Windows 9x Start Button Hack

original author unknown
edited by James LaTour

WARNING: The author(s) of this article are not responsible for any actions that may occur by following these instructions. We suggest you make back-ups of any files that you edit in case they become corrupt. In the event that a file does become corrupt, restore that file from the back-up to its original location.

There are 2 major things you can change on the start button, the icon and the text. You will need 2 programs to do this, I use and recommend Microangelo for the icon work and UltraEdit-32 for the hex-editing. Rotor images in the below-mentioned resolutions and color-depths are available at the bottom of this page. Using these images will change the "windows flag" on the start menu to a rotor graphic. I in the past I have changed the "Start" text to "Mazda", but anything five letters or less would work (i.e. RX-7, MARX7, Rotor, etc)

Changing the Start Button Icon

First, I will tell you how to change the icon, which is the easiest.
  1. Find a icon that you want to use or make your own.
  2. Make the icon in all the following formats 10x10 16 colors, 12x12 16 colors, 14x14 16 colors, 16x16 16 colors, 22x22 16 colors, and 32x32 2 colors. This is very easy to do using Microangelo Studio. Just copy the icon and paste it onto the other formats and expand or contract the size.
  3. Save the Icon and keep Studio open.
  4. Save a copy of User.exe (c:/windows/system/user.exe) into a backup directory and another into a temporary directory. This is very important. You should always back up everything that you intend to change, just in case!!!
  5. Open the User.exe that is in you temporary directory through Microangelo Librarian.
  6. Replace each format of the first icon (the windows flag) with the appropriate one of you new icon.
  7. Save the User.exe in the temporary, this is the also important because the user.exe is in use by windows so you can not save it directly into the windows/system directory.
  8. Shut down your computer into DOS mode.
  9. In DOS copy the user.exe that is in your temporary directory to c:/windows/system.
You will be prompted to confirm this overwrite. Enter "y" and restart windows. That's it for the icon change!

Changing the Start Button Text

For this part you'll actually be editing windows 95 system files. You will be manipulating the displayed characters for the Start button as well as the start menu program tap on the taskbar properties. I will be using UltraEdit-32 to do the hexing.
  1. First make a back up copy and a copy in a temporary directory of your explorer.exe which can be found in c:\windows.
  2. Open the explorer.exe that is in a temp directory through UltraEdit. You will see on the left a bunch of numbers (which is the actual hex) and on the right a bunch of words that appear to be separated by .'s (periods). This is the character equivalent of the hex code.

    Some important information to understand: First, the .'s (periods) are not .'s (periods). They are 00 hex code. DON'T change any of the .'s (periods) Do not change the hex, change the characters by highlighting a single character and changing it, one by one on the right side. Do not grab a whole word on the right side and put .'s (periods) in the place of the 00 hex code. And finally you can use ascii text (alternative) key codes to achieve a cool look.

  3. Scroll down the window and look for what appears as S.t.a.r.t. on the right hand side. (I would give the actual location but it varies on what version of win9x you have). Once you have located the first S.t.a.r.t. proceed to step 4.
  4. Highlight the S only. Do not include the . (period) before or after the S. Type the character you wish to replace it with. Do this for each character. You can use a word smaller then 5 characters by inserting blanks (a push of the space bar).
  5. Repeat scrolling and replace the S.t.a.r.t. with your chosen word every time it appears.
You can change the "quick tips" (or hover message) which says "Click here to begin" when you hover the mouse over the start button, as well as the sliding "Click here to begin" message that appears on the start bar when Windows first boots up, by finding and altering "C.l.i.c.k. .h.e.r.e. .t.o. .b.e.g.i.n" in the hex editor as well. I have made this read "Start your engines" in the past without problem. Just be sure that you do not exceed the number of spaces that are in the original code.

That's it your done.

NOTE: The start button of each version of windows is different. You cannot use the same altered start button with Windows 98 as you did with Windows 95. If you upgrade or change your operating system, you must redo everything in this article with the newer operating system files. Failure to do so will corrupt the operating system.

Sample rotor images: download 10x10 rotor download 12x12 rotor download 14x14 rotor download 16x16 rotor download 22x22 rotor download 32x32 rotor All files (4kb .zip)

written by: unknown
edited and transcribed by: James LaTour