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Resource Editor: How To Open an EXE/DLL File For Editing

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Resource Tuner allows you to open and modify various Windows executable files such as .EXE, .DLL, .MUN, Device Drivers (.SYS), OCX Controls, and more.

Resource Editor screenshots Once inside, you can change the look of icons, cursors, dialogs, buttons, sounds, animations, and other elements of the Windows user interface by editing and replacing resources within these executable files.

For more serious changes (though this may require a good understanding of programming functions), check out PE Explorer. To view and edit the raw binary data contents of a DLL file, you can use Hex Editor.

It's crucial to recognize that .EXE and .DLL files are not plain, standard text files that you can easily read and edit. These binary files have a complex nested structure defined by the Portable Executable format, and they're not designed to be user-edited, nor are DLLs meant to be opened independently from the programs they are a part of. In many DLL files, the only meaningful information is limited to Vendor details (copyrights, trademarks, origins) and Product Version information.

Though if you need to modify something within an EXE or DLL file, you might achieve this by adjusting their resources using Resource Tuner. However, you still won't be able to modify the actual code in any way as resources are separate from the program code. This allows you to make significant changes to the program's interface while keeping the code untouched. It may also enable translating the program interface into another language.

Windows system files contain essential system icons you might want to extract or replace. Typically, these are the imageres.dll and shell32.dll files, along with several other DLLs within the System32 folder. The latest Windows builds employ *.MUN files to store resources, found in the \SystemResources\*.mun directory. For example, the correct resource file path for C:\Windows\System32\shell32.dll would be C:\Windows\SystemResources\shell32.dll.mun. The .MUN files can be opened in Resource Tuner just like any other DLL files.

Open EXE/DLL File with Resource Tuner

Resource Tuner offers several methods for opening files. To open a file for browsing or editing resources, either click the button on the left side or go to File > Open [CTRL+O]. The dropdown menu next to the Open File button provides quick access to recently opened files. This list can also be accessed via the File > Recent Files menu option. The number of files in the list can be managed through the Settings dialog.

Open file in Resource Tuner

You can initiate opening a file in Resource Tuner by right-clicking it in Windows File Explorer and choosing "Open with Resource Tuner" from the context menu:

Open with Resource TunerAlternatively, you can drag and drop a file from Windows File Explorer onto the Resource Tuner icon or onto a running instance of Resource Tuner.

Another option is to open a file directly from the command line. Usage:  restuner.exe <filename>

It's recommended to perform all file operations with copies of the original files. Store the copies in a separate directory, not in the parent or home directory of the executable. This practice has clear benefits, including avoiding issues with OLE embedded executables calling DLLs from the parent directory.

Resource Tuner automatically executes three functions upon opening a file: unpacking files compressed with UPX using the Plug-In subsystem, error checking, and precompiling resources.


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Resource Tuner runs on all versions of Windows from 11 and 10 through 8, 7, Vista, and XP, both 32-bit and 64-bit.


If Opening a File Produces an Error

Resource Tuner's error messages are designed to provide accurate information about the nature of the file you're trying to open.

When encountering errors while opening a file, it's likely due to specific file conditions or formats. Here are some common errors you might come across and their explanations.

1. Error: This file is likely damaged, packed or compressed.

If you encounter this error, there is a good chance the executable has been compressed to appear smaller. Our software detects and unpacks UPX-compressed files only. You'll need to manually unpack the compressed exe before viewing or modifying it. To work with such files, you might need a more powerful tool like Heaventools PE Explorer.

This is not viewed as a bug. We are not going to defeat the security attempts of other software authors. And we cannot support decompression of various packers and protectors available in the public domain.

2. Error: This is an NE Executable. Not supported!

Our software supports 32- and 64-bit PE files only. NE (New Executable) files are 16-bit applications designed for outdated Windows 3.xx systems. While executable formats like "MZ" (DOS), "NE," and "LE" exist, these 16-bit formats are obsolete, and we don't intend to provide support for them.

3. Error: This is NOT an EXE or DLL File

Resource Tuner doesn't rely solely on file extensions like .exe, .dll, or .txt. The software reads and analyzes the file header to determine its nature. If Resource Tuner reports that a file isn't a DLL or EXE file, it's based on accurate assessment, regardless of the file extension. The extension itself isn't the sole indicator of a file's type.


Then you need a binary hex editor: FlexHex editor. Use it for inspecting binary output, editing the raw data contents of a file, examining the structure of proprietary closed-format data files or old data in unknown formats, quick fixing executable or data files, creating binary files for test runs, and more.

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