How to replace notepad with notepad++ or notepad2 in Windows 7

The notepad.exe is a protected system file, much like the explorer.exe, however you can replace the notepad with notepad++ or notepad2 with some tricks. Detailed instructions after the break.

Replace notepad with notepad++

This is an extensive guide that will teach you how to replace the notepad with either notepad2 or notepad++ in Windows 7. This should also work in Windows XP and Windows Vista.

Quick Links

My recommendation: Use notepad2 and you won’t have to replace the notepad over and over again, because it’s only a registry value that you have to add, which can also be removed quite easily. If you replace the notepad with notepad++, you’ll might have to repeat the steps again. Tip: Bookmark this tutorial!

Replace Notepad with Notepad2

1. Step Download Latest Notepad2 (Notepad2 4.1.24 right now)
2. Step Install it.
3. StepOpen elevated registry editor:


4. Step Uncollapse HKEY_LOCA_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Image File Execution Options\

5. Step Right-click on Image File Execution Options and click on New – Key, enter notepad.exe

6. Step Now in the right-pane: Right-click and create a new string value:
Create new string value in Windows 7

7.Give the string the name Debugger

8. Step Double-click on Debugger and enter the full path to the Notepad2 exe file, e.g. “C:\Windows\Notepad2.exe” and add /z at the end! Complete path: “C:\Windows\Notepad2.exe” /z

Download Registry Keys for Notepad2

Optionally you can use the following registry keys. Copy this into a notepad and save it as a .reg file (select all from the dropdown when you save the file). Also replace C:\Notepad2\Notepad2.exe with your own path:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Image File Execution Options\notepad.exe]
“Debugger”=”C:\\Notepad2\\Notepad2.exe\” /z”

Download Replace Notepad with Notepad2 Registry Key

Replace Notepad with Notepad++

Replacing the notepad with notepad++ in Windows 7 is slightly more complicated than replacing the notepad with notepad2. Why? Because you actually have to replace system files, which is difficult for beginners.

1. Step Download Notepad++ (Latest 5.7.1 RC2)
2. Step Install Notepad++
3. Step Open an elevated command prompt

4. Step Enter cd C:\Windows\

5. Step Enter TAKEOWN /F notepad.exe

Take ownership notepad.exe

6. Step Enter ICACLS notepad.exe /grant administrators:F Replace administrators with your username

Grant permissions notepad.exe

7.Rename notepad.exe to notepad2.exe

8. StepDownload notepad.exe (launcher) for either 32-bit or 64-bit:

Notepad.exe Launcher Windows 7 32-bit
Notepad.exe Launcher Windows 7 64-bit

Optionally, you can also download this notepad++ launcher from here.

Copy notepad.exe or notepad64.exe to C:\Windows, respectively C:\Windows\system32.

9. StepRename notepad.exe/notepad64.exe to notepad.exe

10. StepRepeat steps 4-9 for C:\Windows\system32\notepad.exe

If you run into any problems or if you have any questions, please post a comment below and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Tip: Keep in mind that you will have to replace the notepad++ files again if you should ever use the Windows System File Checker SFC.exe to restore the original system files. Therefore I recommend notepad2, which is a lot easier to handle.

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- Cheers!

Written by:
Oliver is the founder and lead editor of this site. He is interested in finding new ways to break Windows, find common errors and help others to fix them. Aside from that, he loves to fully customize systems with Rainmeter and Dreamscene, find out more about ancient civilizations like the Chachapoya, sharpen his digital photography skills and create software with a small group of selected developers. If you would like to connect with him to discuss anything, send him a mail!

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4 Responses to How to replace notepad with notepad++ or notepad2 in Windows 7

  1. Orange Community Approved Comment:
    Andy Potanin said:

    That works, thank you.

  2. Orange Community Approved Comment:
    S3NTYN3L said:

    Works, but not as it should.

    Running Notepad.exe (after making the above changes) will make Notepad++ open but ++ will also open the original notepad.exe binary file.

    Any way to get this behavior to stop?

  3. Orange Community Approved Comment:
    Tim said:

    Just a note: don’t forget about C:\windows\SysWOW64\notepad.exe in 64-bit Windows 7

  4. Orange Community Approved Comment:
    roryok said:

    The latest Notepad2 installer does all this for you – there’s an option to replace notepad with it during install

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