How To: Open .hlp files on Windows 10 (full guide)

Milan Stanojevic
by Milan Stanojevic
Deputy Editor
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  • Windows 10 has many benefits but there are certain files that can no longer be viewed by this system.
  • There is an issue with opening .hlp files and in this article we're offering you a guide on how to do it.
  • See all the solutions on how to handle any type of file extension by visiting our File Opener Hub.
  • Keep all the information in your PC organized by checking out our File Management Section. 
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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 filesand there are several causes for this problem.

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.

Hlp files are commonly used for reading help documentation for older applications. However, according to users, they are unable to view .hlp files, and in this article we’re going to present you with the solutions to fix this predicament.


How do I open .hlp files in Windows 10?

1. Use File Viewer Plus

If you want to open .hlp files on Windows 10, you can always use third-party solutions. We recommend File Viewer Plus, a universal file viewer for Windows that can open and display over 400 different file types.

Trust this application whenever you need to open those rare extensions and documents like View Microsoft Project or Visio documents and even code files.

With File Viewer Plus you also benefit from a great file converter feature, that allow you save your Word documents as a PDF.

In some rare cases, if File Viewer 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.

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2. 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.


3. Install the winhlp32.exe

  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
  4. Notepad will now open. Locate Settings area and add these two lines:
    set WindowsVersion=7
    goto :BypassVersionError
  5. Now right click Install file again and choose Run as administrator
  6. Command Prompt will open and run certain commands. After the procedure is completed you just need to press any key to close Command Prompt
  7. After you’ve done that, just drag and drop a .hlp file to the winhlp32.exe icon in order to open it.

4. 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.


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

copy /y "%crtpth%winhlp32.exe" %windir%

icacls "%windir%winhlp32.exe" /setowner "NT ServiceTrustedInstaller" >nul

echo.

echo Done.

echo.

echo Press any key to Exit

pause >nul

exit

  1. Now click on File, then 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.


7. 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.


8. 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.


9. 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-uswinhlp32.exe.mui"

icacls "%SystemRoot%en-uswinhlp32.exe.mui" /grant "%UserName%":F

ren %SystemRoot%en-uswinhlp32.exe.mui winhlp32.exe.mui.w10

copy winhlp32.exe.mui %SystemRoot%en-uswinhlp32.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 to open .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.

We’d like to hear your opinions on this issue so feel free to comment in the dedicated section below.


FAQ: Learn more about

  • What program can open HLP files?

You can view HLP files with the Windows Help Viewer, however this program is not supported by Windows 10, so check out our guide on how to open .hlp files on Windows 10.

  • How do I convert files to mp3?

In order to convert a video to an audio file you need a great software, that’s why you should see our list of the best mp4 to mp3 converters for Windows 10.

  • How do I convert a file to JPEG?

If you want to convert a screenshot or a png document to JPEG you can do it easily by following our user-friendly guide on how to convert files to JPEG.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published in August 2016 and was revamped and updated in January 2021 for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
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  • I don’t get it. Look at “3. Install the winhlp32.exe” “Download this archive.” WHAT ARCHIVE? Not showing any archive.

  • It may be needed to first manually change permissions for existing winhlp32.exe and winhlp32.exe.mui files. To do this, go to C:\Windows, find the winhlp32.exe and winhlp32.exe.mui files, and for each one of them, right click and choose properties, then go to the Security tab, find your user name and edit the permissions to full control.