Author and add custom Help and Support content

Applies To: Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2

In Windows® 8 Help and Support, you can add custom Help topics to Windows Help and Support, and you can customize the Home, Escalation, and Browse pages. In Windows 8, Help and Support topics must be authored in XHTML, a standards-based markup language.

You can include custom content that meets your customers' needs for each system you ship. You can shape your content to respond to historical data you've gathered about customers' concerns and problems. When customers see their concern addressed in the Help content and highlighted on the Home page, they're less likely to call for additional support.


Customers must choose whether the Help client can or can't go online to get Windows help content. If the customer chooses to stay in the offline mode, Windows shows only the content that's installed on the PC. This check is performed at the page level, not at the content level; Windows doesn't check that the resources referenced in the content are also coming from the offline store.
Because OEM-provided Help content is installed on the PC and is available in offline mode as well as in online mode, your custom content must have pointers only to resources that are installed on the PC.

The following image shows a custom Help and Support topic by the fictional OEM Fabrikam.

There are several steps to customizing Help and Support:

  1. Create your custom Help content.

  2. Create a content package.

  3. Gather the files to be indexed.

  4. Create the index.

  5. Add both the collection and the index to a PC.

The following image shows these steps.

Create Help content

To create Help content

  • In an HTML editor, open one of the appropriate sample Help content files included in the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (Windows ADK) or create at least one Help topic. We recommend that you start with the samples that we've provided in the Windows ADK. These samples include the IDs and other metadata tags that are necessary for Help and Support to find the content.

All Help topics must include certain tags in the <head> portion of the XHTML document. The following table shows the required tags and their descriptions.

Tag Description


The unique ID of the topic, used by the Help system to locate the topic.

For the Resources Pane and Home, Browse, and Escalation pages, you must use the default IDs provided in the sample topics in the Windows ADK. The following list shows the default IDs to use. For general Help topics, make sure that your ID is unique.

  • Home page: HomeTopic

  • Browse page: BrowseTopic

  • Escalation page: EscalationTopic

  • Resources pane: ResourcesTopic


The title of the topic. This text is displayed when the topic is viewed and when it is listed in search results.


The descriptive text that appears in search results after the topic's title.


Specifies keywords that should be used for optimizing search results. We recommend that you include keywords for common misspellings. For example, add "network, netwrk, netowrk" for a topic that discusses troubleshooting a network connection.


The language of the topic. This value must correspond to the locale folder for the content. For example, in %windir%\Help\OEM\ContentStore\<Language/culture>%windir%\Help\OEM\IndexStore\<Language/culture> folder.

For more information about supported languages in Windows 8, see Available Language Packs.


An optional tag that's present on the sample topics provided for the Home, Browse, and Escalation pages, and for the Resources pane. This tag makes sure that Help and Support search feature doesn't return results for pages that change the user interface.

Create the content package

Help and Support content packages must be saved with ZIP compression and they must use the .mshc file name extension. You must save the content using a specific folder structure. The following table shows the folders in the content package.

Folder name Contents


Images to be included with your articles. Don't include the Home page logo.


Style sheets, in CSS format, and JavaScript files.


Custom Help topics that you use to customize the Help and Support user interface.

Configure File Explorer to show file extensions

To show file extensions

  1. On the technician computer, open File Explorer.

  2. Click Organize, and then select Folder and Search Options.

  3. Click the View tab, clear the check box for Hide extensions for known file types, and then click OK.

Gather customized Help files

To gather customized Help files

  1. In File Explorer, select the three folders: images, resources, and topics.

  2. Right-click the selected items, point to Send to, and then click Compressed (zipped) folder.

  3. Right-click the .zip file, and then click Properties.

  4. On the General tab, rename the file to your organization's name and change the file name extension from .zip to .mshc. For example, Help content for Fabrikam would be named Fabrikam.mshc.


To edit or view the contents of an .mshc file, change the extension to .zip and unzip the contents.

Create the index

You must generate a unique index (.mshi) file for each content package (.mshc) file that you create. If you modify any content in an .mshc file or the file name of the .mshc file, you must also regenerate the matching .mshi file. The Help and Support index file includes a full-text index of the content, in addition to tracking of the content in the package for lookup purposes.

Create an index file

To create an index file

  1. Click Start, and type deployment. Right-click Deployment and Imaging Tools Environment and then select Run as administrator.

  2. Type the following command: HelpIndexer.exe /i <InputFile> /o <OutputLocation> –v <OrganizationName>

    For example, to create an index for Fabrikam content, use the following: HelpIndexer /i F:\ContentStore\en-US\FabrikamNotebookModel1000.mshc /o F:\IndexStore\en-US /v Fabrikam

    The Help Indexer tool generates an .mshi file in the location that you specified.

Place the .mshc and .mshi files in the Windows image

The .mshc file must be stored at the following location: %windir%\Help\OEM\ContentStore\<Language/culture>\<FileName.mshc>

For example: %windir%\Help\OEM\ContentStore\en-US\Fabrikam.mshc

The .mshi file must be stored in the following location: %windir%\Help\OEM\IndexStore\<Language/culture>\<FileName.mshi>

For example: %windir%\IndexStore\en-US\Fabrikam.mshi

If you're providing Help content in multiple languages, you must store your localized .mshc and .mshi files in the correct Language/culturefolders. The culture metadata tag of your content must also match the Microsoft.Help.Language metadata tag specified in each XHTML topic.


Windows 8 supports only one layer of customization. The Corp folder and namespace are preserved for upgrade compatibility purposes, but adding content to these locations doesn't customize the Help and Support interface.