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"Help and Support" link from Start Menu does not work

Published: June 27, 2004
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When you click the Help and Support link in Start Menu, Help Center is not opened. However, a desktop shortcut to the following file works fine:


This may simply be an App Paths issue. The Start Menu links runs a ShellExecute function, which in-turn checks the App Paths value for the full application path (Helpctr.exe's path in this case). If the Helpctr is missing under App Paths, you'll see the error Cannot find helpctr.exe while clicking the Help and Support icon in the Start Menu.


To resolve the problem, download and apply this REG fix startmenuhelp.reg

The last section of the REG file recreates the HELPCTR.EXE App Paths value. You can also create the HELPCTR.EXE App Paths manually.

NOTE:  If Windows is installed in a different path, edit the REG file in Notepad and change the App Paths value accordingly.

ShellExecute function - from MSDN

When the ShellExecute function is provided with the name of an executable file in its lpFile parameter, there are several places that it can look in an attempt to find the file, including the following:

  • The current working directory
  • The Windows directory (no subdirectories are searched)
  • The Windows\System32 directory
  • Directories listed in the PATH environment variable
  • The App Paths registry key The order that those locations are searched varies, though the App Paths key is preferred in Windows XP Service Pack 1 (SP1)

See Application Registration section in the article PerceivedTypes, SystemFileAssociations, and Application Registration

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"Related Topics" link in Help and Support doesn't work