While the default Windows icons get the job done, they aren’t particularly exciting. If you want to put a personal spin on your computer, changing Windows 10 icons is a great way to do this.
We’ll show you how to change icons on Windows 10, including program and folder icons. With a bit of work, you’ll have an all-new interface!
Where to Find Custom Icons for Windows 10
Before you start changing Windows 10 icons, you need some icons to replace them with. The OS has a few additional icons built-in, but they’re not that great.
Flaticon is a great resource for all your Windows icon needs. The site contains over a million high-quality icons arranged in thousands of convenient packs. You can grab everything in a pack at once, or download single icons.
The site offers downloads in several formats. We recommend downloading them in PNG for easy conversion to the ICO format. Keep all the raw downloads in a folder called PNG Icons or similar.
Converting PNG Images to ICO Icons
Windows uses ICO files for its icons. Thus, you’ll need to convert images from PNG (or other formats) before you use them as icons.
ConvertICO offers an easy way to do this. You can upload up to 50 PNG images at once to convert them into the ICO format. If you prefer, you can also enter the URL of an image you want to convert, cutting out the middle step of downloading the PNG.
Keep all your ICO files in their own folder. Make sure you put this somewhere permanent, as moving icon files after you have set them will cause problems.
Change Program Icons in Windows 10
Windows 10 makes it easy to change the program icon for a shortcut, but not the main executable. Thus, you should make a desktop shortcut for the app icon you want to change, if you don’t have one already.
To do this, search for an app in the Start menu, right-click its name and choose Open file location. In the resulting folder, right-click the program name and choose Send to > Desktop (create shortcut).
Now you can modify the new shortcut on your desktop. Right-click it and choose Properties to open a new window. Here, switch to the Shortcut tab and click the Change Icon button at the bottom.
You’ll see a list of alternative icons included in the app, if any. To set your own icon, click Browse and navigate to the place where you saved your ICO files.
Double-click one to select it, then choose OK on both open dialog boxes. That’s all you have to do to change a program icon in Windows 10.
Pinning Custom Icons to the Taskbar
Want to customize the icons on your Taskbar too? The easiest way to do this is to follow the steps above to create custom desktop icons. After that, simply right-click a shortcut and choose Pin to Taskbar.
If you’d rather, you can customize an icon already pinned to your Taskbar. While holding Shift, right-click the app icon and choose Properties. From here, you can follow the same steps as above to set a new icon.
Changes you make in this way make take a few moments to take effect.
Change Individual Folder Icons in Windows 10
Changing a folder icon is similar to the above process. Right-click the folder you’d like to change and choose Properties.
On the resulting window, switch to the Customize tab. Select the Change Icon button at the bottom to select a new icon from your computer. Windows includes many default icons for this, but most of them are old-school and ugly.
If you ever change your mind, just open this window and choose Restore Defaults to get the original icon back.
Change All Folder Icons at Once
Note: We tested this method that appears popular around the web, but it did not work on Windows 10 version 1903. Your mileage may vary depending on your version of Windows 10.
Want to change all the folder icons on your computer at once? You’ll have to dig into the Registry to do so. Remember that it’s possible to damage your system by doing this, so take care if you choose to do so.
First, type regedit into the Start menu to open the utility. You’ll need to provide administrator permissions to continue. Navigate to the following location:
Now, right-click on the Explorer folder in the left sidebar and select New > Key. Name the new key Shell Icons, then select it in the sidebar. In the blank space on the right, right-click and choose New > Expandable String Value. Set its name as 3. Repeat this and create another string called 4.
Finally, double-click the 3 string you just made. In the Value data field, enter the location of your folder icon in quotes. An easy way to do this by holding Shift while right-clicking your ICO file, then selecting the Copy as path option.
It should look something like this:
Repeat this for the 4 string, then click OK and exit the Registry Editor. You’ll need to restart File Explorer for your changes to take effect.
To do this, press Ctrl + Shift + Esc to open the Task Manager. Click More details to expand it if needed. On the Processes tab, find Windows Explorer. Right-click this and choose Restart.
This should apply your new icon to all folders. To remove this in the future, simply delete the Shell Icons Registry key you created.
How to Change File Icons by Type
By default, for each file type, Windows shows an icon of the default program. If you’d like to change this, you can use a free utility called FileTypesMan to change the icon for any file type.
After downloading and running it, press Ctrl + F to locate the file type you want to change. Double-click it in the list to open a new window with many more options. Next to the Default Icon field, you’ll see a … button.
Click this and you’ll open the familiar Windows dialog box that lets you change the icon.
Using this, you can set up separate icons to distinguish file types, even if they open in the same program. You might want to make it easier to pick out JPG and HTML files at a glance or spot old DOC Word files not using the newer DOCX format, for instance.
How to Change Drive Icons in Windows
Want to change the icons that you see in This PC for your various computer drives? A free utility called Drive Icon Changer makes this easy.
It’s similar to FileTypesMan mentioned above but much more basic. Simply select a drive and the desired icon, and it will apply them for you after a restart. That’s all it takes.
How to Create Blank Taskbar Icons
Usually, all of your Taskbar icons appear alongside each other. If you’d like to add some space, perhaps to separate icons by type, you can achieve this with a workaround.
Creating Dummy Batch Files
To start, create a new folder somewhere you can keep it permanently. Name it Spaces or something similar. Inside this folder, right-click again and choose New > Text document. Double-click the file to open it.
Inside the text file, enter the following. This will create a batch file that’s a dummy; it will immediately open and close a Command Prompt window if you click on it.
@echo off exit
After this, go to File > Save As. In the saving dialog box, give the file a name ending in .BAT. If you want to create multiple spaces, copy, paste, and rename the file so you have several named Space1.bat, Space2.bat, and so on.
Set Up a Blank Icon
Windows has blank icons built-in. But in our testing, these appear as black squares on your Taskbar instead of transparent boxes, which is no good. This means you’ll need to quickly make your own “blank” icon.
Open an image editor (we used Paint.NET) and create a canvas that’s perfectly square—256×256 will work. Press Ctrl + A to select the entire image, then press Del to erase it. This will create a transparent square when saved as a PNG.
However, if you leave it like this, you’ll run into the same black block problem. Thus, you need to take the Pencil tool, zoom in, and use it to draw a single pixel in a corner of the image.
Save the file as a PNG, then use an online converter as mentioned above to convert this into an ICO file.
Creating and Pinning Shortcuts
Now, right-click each Space file and choose Create shortcut, as you’ll need a shortcut, not the main BAT file, in order to change the icon. Right-click each shortcut file, select Properties, and use the Change Icon button to select your new blank icon.
Once this is done, you’ll need to add one more element in order to add these shortcuts to your Taskbar. In the Shortcut tab of each BAT file, enter explorer in front of everything in the Target box. Make sure there’s a space before the opening quotes.
Now you can right-click all your Space files and choose Pin to taskbar. They’ll appear as blank icons, allowing you to drag them wherever you like and group your other icons.
How to Change Icon Size on Windows 10
Just want to adjust the Windows 10 icon size? That’s an easy fix. On the desktop, you can right-click any empty space and choose View to select Small icons, Medium icons, or Large icons.
If you don’t like one of those presets, hold the Ctrl key and scroll your mouse wheel. This gives you more granular control over icon size.
In a File Explorer window, you’ll find more size options under the same View menu. The method of scrolling your mouse wheel while holding Ctrl works, too.
Windows 10 Desktop Icons Missing?
If you don’t see any icons on your desktop, chances are that you’ve hidden them all. Getting them back takes just a few clicks.
Right-click anywhere on your desktop, then select View > Show desktop icons if it’s not already checked. With this enabled, you should see your desktop icons with no problem.
If this didn’t fix your problem, your computer may be in tablet mode, which prevents your desktop icons from showing. To disable tablet mode, visit Settings > System > Tablet mode.
Finally, if you’re missing the default Windows 10 system icons, you’ll need to restore them in another menu. Go to Settings > Personalization > Themes and on the right side of the window, select Desktop icon settings.
This will launch a new window where you can toggle the icons for This PC, your user folder, Network, Control Panel, and the Recycle Bin. While here, you can also change the icons for these shortcuts.
Customize Every Icon
Now you know how to change nearly every icon on your Windows system. Whether you want to completely overhaul everything or just want to change a few shortcut icons, you have the tools to personalize your computer in a fun way.
And it doesn’t end here. Have a look at how to change the look and feel of your Windows 10 desktop for many more ways to personalize your PC.