How to change the icon of any shortcut in Windows

Everybody wants to add a personal touch to their Windows PC or device. Some change the wallpaper or the Windows theme, others add all kinds of gadgets and apps. You've done all that, but you may feel like it's not enough. Maybe some of your programs have some ugly icons or you don't want to see those boring folders anymore. In this article we show how you can change the icons of your shortcuts and make them look better:

NOTE: This guide applies to Windows 10, Windows 7 and Windows 8.1.

What is an icon?

Before you start, you need to download the icons that you want to use or create your own. These articles can help with finding the right icon(s):

The best known file format used for icons in Windows operating systems is "*.ico". An "*.ico" file stores only one icon. However, there are are file types that store icons which you can use:

  • ".exe" - icons can be embedded into the executable files of a program. An executable file can store one or more icons.
  • ".dll" - sets of icons can also be embedded into DLL (Dynamic-link library) files. A ".dll" can store one or more icons.

Only some ".exe" and ".dll" files store icons, depending on how they were created by their developer. In contrast, "*.ico" files will always contain an icon.

How to change the icon of a shortcut to a file, program, app or folder

If you have a desktop shortcut to a file, program, app (from the Store) or folder, you can change its icon by following these steps:

Once you have the icon that you want to use, right click or press and hold the shortcut whose icon you want to change. Then, select Properties.

In the Shortcut tab, click or tap the “Change Icon” button.

The Change Icon window opens. Here you have a list with some of the icons that are found in Windows.

You can select a different icon from the list of available icons and press OK, or you click or tap the Browse button to find the icon you just downloaded. To select an icon from another file, browse your computer, select the file containing the new icon and press Open.

NOTE: Microsoft recommends that you use an icon with the size 256x256 pixels, so that it will be properly displayed when you use the Large icons view. Smaller icons work too but they don't look great when using this view.

When you're done, press the OK button.

To confirm the icon change, click OK once again, this time in the shortcut’s Properties window.

The icon has been changed for your shortcut.

How to change the icon of a folder, in Windows

The shortcuts for folders can also be changed. Go to where your folder is found and right-click on it (or press and hold, on a screen with touch). In the contextual menu, choose Properties.

The Properties window opens for the selected folder. There, go to the Customize tab and press the “Change Icon” button.

A list is shown with icons that are available in Windows. You can select one from the list given to you and press OK or, you can click or tap Browse, go to the file containing the icon that you want to use it, select it and press Open.

Then, in the Change Icon window, press OK and one more time on OK, but in the folder’s Properties window.

The icon is now changed for your folder.

How to change the icon of a shortcut that points to a website

Not many users know that you can create shortcuts to websites on the Windows desktop, as well as in other locations. These shortcuts allow you to quickly access websites but they also use the icon of your default web browser. If you want to know how to create such shortcuts, read this guide: How to create shortcuts for apps, files, folders and web pages in Windows.

If you want to change the icon of shortcut to a website, right-click or press and hold on it. Then, choose Properties.

In the Properties window, make sure that you are in the Web Document tab. There, press the Change Icon button.

The Change Icon window is shown. Here, click or tap Browse, navigate your PC and select the file containing the new icon. Then, press Open.

Press OK twice: once in the Change Icon window and another time in the shortcut’s Properties window.

From where do you get your icons?

As you can see from this tutorial, changing the icon of any shortcut is easy. Before you close it, we would like to know where you get your icons from, for changing the look of your shortcuts and folders.