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Remove That Unsightly Focus Rectangle in Windows XP or Vista

After a number of readers have written in about how to remove the dotted black outline that sometimes appears when you make a file selection, I realized that I needed to write this up for everybody’s benefit, since there actually is a solution.

In case you aren’t sure what we’re talking about, if you select an icon with the keyboard’s arrow keys and then click somewhere else, you’ll see a dotted line show up around the icon:

image

The same thing will sometimes happen in other areas, like tree controls. Note that this picture is from the original author over at Neowin.

 image 

To solve this problem, we’ll use a small utility called the Universal Focus Rectangle Remover, which unfortunately only works on 32-bit Windows (XP or Vista).

Installation

You’ll want to download and extract the zipped file, and then copy the RemoveFocusRect.dll file into the System32 directory, usually located at the following path:

C:\Windows\System32

You’ll get a message saying that access is denied, but you should be able to copy the file after clicking through the prompts.

image

Next you’ll need to open up an administrator mode command prompt, and then run the following command to register the DLL file with Windows:

regsvr32 RemoveFocusRect.dll

image

You should get a message saying that the registration succeeded. If you get an error, there’s a good chance you are running on 64-bit and it just won’t work. If so, make sure to delete the file that you copied.

image

Once you reboot the computer, you’ll see that the rectangle is now gone:

image image

Uninstalling

Open up an administrator mode command prompt like before, and type in the following command to uninstall the component from the registry (very important). Note: You’ll have to be in the \Windows\system32 directory for it to work, but that’s the default path for an administrator mode command prompt anyway.

regsvr32 /u RemoveFocusRect.dll

You should get a message saying that it has been successfully removed. Now you can delete the file simply with this command:

del RemoveFocusRect.dll

You’ll need to restart your computer to remove the tweak.

Download Focus Rectangle Remover from neowin.net

Download Focus Rectangle Remover (Mirror Copy) from howtogeek.com

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 08/12/08

Comments (29)

  1. TeMerc

    As usual, great stuff here.

    One thing I’d like to do is actually increase the focus rectangle when tabbing thru websites. I try not to ever use the mouse and many times just seeing the rectangle as it goes from link to link is hard. Especially now I’m a bit older.

    Any tips or ideas on how this can be done?

  2. Ali Salem

    Man I love you!! I made a post in the forum about this…Cheers!

  3. Ali Salem

    Just read it doesn’t work in 64-bit Vista. -.-

  4. Thomas

    when trying to register the dll I get the message “The module RemoveFocusRect.dll was loaded but the call to DllregisterServer failed with error code 0×80004005″. I’m 100% sure I’m running a 32bit of Vista. any idea?

  5. The Geek

    @Thomas

    I’m betting that your system is missing one of the redistributable C++ components or something… I’ll have to check into it.

  6. Fastfreddie1959

    This has drove me crazy for yrs.
    All i can say is the program works & thank you.

  7. Kyle

    Huh. I never had the focus rectangle in vista?

  8. bigminisachin1231

    will this also get rid of the focus rectangle you get when you click on the name of a tab in Firefox?

  9. john woo

    @Thomas

    I had the same problem, just run your command prompt in admin mode and it’ll work. I read this article at first and it’s in the instruction, just not clearly written. The readme.txt is more specific^^

  10. jonhill987

    I have never had that rectangle around my icons either. I just get a blue box.

  11. Thomas

    cool john, thanks it worked.
    I launched CMD as admin and it registered the Dll without any issue…

  12. Michael

    Why did you not just copy/rewrite these EASIER orginal insturctions? :P

    Installation:
    1. Put RemoveFocusRect in your system32 directory.
    2. Click Start and select Run.
    3. Type “regsvr32 RemoveFocusRect.dll” (without the quotes) and press OK.
    4. Next time a program is started, it won’t have focus rectangles.
    Note: In Windows Vista, all those steps should be done with administrative privileges.

    Uninstallation:
    2. Click Start and select Run.
    3. Type “regsvr32 /u RemoveFocusRect.dll” (without the quotes) and press OK.
    1. Restart your computer.
    4. Delete RemoveFocusRect from your system32 directory.
    Note: In Windows Vista, all those steps should be done with administrative privileges.

    Great work – thanks! :)

  13. an0n1

    there is nothing unsightly or ugly about focus indication UI changes. They make computer usage much more meaningful for those who are not highly dextrous and/or computer savvy.

  14. Charles Thomas

    Easy and straightforward, does nothing at all.

  15. Gary Shapiro

    Have you noticed that using this gets rid of the ability to select multiple files using the different methods like Shift…Shift, Ctl.Ctl, dragging the box around a group of files.

    At least that’s what it did on my system. Had to get rid of it.

  16. PjhN

    Hi y’all! Can I just say first I love this site; I’ve learnt SO much from it!
    /fawning

    Anyhow, I’ve been experimenting with this utility on my Vista x64 Ultimate system…
    Firstly, you CAN register the .dll on an x64 system: when you put RemoveFocusRect.dll in your System32 folder, ALSO put it into the SysWOW64 folder. The regsvr32 command should work fine…

    Trying it out following the restart, I’ve found that the ‘Focus Rectangle’ has gone MOST of the time. However, using the Shift or Ctrl keys to multiple-select files causes the focus rectangle to re-appear. The good news however, is that once you have focused onto something else, the rectangle goes away again.
    i.e. The rectangle will appear when multi-selecting, but it doesn’t stay once wherever those files being selected were (the desktop, a loder, etc.) ceases being in focus.

    Hopes this helps somebody!

    PjhN

  17. Mike

    This is great and works in Vista (32-bit only).

    But I was wondering if there is a way to get it to work in Windows 7, it’s not working at all there.

  18. PjhN

    @Mike: See my comment above. Definitely DOES work on Vista x64.

  19. Mike

    @PjhN: Thanks! It worked for Vista x64 for now, still I need a way to get it to work with Windows 7 (Both 32 and 64-bit).

    Thanks again.

  20. Nike

    Thanks, it’s working great. But there is one negative thing about this, after registering the file i can’t see the selection rectangle on the desktop (i cant see which files i select…), and that kind of sucks.

    Else than that it works great, but is there a way to fix that?

  21. PjhN

    @Mike Glad you got it working in Vista. I’ve just in Windows 7 x64 and it’s not having an effect here either. I guess we’ll have to wait for a Win 7 updated version.

    @Nike That’s odd, never had that side effect. Have you tried uninstalling to see if it returns? Otherwise I can’t suggest anything much helpful. Soz!

  22. Nike

    @PjhN
    Maybe i was a little bit unclear. Take a look at the image below and you’ll see what i meant.
    http://blubbz.com/host/images/6.png

    When i took that screenshot i was dragging the mouse over one of those icons on the image and as you can see one of the icons are selected, but i can’t see the “selection rectangle”… I didn’t let go of the mouse when i took the screenshot so the selection rectangle should be visible.

    And yes i’ve tried uninstalling and re-installing it again, but it makes no difference.

    In the comment above you said that you’re running Win 7, is it working? I used Vista before and i know i tried this “hack” out, but since Vista doesn’t have the same selection rectangle as on XP (Vista has a blue transparent color one while XP only has “white dots” around the selection) it worked great.

    And since Win 7 is pretty much like a newer & fresher Vista with just a few new features i think it’ll work just like on Vista… I’ve tried Win 7 but it was in January when it had just got out, and i just tried it on a laggy Virtual Machine so i didn’t really get a chance to install or do anything on it because it was too slow :(

    Btw thnx for the respond.

  23. steelew

    Didn’t work on Vista 32 bit SP2.

  24. Alb

    i want to say a big thank you for this dll. it was my dream to find such a program

    of course, selection of files in windows explorer is not so customary now, but nevertheless it is much more better than earlier. at last i got rid of this idiotic outline in foo-bar !

  25. Win7

    Worked charmingly in windows 7! I have 32 bit and win7 build 7100. You need to restart it (if you just log off and log in it will not load your desktop properly!!)

    Thank you thank you thank you!! Now i can winflip to desktop without that box XD

  26. Leave the Rectangle!

    sorry for being a little annoying, but I think only “moused people” don’t know the meaning of this rectangle…
    let’s say you just got out of batteries on your wireless mouse and now you don’t have any other point and click device (like touchpad, etc)
    now you need to copy some files from your desktop
    you’d do this way:

    1) hold control key (for all steps)
    2) press space to select an item surrounded by the rectangle
    3) press arrow keys to go to other items
    4) press space on any other items you want to select
    5) finally, you can use the menu key (between right-alt and right ctrl) to open context menu (copy, paste, send to, etc).

    Now tell me… HOW WILL YOU SELECT FILES IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHERE THE CURSOR IS (or in other words, if you don’t have the rectangle)???????????

    idiots

  27. Kira

    This works perfectly for me. Ever since I installed the WIndows 7 theme from the web, my selections has had that annoying dotted rectangle.

    @person above: What if you are using a wired mouse? No need to worry about batteries so this is just fine for us wired mouse users.

  28. Kasper

    PjhN, thanks for the tip. Works for me on Windows 7 64-bit!

  29. milt2010

    Hi! I have used this trick for some years until now, and alls worked fine. Now, for some reason, with a new fresh installation of Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit ver. 6.1 (build7600), it stop to work.
    I have install both in system32 and SysWOW64. The procedures was ok. But, after the two restart, the rectangle doesn’t disappears. Any suggestion please?
    Thanks.

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