In Windows 10, you can change any shortcut icon, whether it’s a regular one linking to an app, file, folder, or web page or one of the standard desktop icons. This is useful if you dislike the default icon of an app or if you want to add a personal touch to your Windows 10 computer or device. Changing the icons for certain shortcuts, especially when it comes to the ones with boring, generic icons, such as files, folders, and web pages, can also help you find and access them faster. This tutorial illustrates how to change icons on Windows 10, replacing them with others that are more to your liking:
NOTE: The features presented are available in Windows 10 November 2019 Update or newer. If you’re using an older version of Windows 10, you might not have access to all the features. Check your Windows 10 build and, if necessary, get the latest Windows 10 update available for you.
First things first: Find icons for your shortcuts
In Windows 10, the icons you use for your shortcuts can be stored in several file types:
“.ico” – the best-known file format used for icons in Windows operating systems. It can only store one icon.
“.exe” – icons can be embedded into the executable files of an app or 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. Windows 10 uses DLL files to store most of its icons. To learn the location of the default icons, read Windows 10 icons. Where are they located? In which files and folders?.
Only some “.exe” and “.dll” files store icons, depending on how they were created by their developer, while “.ico” files always contain an icon. If the icons that come with Windows 10 don’t fulfill your needs, you can always download others. To get you started, feel free to check out these 7 sites where you can download free desktop icons for Windows 10. To learn how to create your own icons, read 2 ways to convert PNG, SVG, JPG files to ICO files in Windows.
How to change the icon of a shortcut to a file, folder, app, or program
After creating your shortcut, right-click or press-and-hold on it to start changing its icon. Then, in its contextual menu, click or tap on Properties. This section illustrates changing the icon for a file’s shortcut, but the process is the same for folders, apps, or programs.
In the Shortcut tab, click or tap on the Change Icon button.
The Change Icon window opens, displaying all the icons found in one of Windows 10’s DLL files.
You can now select a different icon from the list of available icons or change the file in the field under “Look for icons in this file.“ One way to change it is to type in the path to another file, and then press Enter on your keyboard to see the icons it stores. When it comes to downloaded icons, we found it easier to click or tap on Browse. Navigate to the file that stores the icon you want for your shortcut, select it, and then click or tap on Open.
NOTE: Microsoft recommends using an icon with a size of at least 256×256 pixels, to ensure it is properly displayed in the Large icons view.
When you’re done, click or tap on OK.
The new icon replaces the old one in the Shortcut Properties window. Confirm your choice by pressing either OK or Apply.
Your shortcut’s icon has now changed.
How to change the icon of a shortcut to a web page
By default, all the shortcuts to web pages use the icon of your default web browser. However, this can become confusing in the long run, so we recommend changing them. Right-click or press-and-hold on the shortcut, and then click or tap on Properties from its contextual menu.
In the Web Document tab, press the Change Icon button.
This opens the Change Icon window, where you can select a different icon from the list or change the file under “Look for icons in this file.“
To change the file, you can type in a new path, and then press Enter on your keyboard.
You can also click or tap on Browse, navigate your PC, and select the file containing the new icon. Then, press Open.
Click or tap on OK to close the Change Icon window. Then, press OK or Apply to confirm your choice in Properties.
The web page shortcut now displays the icon you chose.
How to change the icon of a standard Windows shortcut
Windows has a predefined set of shortcuts, like the Recycle Bin. To learn more about them, you can check out our tutorial on How to add or remove desktop icons (shortcuts) in Windows 10.
If you want to change the icon displayed by one of these shortcuts, you first need to access the “Desktop Icon Settings.“ Right-click or press-and-hold on an empty area on your desktop, and then click or tap on Personalize.
In the Personalization settings window, select Themes from the column on the left. Then, on the right side of the window, scroll down and click or tap on the “Desktop icon settings” link from the Related Settings section.
This opens the “Desktop Icon Settings” window. You can change any of the icons displayed in it.
Select the icon you want to change and then press the Change Icon button.
In the Change Icon window, select one of the available icons. If none of them are to your liking, you can also change the path under “Look for icons in this file” to select an icon stored in a different file. Type in a new path manually, and then hit Enter on your keyboard, or click or tap on Browse to navigate to it.
Once you find the file that contains your icon, select it and click or tap on Open.
When you are done, click or tap on OK.
Now, in the “Desktop Icon Settings” window, you can see that your icon replaced the old one.
TIP: To prevent any accidental changes to the icons used by default shortcuts, and preserve the custom icons, make sure to uncheck the box next to the “Allow themes to change desktop icons” option by clicking or tapping on it.
Click or tap on either OK or Apply when you are happy with your choices.
You can see the new icon displayed on your desktop.
TIP: If you want to revert to the default icons displayed by Windows 10 for its standard shortcuts, read How to restore default Windows shortcuts and their icons.
The Control Panel icon is not displayed among the others, but that does not mean you can not change it. First, make sure to select the box next to its entry from the Desktop Icons Settings window to show the shortcut on your desktop. Then, right-click or press-and-hold on it and click or tap on Create Shortcut.
Once you have the Control Panel shortcut on your desktop, head on to its Properties to change its icon. You can use the same procedure illustrated in this tutorial for changing icons that point to a file, folder, app, or program. You don’t need the original Control Panel desktop icon anymore, so you can remove it.
TIP: You can also change the icon for a removable drive. To learn more, read: How to set a custom icon and label for removable drives in Windows.
Which shortcut icons do you want to change?
Changing the icons for your shortcuts can be both useful and aesthetically pleasing. Before you close this page, we are curious to know which shortcut icon you wanted to replace. Did you feel like your desktop icons needed a makeover, or was it just one icon that was getting on your nerves? Let us know in a comment below.