Of all Windows tweaks, changing icons can be one of the most frustrating. Luckily, we did the work for you! If there’s any icon you’d like to change, no matter the location, here’s a guide to help you get one step closer to a truly custom Windows experience.
Disclaimer — These methods have been tested, and accepted, on both Windows 7 and Windows 10. If you are using a different version of Windows, your results may vary.
Where to Find Icons
If you’re looking for icons, FlatIcon is where it’s at. FlatIcon provides high quality icon packs, along with individual icons, for free download.
Download the PNG version of your icon. It’s best to gather these icons in a folder labeled PNG icons to separate them from the following, converted files.
Windows uses icon files (ICO) instead of the regular image files. Plenty of online resources let you change your JPG or PNG files into ICO files. My favorite is ConvertICO, which provides an easy to use interface and one-click conversion. You can even link the PNG files from FlatIcon, so you never have to download unnecessary files.
Keep your converted icons in their own folder and place them somewhere permanent. Moving icon files after you have linked to them may cause issues with your icons.
Change Program Icons
Icons are usually modified so they seem presentable on your desktop. Desktop icons are easily changeable, as the ability is present by default on Windows 10. First, find the program whose icon you want to change. Right-click the program and select Create shortcut. Drag the shortcut to your desktop. Right-click the shortcut and select Properties. Your Properties window should open to the Shortcut tab. Click on the Change Icon button.
Find the ICO file you want to use. Once you’ve found your file, double-click it. In the following window, click OK. Then, Apply. If the switch does not work instantly, right-click your desktop and select Refresh.
Pin Programs With Custom Icons to Taskbar
The easiest method to pin programs with custom icons to the taskbar is modifying desktop icons. Modify the desktop shortcut icon first, right-click the program and select Pin to taskbar.
If you’d like to hide your desktop programs, right-click your desktop, click on View, and un-check Show desktop icons.
Create Blank Icons
Blank icons are useful to order taskbar icons based on program type (games, office programs, utilities, etc). Third-party docking programs provide a similar service. Unfortunately, there’s no default method of creating spaces in your Tarkbar. To create empty spaces, create a folder on your desktop and rename it Spaces.
Right-click within the folder, click New, and select Text Document. You don’t have to write anything into the document. Go to File, select Save As, and enter a title with the added extension EXE. For example, Space1.exe. Do this for as many spaces as you need, using a different name for every file. You should have an empty text document along with however many EXE documents you created in your Spaces folder.
Right-click on these files and select Pin to taskbar. You can also drag these files into the taskbar. These programs will not open, but will act as program placeholders for your icons. To create the blank icon effect, position your space programs on the taskbar correctly. Then, CTRL + right-click the space programs and select Properties. Click on Change Icon and browse the default icons. There should be an assortment of blank icon in this folder. Select the blank image and click Apply. Your taskbar icon should now be blank.
Change Drive Icon
Changing drive icons without third-party software requires that you edit your registry settings. In the Start Menu, type run and hit Enter. In the Run window, type regedit and click OK. Registry Editor will open. Using the + button, navigate to the Applications page: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\Applications.
Right-click on Applications, mouse-over New, and select Key. Name this key Explorer.exe. Right-click your newly created Explorer.exe, mouse-over New, and select Key. Name this key Drives.
Within this registry folder, you’ll be able to create the entries necessary to change the drive icon. Create a key within your Drives directory named C. The letter will correspond with the letter assigned to your drive. You can do this with any drive, as long as you repeat the process within your Drives folder. Within the C folder, create a final key named DefaultIcon. The final path to your drives custom icon folder will be HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\Applications\Explorer.exe\Drives\C\DefaultIcon. Click on the DefaultIcon folder.
On the right-hand side of the window, there is a parameter named (Default). Double-click on this parameter and enter the address of your icon in the following prompt. You can find your address by opening the folder containing your icons and clicking on the address bar.
Find your ICO files, copy the address of the containing folders, paste the address into DefaultIcon’s (Default) parameter, add your icon’s title (with the included ICO extension), wrap your text in quotations, and select OK. For example, “C:\Users\Rosebud\Downloads\ICO\monkey.ico”. Finally, close your Registry Editor. Your icon should be changed.
Change Individual Folder Icons
Folder icons are easier to change than others.
To change your folder icon, right-click on the folder and select Properties. Select the Customize tab, and click the Change Icon button under Folder icons.
Select the icon you want to use and Apply it. Then, if the icon does not change, right-click on an empty space in your window and select Refresh. You should now be able to see your newly changed folder icon.
Here are some folders before the change.
Here are those same folders after icon tweaking.
Change All Folder Icons
If you’re unhappy with the folder icon in general, you’re in luck! To change the folder icon used in Windows, open your Start Menu, type run, and open the Run application. Type regedit into the prompt and click OK to open the Registry Editor. From this window, use the + button to follow the path: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\CurrentVersion\Explorer.
Right-click on the Explorer folder, select New, and then Key. Name the key Shell Icons. Click on your newly created key. Right-click the window located on the right, select New, then Expandable String Value. Name this new string 3. Double-click your new string and, under Value data, paste the locations of your icon in quotations. For example, “C:\Users\Rosebud\Downloads\ICO\folder.ico”.
To enact the change, CTRL + SHIFT + right-click your taskbar and select Exit Explorer. Your taskbar will be temporarily removed. Now, press CTRL + SHIFT + ESC to open your Task Manager. In the Task Manager window, select File and then Run new task. In the following prompt, type explorer.exe and click OK.
Here is an example of what your files look like before the change.
Here is that same screenshot after the change.
Change Icons by File Type
FileTypeMan — a file type manager by Nirsoft — allows users to easily change icons for file types. First, create a new folder to contain FileTypeMan. Move the FileTypeMan ZIP file to this folder and unzip it. Once your file is unzipped, double-click FileTypeMan.exe to get started.
The program will load all of your preset file type icons. To find the icon you want to change, press CTRL + F on your keyboard and search for your extension. Text files, for example, have the TXT extension. Double-click the extension to open your icon settings.
Click on the … button next to Default Icon. A window similar to the default icon change window will open. From there, choose the icon file you wish to use and click OK. Leave all other settings blank. You should be able to see your newly changed icon.
Be an Iconoclast!
This may seem like a somewhat trivial process, but it never ends when it comes to customizing Windows to suit your liking. As nice-looking and convenient as they are, no one should be forced to use default icons. Now, you don’t have to!
Is there an icon we missed? What methods do you use to change your icons? Let us know in the comments below!