Full Guide: How to open .hlp files on Windows 10

Milan Stanojevic avatar. By: Milan Stanojevic
7 minute read

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Windows 10 is a modern operating system, therefore it has few compatibility issues with older software. For example, Windows 10 can’t natively open .hlp files, but there are several ways to fix this problem.

How to open .hlp files in Windows 10?

Hlp files can be useful if you’re trying to read help documentation for older applications, however, sometimes issues can occur. According to users, they are unable to view .hlp files, and in this article we’re going to cover the following topics:

  • How to open .hlp files in Windows 10 – As you can see, there are many ways to open .hlp files on your Windows 10 PC, and in most cases, you just need to copy winhlp32.exe from Windows XP and run the file on Windows 10.
  • Can’t open hlp files in Windows 8.1, 7 – Both Windows 8.1 and 7 have the same issue, and they aren’t able to open .hlp files. However, most of our solutions work on older versions of Windows, so feel free to try them.
  • Convert hlp to PDF – If you’re having problems with hlp files, the easiest solution would be to convert them to a different format, such as PDF. You can do that using various online converters, but there are also dedicated applications that can help you with that.
  • Read hlp files on Windows 10 – Windows 10 doesn’t support hlp files by default, but you should be able to read .hlp files using one of our solutions.

Many programs come with their own help files, and some older applications use .hlp format for those files. This format was supported by older versions of Windows, but Windows 10 doesn’t have native support for it which means that you can’t open .hlp files on Windows 10. This can be a problem for certain users that use older software, but there is a way to circumvent this limitation.


Solution 1 – Copy winhlp32.exe from Windows XP PC

Windows 10 doesn’t have a winhlp32.exe file that is in charge for .hlp files, and to fix this issue you can copy this file from Windows XP. If you have any old PC running Windows XP you can copy it from there, or if you have Windows XP installation disc you can set up a virtual machine with Virtualbox on your PC, install Windows XP and transfer winhlp32.exe.

You might be able to download this file online from third-party sources, but that file can contain malware, therefore, use extra caution and be sure to scan it with your antivirus.


Solution 2 – Install the winhlp32.exe

Many users reported that you can fix this problem by installing winhlp32.exe. To do that you just need to follow these steps:

  1. Download this archive.
  2. Once you download it, extract all files to your PC.
  3. Locate Install file, right-click it and choose Edit.
    How to open .hlp files in Windows 10
  4. Notepad will now open. Locate Settings area and add these two lines:
    • set WindowsVersion=7
    • goto :BypassVersionError
      Can't open hlp files in Windows 8.1
  5. Save changes and close the file.
  6. Now right click Install file again and choose Run as administrator.
    Convert hlp to PDF
  7. Command Prompt will open and run certain commands. After the procedure is completed you just need to press any key to close Command Prompt.
    Read hlp files on Windows 10

After you’ve done that, just drag and drop a .hlp file to the winhlp32.exe icon in order to open it.


Solution 3 – Convert .hlp files to PDF documents

Although .hlp files have their advantage, some users are suggesting that the best way to view those files is to convert them to PDF documents. This is a relatively simple procedure, but in order to do it, you need to find a proper converter online. There are many free converters online, so feel free to try any of them.


Solution 4 – Use third-party solutions

If you want to open .hlp files on Windows 10, you can always use third-party solutions. We recommend FileViewer Plus, a universal file viewer for Windows that can open and display over 300 different file types.

In some rare cases, if FileViewer cannot display the native view of the file, you can use the Text and Hex views to inspect the file contents. These views let you see “inside” the file, providing valuable information, especially for unknown file types. You can even search for content stored in the file.


Solution 5 – Use Command Prompt

According to users, you might be able to open .hlp files on your PC simply by running a few commands from Command Prompt. To do that, first you need to copy winhlp32.exe from a Windows XP machine. Keep in mind that you need to copy the file from a 32-bit version of XP if you’re using a 32-bit version of Windows 10. The same goes for 64-bit versions.

If you copy winhlp32.exe from a 32-bit version of Windows XP to a 64-bit version of Windows 10, this procedure might not work. The process itself is slightly complicated, so be sure to follow the instructions carefully. To fix this issue, follow these steps:

  1. Create a TEMP folder on your D drive. The location of the directory would be D:\TEMP.
  2. Now copy winhelp32.exe to D:\TEMP directory.
  3. Open Notepad and paste the following lines:
  • @echo off
  • set crtpth=%CD%
  • takeown /f “%windir%\winhlp32.exe” >nul
  • icacls “%windir%\winhlp32.exe” /grant *S-1-5-32-544:F >nul

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  • copy /y “%crtpth%\winhlp32.exe” %windir%
  • icacls “%windir%\winhlp32.exe” /setowner “NT Service\TrustedInstaller” >nul
  • echo.
  • echo Done.
  • echo.
  • echo Press any key to Exit
  • pause >nul
  • exit
  1. Now click on File > Save as.
    Can't open hlp files in Windows 8.1
  2. Set Save as type to All Files. Enter the desired file name as Win10-Hlp32-Fix.cmd. Select D:\TEMP as the save location and click the Save button.
    How to open .hlp files in Windows 10
  3. Now you need to start Command Prompt as administrator. To do that, simply press Windows Key + X to open Win + X menu and choose Command Prompt (Admin). If Command Prompt isn’t available, you can use PowerShell (Admin) instead.
    Convert hlp to PDF
  4. When Command Prompt starts, switch to D:\TEMP directory and run Win10-Hlp32-Fix.cmd. If you’re not familiar with Command Prompt, you should be able to switch the directory using the cd command.

After running Win10-Hlp32-Fix.cmd the issue should be resolved and you’ll be able to view .hlp files on your PC. This is an advanced solution, so please read and follow the instructions carefully. Once again we have to mention that you’ll need a 32-bit version of Windows XP if you’re using a 32-bit version of Windows 10. The same goes for the 64-bit version.


Solution 6 – Drag the desired file to the winhlp32.exe

According to users, in order to view .hlp file naturally on Windows 10, you need to copy winhlp32.exe from a Windows XP. However, you might also have to change your security permissions and replace certain system files.

According to users, you might be able to avoid all this trouble simply by finding the .hlp file that you want to open and dragging into the winhlp32.exe file. This will open the .hlp file automatically without changing your security permissions and you’ll be able to view the contents of the file.


Solution 7 – Download winhlp32.exe from Microsoft

Microsoft decided to remove winhlp32.exe from Windows Vista since it didn’t meet its security standards, and since Vista this file wasn’t a part of Windows. However, you can still download it if you want directly from the Microsoft’s website.

To do that, just follow this link to download winhlp32.exe. Once you do that, you should be able to open .hlp files using this application. Keep in mind that this version is for Windows 8, but you should be able to use it with Windows 10 as well.


Solution 8 – Download Windows 8.1 update and extract the file from it

This is an advanced solution, but it works according to users. This solution relies heavily on Command Prompt, so be sure to enter the required commands correctly. If you’re not familiar with Command Prompt, you might want to skip this solution or read a quick tutorial in order to understand better how Command Prompt works.

To fix the problem with .hlp files, you need to do the following:

  1. Download Windows 8.1 update file.
  2. Start Command Prompt as administrator.
  3. When Command Prompt starts, run the following commands:
  • md ContentMSU
  • expand Windows8.1-KB917607-x64.msu /F:* .\ContentMSU
    cd ContentMSU
  • md ContentCAB
  • expand Windows8.1-KB917607-x64.cab /F:* .\ContentCAB
  • cd ContentCAB
  • dir amd64*en-*.
  • cd amd64_microsoft-windows-winhstb.resources_31bf3856ad364e35_6.3.9600.20470_en-us_1ab8cd412c1028d0
  • takeown /f “%SystemRoot%\en-us\winhlp32.exe.mui”
  • icacls “%SystemRoot%\en-us\winhlp32.exe.mui” /grant “%UserName%”:F
  • ren %SystemRoot%\en-us\winhlp32.exe.mui winhlp32.exe.mui.w10
  • copy winhlp32.exe.mui %SystemRoot%\en-us\winhlp32.exe.mui
  • takeown /f “%SystemRoot%\winhlp32.exe”
  • icacls “%SystemRoot%\winhlp32.exe” /grant “%UserName%”:F
  • ren %SystemRoot%\winhlp32.exe winhlp32.exe.w10
  • cd ..
  • dir *.exe /s
  • cd “amd64_microsoft-windows-winhstb_31bf3856ad364e35_6.3.9600.20470_none_1a54d9f2f676f6c2”
  • copy winhlp32.exe %SystemRoot%\winhlp32.exe

After doing that, you should be able to run .hlp files on your PC. Keep in mind that this solution is rather advanced, and if you’re not careful you can cause damage to your Windows installation.

It’s worth mentioning that this solution works only with English version of Windows 10, so if you’re using a different version, you’ll need to replace en- and en-us with the correct parameters in the Command Prompt that match your version.

Windows 10 doesn’t have native support for .hlp files, but if you have an older application that still uses those files you can try to avoid this limitation by using one of our solutions.


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2016 and has been since completely revamped and updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.


READ ALSO:

For various PC problems, we recommend this tool.

This software will repair common computer errors, protect you from file loss, malware, hardware failure and optimize your PC for maximum performance. Fix PC issues now in 3 easy steps:

  1. Download this PC Repair Tool rated "Excellent" on TrustPilot.com.
  2. Click “Start Scan” to find Windows issues that could be causing PC problems.
  3. Click “Repair All” to fix all issues with Patented Technologies (requires upgrade).

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