Note, this article was created by memory of a few articles that I read in the past. I'll be typing this up here for personal use, however if you have any issues please post them here..
In previous versions of Windows the limit was 5 characters (as we where limited to hex editing, I'm not entirely sure if the limit was actually there but thanks to Resource Hacker we can take and expand things a little). This limit doesn't exist in WinXP (I don't know for sure about 2k).
You'll need a few things:
1. a few minutes
2. balls of steel
3. copy or Resource Hacker (ResHack, you'll have to Google it, or ask Ghost to put it on the Archive; I got mine from here
Steps are fairly easy:
1. Open Resource Hacker
2. Click File -> Open -> Navigate to c:\windows\explorer.exe (you'll also want to make a copy of this file before modding in case you fuck something up).
3. Locate what you'd like to change:
The instances of "Start" are:
String Table -> 37 -> 1033 -> 578 (WinXP "Pretty" Desktop)
String Table -> 38 -> 1033 -> 595 (Classic Desktop)
The instances of "Click here to begin" are:
String Table -> 34 -> 1033 -> 533
The instances of the default windows icon are:
Bitmap -> 143 -> 1033
The instances of the default start boarder are:
Bitmap -> 167 -> 1033 (XP Pro)
Bitmap -> 166 -> 1033 (XP Home)
To change the displayed text on the "Start" menu you'll just need to change it where it resides in the above location.
To change the windows bitmap you'll need to navigate to the location and then click Action -> Replace bitmap -> Open with new bitmap. The bitmap HAS to be 25x20 and 16 million colors.
Note, after you change "Start" be sure to click "Compile Script", otherwise it'll ignore your changes.
When you're done with your customizations you can click file -> save as; save the file as explorer.new.
Now, reboot your system and press F8 just as Windows loads, it should ask what mode you wish to use, choose Safe Mode with Command Prompt.
Updating your explorer.exe is as easy as:
1. cd c:\windows\
2. copy explorer.exe explorer.bak
3. delete explorer.exe (choose yes when asked)
4. copy explorer.new explorer.exe
When you load windows it should load normally and display your new pretty start menu.
Note, I am not responsible for your trashing your system; if you neglected to backup your old explorer.exe I am not taking the responsibility as I told you to back it up twice. If you messed something up and you backed up your explorer.exe repeat the replacement instructions only ignore step 2 and on step 4 in place of explorer.new use explorer.bak.
Yes, I know my instructions aren't the best, but it works.
Note that there is another way of replacing "Start" but any good adware program will detect it as a hijacked explorer shell. Only do the following if you'd like to and don't plan on using any adware removal tools.
Alternative Replacement through Registry:
1. When doing the above and saving your explorer.new, save it as explorercracked.exe.
2. Open Regedit and navigate to: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ SOFTWARE\ Microsoft\ Windows NT\ CurrentVersion\ Winlogon
3. Double click "shell" to open the dialog.
4. Change "explorer.exe" to "explorercracked.exe".
5. Close regedit and reboot.