Whether you want to change the default icon of a certain folder or the icon of a shortcut you have created, you might wonder where you could find new icons. While there are lots of websites that offer custom-made icon sets, you might, however, prefer to use icons already found on your Windows 10 or Windows 11 computer or device. In this article, we show you the Windows icons locations. If you want to find all the default Windows 10 icon files, as well as all the Windows 11 icons, read on:
Icons are usually stored inside ICO files. However, ICO files have a big disadvantage: they can hold only one icon. Both Windows 10 and Windows 11 have lots of applications, folders, files, and shortcuts, and many of them use unique icons. If Windows had an ICO file for each icon it uses, that would make for a considerable number of icon files.
To solve this problem, instead of using ICO files to store icons, Windows uses DLL files (and sometimes, also EXE files). The main advantage of a DLL file is being able to hold multiple icons inside. As a matter of fact, you could compare an icon DLL file with a library of icons. When you want to change the icon of a particular file, folder, or shortcut, you can just set its icon location to point to a specific DLL file and a specific icon from it.
Most icons from Windows operating systems are stored inside DLL files. In the next section, we show you where these DLLs with icons are found in Windows 10 and Windows 11.
We tried to organize our list of default Windows 10 and Windows 11 icons, both by their DLL files location and by taking into consideration the primary purpose of the icons found inside the DLL files. Next, you can see our list of locations from Windows where you find DLL files containing icons:
The imageres.dll file contains many Windows 10 and Windows 11 icons, used almost everywhere in the operating system. It has icons for different types of folders, hardware devices, peripherals, actions, and so on.
The shell32.dll file also has lots of icons used in various parts of Windows 10, as well as in Windows 11. Together with imageres.dll and ddores.dll, shell32.dll hosts one of the largest icon collections. Inside it, you can find icons for the internet, devices, networks, peripherals, folders, and so on.
Ddores.dll contains a lot of icons for hardware devices and resources, such as speakers, headphones, screens, computers, remotes, gaming pads, mice and keyboards, cameras, and printers.
Pifmgr.dll contains some old-style icons that were used in older versions of Windows, like Windows 95 and Windows 98. In it, you can find funny icons that depict things such as a window, a trumpet, a ball, and a wizard hat. 🙂
Explorer.exe has a few icons used by File Explorer and its older versions. The first icon is the default icon used by File Explorer, but the next ones were used in older Windows versions for things like printers, folders, actions, messenger apps, and mail.
Accessibilitycpl.dll has a set of icons used mainly for the accessibility features in Windows. For example, it includes icons with people, mouse cursors, a magnifying glass, a mouse, and a keyboard.
Moricons.dll is another file that contains old-style icons used by Microsoft in old Windows versions.
Most of the icons here are about MS-DOS programs, but you also have icons for old programming languages such as Turbo Pascal or FoxPro.
Mmcndmgr.dll is yet another file with vintage icons, which we believe were designed mainly for computer management-related settings. Among others, it includes icons for networks, folders, authentication, time, computers, and servers.
Mmres.dll has a few modern-looking icons with various audio resources, like speakers, headphones, microphones, and a webcam.
Netcenter.dll has several icons for network-related settings and features.
Netshell.dll contains icons for all kinds of network connections and associated hardware or technologies. For instance, inside it, you can find icons for Bluetooth, wireless routers, and network connections.
Networkexplorer.dll is another DLL file with icons for a series of peripherals such as phones, routers, printers, fax machines, and some other network devices.
Pnidui.dll has icons for network-related settings (Ethernet or wireless status, network locations, etc.). Most of the icons here are transparent white, so you have to select them to see what they look like.
Sensorscpl.dll has a few icons for different kinds of sensors. While most of them look similar, their details indicate things like temperature, power, and wind.
Setupapi.dll has icons used for the setup wizards of various hardware devices. It has screens, peripherals, hardware components, connectors and plugs, gaming pads, and others.
Wmploc.dll contains multimedia icons used for media devices, audio and video files, folders, CD and DVD discs, and so on.
Wpdshext.dll has icons for some portable devices such as cameras, phones, mp3 players, and a few battery indicators.
Comstui.dll includes various classic icons from older versions of Windows.
It has icons with light bulbs, mail, printers, documents, telephones, fax machines, and so on.
Ieframe.dll contains the icons used by the old Internet Explorer for its shortcuts, buttons, and menus.
Dmdskres.dll contains icons only used for disk management.
Dsuiext.dll includes icons for network services. It has icons with servers, people, printers, office buildings, authentication services, and so on.
Mstscax.dll stores just a few icons used for remote desktop connections, with computers, notifications, and security certificates.
Wiashext.dll has a few icons for various imaging hardware devices, like scanners, photo and video cameras, and a few similar icons.
Comres.dll contains a few icons that depict a user, a folder, a pencil, and some actions.
Mstsc.exe holds a few other network-related icons but also includes other icons like a speaker, a microphone, and the Windows 8 logo.
actioncentercpl.dll, aclui.dll, autoplay.dll, comctl32.dll, filemgmt.dll, ncpa.cpl, url.dll, xwizards.dll (all in %systemroot%\system32\)
All these files contain icons; however, many have only one icon inside or just a few, so we decided to mention them all together.
They have icons used in the Windows notifications panel, some error and info icons, an autoplay icon, some user icons, and websites icons.
Icons stored inside DLL files cannot be copied and saved elsewhere, at least not unless you use a special app that can extract icons from DLL files. However, you can set any icon stored inside such a file as the icon used by a folder, a library, or a shortcut. If you need guidance on how to change the icons associated with your shortcuts, this tutorial helps: How to change a shortcut icon in Windows 11 and Windows 10. Just copy and paste the path we provided for the DLL that interests you in the field named “Look for icons in this file.”
If you are not satisfied with the options available in the standard Windows icon files, then you might want to look at other places to find icons: 7 sites where you can download free desktop icons for Windows.
Some of our readers asked us where they can find the Windows logo icon - the one used by Windows 10 and Windows 11 for the Start Menu button. We have the answer but must warn you that it differs depending on which operating system you use.
If you have Windows 10, the Start icon is not an icon per se. Instead of a classic ICO file, Windows 10 uses a PNG image file for the Start Menu button. You can find it in the following location:
Although the Start Menu icon from Windows 10 is a PNG file, the good news is that you can transform any PNG file into a regular icon file bearing the ICO file extension quite easily. Here are the steps to do that: 2 ways to convert PNG, SVG, JPG files to ICO files in Windows.
Unfortunately, in Windows 11, Microsoft stopped using a regular icon or image file to display the Start Menu button icon. Instead, the Windows logo we see on the Start button is coded in Windows 11’s system files, so we can’t find it as a file anywhere in the operating system. Thus, if you want to use the Windows 11 logo icon, our recommendation is to:
- Screenshot it and save it as an icon file - you can find guidance on that here: How to screenshot on Windows (8 ways)
- Download it from the internet - a safe and excellent sample is found on Wikipedia
As you have seen, Windows 10 and Windows 11 have lots of built-in icon sets, and the icon folders files are the same in both operating systems. Depending on what kind of icon you need, there’s a good chance that you'll find it inside one of the DLL files listed in this guide. Do you know other built-in icon locations from Windows? If you do, don’t hesitate to share them with us, and we promise to update this article as soon as possible.