One might think it would be enough to replace the copy of Notepad.exe by a renamed Notepad++.exe. This may still work under Win9x/Me.
More recent versions of Windows are more careful about their integrity, and they consider Notepad.exe to be part of it. As a result, they won't let you replace Notepad.exe easily.
Googling for "replace notepad" may bring you procedures corresponding to your exact OS version - the service pack level may make a difference.
The basic idea is that, if all instances of the file "notepad.exe" are actually copies of notepad++.exe, then Windows will always launch your favorite text editor whenever a text editor is invoked (for instance, to view a readme file, edit the source of a web page, and such). But notepad++.exe requires configuration files, while the vintage notepad.exe doesn't. For this reason, you must have your configuration Files the %APPDATA%\Notepad++\ folder, since this is a central place for notepad++.exe to look at.
This idea will work on earlier versions of Windows (95/98/ME). It is too basic for two reasons:
- System restoration may replace your files by stock notepad.exe. A workaround would be to create a restore point right after replacing all files.
- Windows File Protection may prevent you from deleting notepad.exe, because it is considered a system component.
For a replacement method, you can check
- A batch file to automate the replacement process has been posted here;
- this forum thread
- The Notepad++ launcher, it also works on 64-bit OSes
- Another thread with a link to a replacer
- Windows 7 corner
Peer review and clean-up of duplicates or obsolete solutions is being requested
The following batch file comes from http://webdevel.blogspot.com/2004_04_01_webdevel_archive.html#108246184802912349 and is reported to work on Win2K and later - at least XP SP2:
@echo off REM This will replace Windows notepad with the program of your choice REM The use of this script is AT YOUR OWN RISK. REM filename to backup to SET backupto=oldnotepad.exe REM get file from parameter supplied SET file=%1 REM if backup file exists, end the script IF EXIST %windir%\system32\dllcache\%backupto% GOTO alreadyreplaced REM If you do not specify a parameter, end the script REM brackets are needed as spaces are ignored IF (%file%) == () GOTO nofile REM If source file does not exist, the replacement can not be made IF NOT EXIST %file% GOTO nofile attrib -r -h -s %windir%\system32\dllcache ren %windir%\system32\dllcache\notepad.exe %backupto% attrib +r +h +s %windir%\system32\dllcache del %windir%\notepad.exe copy /Y %file% %windir%\notepad.exe del %windir%\system32\notepad.exe copy /Y %file% %windir%\system32\notepad.exe REM other folders that may contain notepad IF EXIST C:\I386\notepad.exe ren C:\I386\notepad.exe %backupto% IF EXIST %windir%\ServicePackFiles\i386\notepad.exe ren %windir%\ServicePackFiles\i386\notepad.exe %backupto% GOTO end :alreadyreplaced attrib -r -h -s %windir%\system32\dllcache ren %windir%\system32\dllcache\%backupto% notepad.exe attrib +r +h +s %windir%\system32\dllcache REM deleting the other notepad files will cause WFP to replace with the one in the dll cache del %windir%\system32\notepad.exe del %windir%\notepad.exe REM other folders that may contain notepad IF EXIST C:\I386\%backupto% ren C:\I386\%backupto% notepad.exe IF EXIST %windir%\ServicePackFiles\i386\%backupto% ren %windir%\ServicePackFiles\i386\%backupto% notepad.exe echo ------------------------------------------------------ echo Notepad has already been replaced, original restored echo ------------------------------------------------------ GOTO end :nofile echo ---------------------------------------------------- echo You did not specify a file, or file does not exist echo ---------------------------------------------------- :end
Windows Vista / 7
Windows Vista protects the interests of Microsoft (oops, users) much better, so that replacing a system component becomes harder. Here are links to Vista specific how-to's:
- http://www.commentcamarche.net/forum/affich-4874245-remplacer-notepad-par-editpad-sous-vista (in french). In particular, read "Administrators" instead of "Administrateurs".
See also the short script on this thread.
Don't expect the changes to survive a service pack upgrade. You'll have to do it over again when this happens.
Adding a system restore point right after performing the replacement is not covered in the above material, and remains a good idea.
Non destructive approach
The following method is reported to also work, and does not involve replacing files.
This works for Windows NT/2K/XP/Server 2K3/Vista/Server 2K8/Win7 You must have Administrator privileges to write to the registry key. [The same author] wrote a complete tutorial and some sample scripts: http://www.vistax64.com/tutorials/244527-programs-replace-system-program-without-modifying-system-files-permissions.html
'// DISCLAIMER '// THIS COMES WITH NO WARRANTY, IMPLIED OR OTHERWISE. USE AT YOUR OWN RISK '// IF YOU ARE NOT COMFORTABLE EDITING THE REGISTRY THEN DO NOT USE THIS SCRIPT '// '// NOTES: '// This affects all users. '// This will prevent ANY executable named notepad.exe from running located anywhere on this computer!! '// '// Save this text to your notepad++ folder as a text file named npp.vbs (some AV don't like vbs, get a different AV :-P ) '// '// USAGE '// 1) '// Navigate to registry key HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Image File Execution Options\ '// ' // 2) '// Add new subkey called notepad.exe '// This step is what tells windows to use the notepad++ exe, to undo simply delete this key '// '// 3) '// Create new Sting Value called Debugger '// '// 4) '// Modify value and enter wscript.exe "path to npp.vbs" e.g. wscript.exe "C:\Program Files\Notepad++\npp.vbs" Option Explicit Dim sCmd, x sCmd = """" & LeftB(WScript.ScriptFullName, LenB(WScript.ScriptFullName) - LenB(WScript.ScriptName)) & "notepad++.exe" & """ """ For x = 1 To WScript.Arguments.Count - 1 sCmd = sCmd & WScript.Arguments(x) & " " Next sCmd = sCmd & """" CreateObject("WScript.Shell").Run sCmd, 1, True WScript.Quit
The above is a modified form of the script which had been posted on the forum in 2009. Contact 
On Windows 7, the above needs a little help, see this forum thread.
This batch was reported to work on Win7 64 bits:
@echo off set ReplaceNotepad=%cd%\notepad.exe %systemdrive% cd %windir% FOR /F "tokens=*" %%n IN ('dir /b notepad.exe /s') DO ( takeown /f %%n echo Y|cacls %%n /Grant %USERNAME%:F copy %ReplaceNotePad% %%n if errorlevel 1 call :whoops %%n ) set ReplaceNotePad= pause goto :exit :whoops SETLOCAL ENABLEEXTENSIONS SETLOCAL ENABLEDELAYEDEXPANSION set OriginalNP=%1 set NPPath=!OriginalNotePad:~0,-12! REM Fix if issue is that NotePad.EXE is in use move !OriginalNP! !NPPPath!\notepad.original copy %ReplaceNotePad% !OriginalNP! if not errorlevel 1 goto :continue REM Fix if issue is also directory permissions takenown /f !NPPath! echo Y|cacls !NPPath! /Grant %USERNAME%:F move !OriginalNP! !NPPPath!\notepad.original copy %ReplaceNotePad% !OriginalNP! goto :continue :continue echo *** echo *** After next reboot, delete the locked file echo *** !NPPPath!\notepad.original echo *** goto :exit :exit
DISCLAIMER: The author doesn't have Windows Vista or later installed. The author is reasonably convinced that the procedures gathered on this page should work as advertised and were seemingly tested by others with success, but could not test them personally. As a consequence, no guarantee of final success or absence of undesirable side effects is being given thereby, and the featuring of the material on this page should not be construed as any sort of endorsement. Any liability of any kind will be rejected. Use the tips and tricks on this page AT YOUR OWN RISK.
Please report any enhancement to the procedures on this page that was found to be useful.