Disable F1 in Windows Explorer

Help center logoMany power Windows XP users who frequent the F2 key for renaming files seem to have the same problem hitting the F1 key every now and then, bringing up the rather slow Windows Help and Support Center. Since there doesn't seem to be an official registry-based fix without disabling F1 completely or running a background process to trap the key, I had to figure out a hack. Here's my solution, and I think it's pretty clean.

When you press F1 in Windows Explorer, an EXE called "helpctr.exe" is run. This makes it relatively easy to get rid of this behavior, by replacing it with a dummy executable that does nothing.

Of course, if your copy of Windows is somewhere other than C:\Windows, replace any references with the correct directory.

  • First, download the dummy EXE to C:\Windows\
  • Run the Registry Editor: go to Start, Run, and type:
    regedit
  • Navigate the tree on the left to the following location:
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\App Paths\HELPCTR.EXE
  • On the right side, double-click the word "(Default)" in the list
  • Change the value in the text box to:
    C:\Windows\Dummy.exe
  • Click OK and close the registry editor

To test the fix, just visit My Computer and press F1. Nothing should happen!

This solution seems to have no negative impact on other programs' Help systems, since regular Windows Help files don't use the Help Center.

Thanks to "Shaun" on my guestbook for suggesting this newer, cleaner method.

Comments

  • Ross
  • March 18, 2008
  • 10:38 am
thanks for the tip. my one problem.. dummy.exe? as in, if you download & run this you're a dummy? I know, it's probably completely trustworthy, but still, would be a great place to hide a virus. The trick works just as well if you use some built-in system process that terminates instantly when given no arguments; for instance I use "svchost.exe" in place of "C:\Windows\Dummy.exe" (another pro-laziness note - you don't have to give it a full path because the system defaults to looking for programs in the system32 folder, which is where svchost.exe and other such stuff hides. something handy to keep in mind for adding command-line tools if you're a fan of those.)
  • Ethan
  • March 18, 2008
  • 11:10 am
I know exactly what you mean. I figured that the 4kb file size should be a pretty good indicator that it's safe, but it's not foolproof (how much code does it take to wipe out the MBR?).

Another good replacement executable is "rundll32", which also does nothing if you give it no parameters. I just worry that something will eventually try to pass arguments to helpctr.exe and you'll get unpredictable results with built-in EXEs.

My dummy.exe was written in VB5 and compressed with UPX so that it's as small as possible. I'll try to post a C++ version of my dummy file soon, along with its source code so that people can be more confident.
  • nn
  • April 10, 2008
  • 6:07 pm
thanks..needed this :)
  • Bif
  • April 12, 2008
  • 11:40 pm
Worked splendly. Thank you for figuring this out, it's bugged me for a long time now. Thanks!
  • April 28, 2008
  • 3:02 am
Thanks mate! Great trick!
  • Roger
  • May 13, 2008
  • 9:08 am
what if you want to disable the f1 key for all programs, what should you do? Mine is stuck and won't quit popping up the help window for every other program now even with the download of dummy.exe
  • Keyboard Salesman
  • May 30, 2008
  • 5:20 pm
Buy a new keyboard? :-)
  • Suru
  • June 18, 2008
  • 11:55 am
Roger, you can do what I 've done with power off key (too near del and end): I pulled it off with a screwdriver. No problem since that.
  • LAS
  • July 3, 2008
  • 9:33 am
I personally prefer to disable the Help Center service so you free some resources at the same time you disable the annoying key.
  • deann
  • August 13, 2008
  • 11:31 am
any way to do this in vista?
  • Mark
  • September 10, 2008
  • 9:47 am
Another option is to use AutoHotKey.

Edit your script to have
F1::return

There are a variety of other things AHK can do. Check it out here: http://www.autohotkey.com/
  • freeappz
  • September 29, 2008
  • 3:46 am
Great!
  • m
  • October 26, 2008
  • 12:44 am
why not just rename the files, making the original something like helpctr_old.exe? i don't see the need to go messing with the registry.
  • Ethan
  • October 26, 2008
  • 1:02 am
m: Renaming the files would work fine, but that's not easily done because helpctr.exe is a protected binary, so Windows won't let you modify it. My instructions used to guide users through that exact process, but this method is decidedly easier.
  • m
  • October 26, 2008
  • 1:21 am
now i understand why you can't just rename. windows won't let you delete or replace the file.
  • ionoff
  • November 9, 2008
  • 2:27 pm
I usually just set mine to
"c:\windows\system32\fastopen.exe"

it pops up and auto closes, but returns you to where you were in explorer...

It is built in to windows, so no downloading, does not use much memory.

or

"c:\windows\hh.exe"
it is html help, if not args it opens and closes.
  • ffphguy
  • November 10, 2008
  • 4:10 pm
hi!

just want to share somethin.. disabling F1 key in Excel 2007 coz me either often using F2 to edit formulas/value and so i got this website. doiing the same technique.

go to Start run.. type in regedit

find for this string in the registry "C:\\Program Files\\Microsoft Office\\Office12\\CLVIEW.EXE" (without qoutes) then change with C:\Windows\dummy.exe or wherever location you like.

it's good to backup your registry first:

mine is here
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Installer\UserData\S-1-5-18\Components\4FE9508F698052F4DA865F5A3DA390EA]
"00002109030000000000000000F01FEC"="C:\\Program Files\\Microsoft Office\\Office12\\CLVIEW.EXE"<br/>
That's it! Goodl uck



  • Ethan
  • November 10, 2008
  • 4:15 pm
That's a good tip, ffphguy. Other readers should note that the Office trick seems to disable all forms of Office help, so that might be something to consider.
  • Tom
  • December 7, 2008
  • 2:12 pm
This is awesome! Works a charm, thanks...
but...
I just thought of something...

Wouldn't it be possible to change the F1 key to function the same way as F2?

That way, if you accidentally hit F1 when renaming, it's no big deal because you still get the rename function?? That's what I would do if I knew how, LOL!
  • ffphguy
  • January 25, 2009
  • 8:25 pm
In addition to my first post on "disabling F1 key in Excel 2007"

To make your life easier than digging into registry settings.

Just simply go browse to your installation directory of MS Office 2007 (eg. C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12)

find the culprit CLVIEW.EXE and rename it to somethin like CLIVEW.EXE_

That's it !
  • Mike
  • January 28, 2009
  • 5:00 pm
Anyone found a way to stop this in Vista?

I'm sick of hitting F1 instead of F2 and being slowed down
  • Dave T
  • February 10, 2009
  • 10:06 am
I find that the built-in help is usually less useful than typing my problem into google, so the F1 key is my last line of defence. I press it more times accidentally than intentionally.

A non-software solution is to remove the f1 key from the keyboard. That way, it can't be pressed. I've just done this, and it took me 1 minute. I didn't need a registry editor, neither did I have to download any dummy.exe viruses. My solution works in all applications, and I can revert back to the former behaviour by putting the key back in!

Dave
  • themrrobert (aka Cy)
  • February 11, 2009
  • 5:02 pm
To Dave:

Use linux ^_^ (or AT LEAST go back to XP) Vista == HORRIBLE
  • themrrobert (aka Cy)
  • February 11, 2009
  • 6:14 pm
I'm sorry Dave, I meant to Mike! ^_^

However, you should use linux also, if you are so worried about viruses ^_^. I just simply coded my own exe. It took me an entire 10 seconds to write and compile, and I wrote it in C.
  • Max
  • February 20, 2009
  • 4:58 pm
Any idea how to do the same thing with Excel 2000?
  • Ethan
  • February 20, 2009
  • 11:39 pm
Max - you might look to see if you can figure out what's running whenever you hit F1 and disable that program. Excel 2000 is pretty old, though, so it might just be something as simple as winhelp.exe ... which you probably don't want to disable completely.
  • khevin
  • April 8, 2009
  • 3:02 am
Thanks bro.. it was of great help. Cheers
  • olev
  • April 16, 2009
  • 2:25 am
hello i have problem that tens of helpctr.exe s are popping in my task manager and all help screens popping up everywhere when i close then its cool for like hour or two but then again. i pulled f1 key out of my laptop but still same crapp. tried to do some tricks, what are told at inthernet but no luck. is it keyboard mistake or what ?
  • BASiQ
  • April 26, 2009
  • 12:41 pm
Thanks m8! Just what I needed!
>Just simply go browse to your installation directory of MS Office 2007 (eg. C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12)
>find the culprit CLVIEW.EXE and rename it to somethin like CLIVEW.EXE_

Boy, did I go browse, find, rename, and *poof* the fluorescent lights opened up into blue skies and the ventilation ducts grew branches and leaves and started singing like Bala Murali Krishna.
[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wis4APlLgUU&amp;feature=related]

No more F1 "help" hassles! Thanks, ffphguy and Ethan and everyone else who made this magic moment possible!
That is good solution but it's better replace F1's mission for rename. Is it impossible? With that way when you hit f2 it renames and when you hit f1 it renames too.
Note: sorry for my bad english.
  • 88scythe
  • May 16, 2009
  • 3:00 am
Great!
  • BASiQ
  • July 8, 2009
  • 8:43 pm
Me again! Just reinstalled my OS, so here I am once again, saying thanks man! u rock!
  • polocanada
  • August 22, 2009
  • 3:43 pm
hmmm..

rendMicro 8.950.0.1094 2009.07.31 PAK_Generic.001
Prevx 3.0 2009.08.02 Medium Risk Malware
eSafe 7.0.17.0 2009.07.30 Suspicious File

I presume these are just false positives.
  • Ethan
  • August 22, 2009
  • 5:37 pm
I imagine those false positives are based on the fact that I compressed the binary with UPX. I imagine that's done in the case of some spyware apps to hide the strings used in the file, making them harder to recognize as spyware ... thus, spyware checkers will flag UPX compression. I just did that to make the EXE as small as possible. If you're uncomfortable with my dummy EXE, you can do what the other comments have suggested and find a random EXE in the Windows dir that does nothing visible.
  • Junior Mayhe
  • August 26, 2009
  • 3:45 pm
To disable F1 key, just download Sharp Keys

http://www.randyrants.com/sharpkeys2.msi
>
on section "Map this key" choose "Function F1",
on "To this key" section choose "Turn Key Off"

you're done!
  • Guest
  • September 16, 2009
  • 4:51 pm
Your dummy.exe results in the following dialog:

Open File - Security Warning
The publisher could not be verified. Are you sure you want to run this software?
Name: dummy.exe
Publisher: Unknown Publisher
Type: Application

I'd prefer a dummy executable that doesn't trigger a security warning...
  • Ethan
  • September 16, 2009
  • 6:16 pm
Any EXE that's unsigned will show that warning. I can't get my EXE signed unless I pay for a signing certificate, which is a bit excessive for this case. If you're uncomfortable with my dummy.exe, there are plenty of inert EXEs in the Windows directory that you can point to instead.
  • polocanada
  • October 17, 2009
  • 3:32 pm
Doesn't work in Windows 7. There is no HELPCTR.EXE, there is HELPPANE.EXE and there is no entry in registry. Don't know what to do.
  • polocanada
  • October 17, 2009
  • 3:33 pm
Hey guest....

This is not a problem if you get the message. It doesn't have signature the file....


Your dummy.exe results in the following dialog:

Open File - Security Warning
The publisher could not be verified. Are you sure you want to run this software?
Name: dummy.exe
Publisher: Unknown Publisher
Type: Application

I'd prefer a dummy executable that doesn't trigger a security warning...
  • Maiku
  • November 25, 2009
  • 8:39 am
OMG thank you very much!
I'm using F2 all the time, and just now I clicked F1 (again) by mistake. It took me like 2 min to close the help screen... >,>
Now I can click F1 and nothing happens! Woohoo!
Works perfectly! Thank you very much!
  • dolph
  • December 3, 2009
  • 3:26 pm
This is genius! Thank you!
Thanks for your fix. I was using the AutoHotkey just to switch off F1 permanently, but had to close the program for some games that use F1. I like your method a lot :-)
  • Larry
  • February 17, 2010
  • 3:11 pm
This is also a great trick if you have an administrator who thinks you just have to have a completely worthless program using up resources and won't take no for an answer. I was specifically looking for a dummy program to replace the executable since every attempt to delete or uninstall has failed. They always put it back. This time I think I beat 'em. Thanks!
  • John
  • February 21, 2010
  • 7:58 pm
Thanks! Just got a new 12" laptop.. I'm not used to the cramped keyboard, and was constantly hitting F1 instead of Esc or F2. Much appreciated!
nice trik man ! at least its good for the latest windows f1 key exploit
  • titto1
  • March 17, 2010
  • 1:35 am
hey man just wanted to say thankzzzz it worked like a charm yahoooooooooooo
  • Ariel
  • March 19, 2010
  • 5:09 pm
haha, just googled for this and this was one of the first pages to come up. great to see it was hydrous. hey Ethan!! :)
Awesome idea! I actually took the "c:\windows\system32\fastopen.exe" option, but your pointer to the HKEY was the real solution. Muuuuuuuuuuuuch better. Thanks! =D
"Doesn't work in Windows 7. There is no HELPCTR.EXE, there is HELPPANE.EXE and there is no entry in registry. Don't know what to do."
Please help disabling Windows 7 Help!
  • random
  • August 7, 2010
  • 8:28 pm
doesnt work on Windows vista@
  • random
  • October 24, 2010
  • 4:34 am
how can i enable it again ? please help me :( pm me laklaker000@yahoo.com
  • Aedc
  • November 3, 2010
  • 4:14 pm
Doesn't work in Windows 7. Please help
  • chris
  • November 20, 2010
  • 1:13 pm
WINDOWS 7:
Rename HelpPane (C:\Windows\HelpPane.exe) to something else. Done.
  • that0th3rGuy
  • January 11, 2011
  • 6:59 am
I was wondering if it is possible to disable to F1 key completely. Because now I accidentally press it while a SQL Server 2008 or Visual Studio 2008 window is active, and I don't know why, but then this little window pops up that says something like "Building help document..." or something, and that shit sometimes takes ages. I want to completely "remove" the F1 key from existence...on my computer :P
  • No One
  • February 20, 2011
  • 9:26 am
@that0th3rGuy: search for Scancode (registry)
  • Lenny
  • April 17, 2011
  • 7:06 am
hi im on windows 7 and i have neither helpctr or helppane. what then can i do? without buying an attatchable keyboard too please.
  • Lenny
  • April 17, 2011
  • 7:15 am
hi i just figured out how to turn off f1's help function if ur in vista and cant find helpctr nor helppane.

when starting up your computer press f10 to go into bios mode. then go over to system configuration and youll see something that says action keys enabled or function keys enabled, i already forget. anyways just disable it and presto!
  • Ethan
  • April 17, 2011
  • 10:10 am
Lenny: that is a more broad approach. I have not yet done the research to see if there is a targeted approach for Windows 7 that disables F1 /only/ in Windows Explorer.
  • annoyed
  • April 29, 2011
  • 11:42 pm
i don't see helpctr.exe or helppane.exe at all... F1 key still opens up help window too =/ (using Windows 7)
  • Ronald
  • June 24, 2011
  • 2:32 am
That's give me a great help~ Thanks a lot :)
  • someone
  • September 18, 2011
  • 11:44 am
thanks a lot for this tip. but I just used systray.exe to be safe...
  • Some Old Fool
  • December 15, 2011
  • 9:19 am
I'm using Windows 7. Has anyone found a solution that works with Windows 7? Turning off all the function keys is not an option I'd be happy to take (I do a lot of debugging in VS (F5) and editing (F2)) :)
  • Nypodar
  • January 8, 2012
  • 8:42 am
PLEASE GUYS I M IN A BAD NEED OF SOME HELP HERE i followed the path in the registry (im not a complete noob so i know i followed the right path) but i dont have the HELPCTR.EXE folder..
Im really hating this F1 this, especially for gaming, so PLEASE if any1 can help me solve this i'd be so much grateful.
  • Virux
  • January 20, 2012
  • 5:54 pm
Would it be possible to set the F1 key to also rename, just like the F2 key?
Then the people having problems pressing F1 instead of F2 could just wobble on along.
  • mammoth
  • January 21, 2012
  • 4:34 pm
MS Office: renaming CLVIEW.EXE worked! Thanks ffphguy.

Thanks Ethan for your work and sharing this information with us. It's much appreciated. Since this method doesn't work on Win7, here's an alternative.

Windows 7: I just tried Unlocker and it worked perfect and all I did was move the files. The Help Center files are normally locked and unmovable, but if you can move them out of C:\Windows\ Help Center will not be able to execute.
-Download Unlocker 1.9.0 Portable by Cedrick Collomb (no install required).
-Run your version (x86 or x64) and locate the files HelpPane.exe and winhlp32.exe in C:\Windows\.
-In the next pane choose "Move" from the drop down menu on the left and navigate to a backup folder.
-You may have to repeat for each file.
-You're done!
**To undo this, simply move the two files back to C:\Windows\.

Thanks to TatoSgr for the how-to at http://www.howtonew.com/disable-windows-help-and-support-in-windows-7
  • Annie
  • February 28, 2012
  • 9:13 am
omg thank you, life saver.
  • edu
  • December 11, 2012
  • 8:01 pm
fortunately you cant rename important system files (unless you take ownership with an administrative account), else you would create a vulnerability!
users could just open for example, pictures from a network location in Paint and then press F1 and it would load a 'helppane.exe' file from this network location. very bright solution loool. be ware with what you read and do people!
  • Sonej
  • August 29, 2016
  • 5:33 pm
Unsurprisingly, they made the help menu even worse in windows 10. Now instead of having the help menu appear, it brings up a bing search in your web browser, while locking down the explorer window you were using.

Absolutely amazing the lack of thought they put into these updates.

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