Introduction: The Computer Customization Pranks

About: I currently work in a climbing wall as my main job, but I am majoring in Computer Internetworking Technologies, with an emphasis on computer forensics. I love to work with all electronics.

In this instructable, I will be showing how to make some major customization changes to someone's computer, that unless they are very computer-savy, they will not be able to reverse.  Disclaimer: I am not responsible for anything that might go wrong... including suing or jail-time.  What I will show you how to do could be considered illegal unless it is on your own computer.

That being said, here's exactly what I'm going to show you how to do:
1.  Create a message that is viewed before a person logs onto their computer (saying "April Fools... etc.").  (This can be done on any version of Windows)
2.  Change the text on the start button (since XP was the last version to say "Start", this will not work on later versions).

Step 1: Create a Legal Message (AKA Logon Message)

For this step, you will need to open registry editor.  Go to run be pressing the "Windows" key (between control and alt) and "R" together.  Then type "regedit", and press "enter" or "OK".

Once you are in the registry, be sure and backup the registry by clicking File-Export.  Save it as whatever file you want to.

Step 2: Modify the Registry

Once you are in the registry, navigate to "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHIENE-Software-Microsoft-Windows-CurrentVersion-policies-system".

Find the entry that says "legalnoticecaption", and double click that, and change the value data to "Happy April Fools!", and press "OK".

Then find the entry that says "legalnoticetext", and double click that, and change that value data to whatever you want your text to say.

If you don't want to change the start button text, just shut down the computer now, otherwise, keep reading.

Step 3: Download Resource Hacker

In order to change the start button text, you will need a free program called "Resource Hacker".  You can download it from cnet here.
Once you have installed it, start it up.  Click "File-Open", and navigate to "C:\Windows\explorer.exe" and open that file.

Step 4: Change the Text

Navigate to "String Table-37-1033".  (If your victim is using the classic layout as opposed to the XP layout you will need to use "String Table-38-1033".)

Change the text next to 578, from "start" to "whatever you want here", then click "Compile Script".  Keep the text short and sweet... I've heard that there could be a character limit on some versions of XP, although I've never run into that myself.  Then click "File-Save As".  DO NOT CLICK SAVE OR SAVE THIS AS THE SAME FILE NAME!!!!!!!  Save your file as explorer2.exe.

Step 5: Modify the Registry

If you did not backup the registry back in step 1, be sure to do that now.

Now we are going to navigate to "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHIENE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon.  Modify the "Shell" entry to "explorer2.exe".

Navigate to "C:\Windows", and find the file called "explorer2.exe", and double click on it.  If it worked properly, it should open up a folder.  In many cases it may not work right on the first try and it will give you a message saying it isn't a valid application.  Just open resource hacker up again and do step 4 again.  Most times it will work on the second try.  Then restart your computer to be sure everything works as it should.  If it does, just shut down the computer and wait for the fun to start.  If it doesn't work for some reason, see step 6 on how to fix the computer's registry.

Step 6: How to Fix Your Computer If There's a Problem

Sometimes modifying the explorer.exe application and changing the startup explorer.exe file can cause your computer to not load the program it needs for you to use your computer.  In that case you will get a screen with either your desktop and no icons or taskbar, or your might get just a black screen.  Either way if you followed my instructions about keeping backups of the registry and not saving the modified explorer.exe file as the same file, it's a very easy fix.  First press "Control" "Alt" and "Delete" together in order to bring up the task manager.  Then click "File-New Task (Run...)".  If regedit isn't already typed into the box, go ahead and type it in and press "enter" or "OK".  In theory it should automatically be at the last spot you edited (for the explorer2.exe entry), if it isn't, navigate to "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHIENE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon and modify the "Shell" entry to "explorer.exe".

Go back to task manager, and start a new process "explorer.exe".  The computer should now be back to normal, except for the legal/logon message.  If you want to remove that message, just go back to "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHIENE-Software-Microsoft-Windows-CurrentVersion-policies-system" and clear the value data for the legalnoticecaption and legalnoticetext.

Good luck, and happy pranking!  :)