanager click on “New Task” and enter “explorer.exe”. Voilà, you just replaced your explorer.exe!

Explorer.exe: Class not registered

If you receive the error “Class not registered”, you might want to try this:

Explorere.exe class not registered

Start > Run > regsvr32 ExplorerFrame.dll

Make sure that ExplorerFrame.dll is a valid DLL

Make Sure that explorerframe.dll is a valid DLL

If you receive the error “The module ExplorerFrame.dll was loaded but the entry-point DllRegisterServer was not found. Make sure that ExplorerFrame.dll is a valid DLL or OCX file and then try again”, you are probably trying to launch a 32-bit explorer.exe on a 64-bit system.

Are you running a 64-bit system? Then make sure that your new explorer.exe is a 64-bit file or it won’t work!

Replacing Services.exe

If you are worried you are infected by a virus and that you ought to replace services.exe, I suggest you also run the sfc.exe (system file checker) which can repair all of your system files.

System files such as explorer.exe, services.exe or even shell32.exe are integral parts of your OS, if you modify them incorrectly or a virus replaces them it can have severe consequences. Built-in Windows tools allow you to restore system files without having to install any 3rd-party tools.

Especially services.exe is known for becoming infected and should be inspected. Also all system files outside the System32 files may be considered harmful, e.g. if you find services.exe in C:\somefolder\ then it may very well be a virus.

Published: Tuesday, February 17th, 2015 Last Modified: February 17, 2015