Re-enabling WinHelp on Windows 10

There was a shift years ago from the old help system that has it’s roots going back to Windows 3.0, and was certainly one of the killer features of Windows 3.0, the hyperlinked and searchable help files.  They were a form of compiled RTF files, and could also embed image resources, and later audio & video with the evolution of Windows.  This allowed for a platform for early multimedia encylopedias and other refrence books of sorts.

Starting with Windows Vista, however the WinHelp engine was being retired out for a CHM or compiled HTML help engine.  And for a whlie there optional updates and later downloads to re-enable WinHelp.  However starting with Windows 10 the downloads no longer work.

All is not lost however, if you copy any of the 32bit WinHelp programs from NT 3.1 onward it will still function on Windows 10.  And thanks to this great post on TenForums, you can re-enable the hook so that Windows 10 will integrate again with WinHelp.

@echo off
set crtpth=%CD%
takeown /f "%windir%\winhlp32.exe" >nul
icacls "%windir%\winhlp32.exe" /grant *S-1-5-32-544:F >nul
copy /y "%crtpth%\winhlp32.exe" %windir%
icacls "%windir%\winhlp32.exe" /setowner "NT Service\TrustedInstaller" >nul
echo Done.
echo Press any key to Exit
pause >nul

WinHelp from Windows NT 3.1 refresh on Windows 10

And there we go, now I can load obsolete refrence docs from great old programs like Visual C++ 1.10 for Windows NT!

Naturally Microsoft removed all this stuff as it was a security risk, in that they apparently never revamped or updated it, so yeah it may be another infection vector.

4 thoughts on “Re-enabling WinHelp on Windows 10

  1. The latest version of WinHlp32 is 50.1.7600.16386. Its whatever Microsoft’s re-enabler for Windows 7 installed. Didn’t Microsoft deprecate the CHM files recently, or was that just another rumor? They don’t even use the format in their own product’s help files!

    • I had issues trying to cleanly extract it, but I had this NT 3.1 installation handy…

      I’m not sure what their ‘books’ thing is, along with all their other weird formats they seem to have regarding Visual Studio, but it certainly feels like having the MSDN CD’s gave a LOT more information.

  2. Back in the day, we used Windows 2000 at high school. But the network management software the IT installed on those workstations were for Windows 98 and winhelp was old too. Through the winhelp UI, I managed to bypass the NT’s security boundaries and create a local admin account. Thanks to winhelp.exe, I could just switch user and do anything I want. No doubt they removed that for security.

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