F1 help in Windows [XP] Explorer

Have you ever accidentally hit the F1 key in Explorer when you meant F2 (or 1, or Esc)? Normally missing a key isn’t a big deal, but in this case F1 triggers the Windows help center. Help may be valuable sometimes (I wouldn’t know, I’ve never used it), but for me, the accidental keypress costs me 20-30 seconds of productivity while I wait for the thing to load and close it.

F1 in explorer triggers the HELPCTR.EXE program to launch. While this behavior itself isn’t (easily) configurable, you can convince Windows that HELPCTR.EXE has a different location, say “c:\windows\system32\cscript.exe”, for example. (Cscript is the program that Windows uses to run script host files. It simply quits if you run it without arguments.)

Open RegEdit.exe, go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ AppPaths. Find “HELPCTR.EXE”, and replace it’s default entry with “C:\Windows\system32\CSCRIPT.EXE”.

That’s it. Now in Windows Explorer, F1 effectively does nothing.

Side effects:
1. Windows uses the AppPaths to find applications. This means that the Help Center will also stop working from the start menu. If you’re the kind of person who gets annoyed with the Help Center running on F1, you probably won’t mind that the icon in the start menu doesn’t work either.

2. This is a system level change (HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE). This means that other users of your computer also will not be able to access the help center.

3. Use F1 as an application launcher. Just replace the path with a useful application. Pressing F1 now opens this application.

4. I only know that this works for sure in Windows XP. I don’t ever plan to operate a machine that has Vista, so I can’t tell you if it will work there. Same goes for Windows 7.



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