Featured - How to change icons on windows 10

Windows has always had a bit of an icon problem. While operating systems like Android and Google still have a general “style” for third-party app icons, Windows struggles to remain consistent. Icons can be 3D or 2D and round or square, or simply just bad. To help you make your desktop more cohesive, today we’re going to show you how to change icons on Windows 11 and Windows 10.

How Changing icons in Windows 11 and Windows 10 works

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There are several ways to customize an icon in Windows without needing to use any third-party software. You can change an app icon on your Start menu or taskbar by changing its shortcut icon, apply custom folder icons, change icons on your desktop, and more.

We’ll be walking through doing all of these things and more today, starting with where to get icons from in the first place. 

How to Download New Icons from IconArchive

While Windows has some icons for you to choose from already, the selection is generally quite limited. As a result, you’ll probably want to download some icons from the web. Our site of choice is IconArchive, which has gathered over 600,000 icons in its 15 years of operation. Some other sites you can try include:

  • DeviantArt
  • FindIcons
  • Flaticon
  • Iconfinder
  • Icons8
  • Freepik
  • Freeicons

The process to download the icons should be roughly the same whatever you choose:

  1. Search for your application in the search bar and download an icon you like

    To download an icon on IconArchive, hover over it and press the “ICO” button in the top-right. The icon file should download straight away with no additional hassle.

    Windows 10 - Icon Archive - Search

How to Change App Icons with Shortcuts

If you’re wondering how to change the icon of a program when it’s on your Start menu, taskbar, or desktop, the answer is by changing its shortcut properties. All you need to do is restart the app after your changes and it’ll show up on your taskbar with its shiny new coat of paint.

  1. Right-click your app shortcut and choose “Properties”

    This shortcut can be the one on your desktop or the one on your start menu, which you’ll find in C:\Users\%UserName%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs. Just bear in mind that when you change an icon on the desktop it won’t affect the Start Menu/Taskbar and vice versa.

    Windows 10 - Shortcut - Properties

  2. Open the “Shortcut” tab and press “Change Icon…”

    Windows 10 - Shortcut - Properties - Change Icon

  3. Click “Browse…” next to “Look for icons in this file”

    Windows 10 - Shortcut - Properties - Change Icon - Browse

  4. Navigate to your downloaded icon or open “shell32.dll” in System32

    shell32.dll has a number of in-built icons for Windows which may be useful to you for some applications. A lot of them are a bit outdated, but they should do the job.

    You can find shell32.dll in C:/Windows/System32.

    Windows 10 - Shortcut - Properties - Change Icon - Browse - Open Location

  5. Select an icon and press “OK”

    Windows 10 - Shortcut - Properties - Change Icon - Choose Icon - Accept

  6. Press “OK” in the properties menu

    The change will immediately apply to your shortcut, but you may have to restart the app before the changes reflect in your taskbar.

    Windows 10 - Shortcut - Properties - Change Icon - Choose Icon - Accept

How to Change Desktop Folder and System Icons via Icon Settings

You may have noticed that, try as you might, there are some desktop icons that you cannot change by modifying their shortcut. This is because they’re default system icons such as the recycle bin, user folder, network, etc.

You can still change them, however, you just need to follow a slightly different process. Here’s one way to change those desktop icons:

  1. Press the Start button and click the settings cog

    On Windows 10, this will be just above the power button. If you’re on Windows 11, it should be in your pinned apps.

    Windows 10 - Open Settings

  2. Open “Personalization” settings

    In Windows 10 you can get there by clicking on the personalization heading in the grid. In Windows 11, you’ll have to press “Personalization” on the sidebar instead.

    Windows 10 - Settings - Open Personalization

  3. Open the Themes section and press “Desktop icon settings”

    In Windows 10 you can press “Themes” in the right sidebar and then “Desktop icon settings” in the “Related settings” section on the right.

    If you’re using Windows 11, instead press the “Themes” button in the main pane and then scroll down until you see the “Desktop icon settings” button and click it.

    Windows 10 - Settings - Personalization - Themes - Desktop Icon Settings

  4. Select the icon you want to change and press “Change Icon…”

    Windows 10 - Settings - Personalization - Themes - Desktop Icon Settings - Select User´s File - Change Icon

  5. Select and icon from the list or browse to a downloaded one and press “OK”

    Windows 10 - Settings - Personalization - Themes - Desktop Icon Settings - Select User´s File - Change Icon - Choose One - Accept

  6. Press “OK” in the “Desktop Icon Settings” window

    You can repeat this process to change any other system icon on the desktop.

    Windows 10 - Settings - Personalization - Themes - Desktop Icon Settings - Select User´s File - Change Icon - Choose One - Accept

How to Restore Desktop System Icons to Defaults in Settings

If you previously changed your system desktop icons but no longer like how they look, there’s a quick way to restore them. Just follow the steps below:

  1. Press Start, followed by the settings cog

    If you’re on Windows 10, the cog will be above the power button. Windows 11 users will find it pinned to their start menu.

    Windows 10 - Open Settings

  2. Open personalization settings

    Windows 10 users can get to personalization settings by pressing the “Personalization” heading in their settings grid. Windows 11 users will access it via the sidebar.

    Windows 10 - Settings - Open Personalization

  3. Click on “Themes” and then “Desktop icon settings”

    For Windows 11 users, both the “Themes” and “Desktop icon settings” sections will be found in the main pane rather than in sidebars like Windows 10.

    Windows 10 - Settings - Personalization - Themes - Desktop Icon Settings

  4. Press “Restore Default”

    Windows 10 - Settings - Personalization - Themes - Desktop Icon Settings - Restore Default

  5. Click “OK”

    Your Windows 10 or Windows 11 desktop icons will instantly return to their defaults.

    Windows 10 - Settings - Personalization - Themes - Desktop Icon Settings - Restore Default - Accept

How to Change User Icon in Registry Editor

If you’re having trouble changing your user files icon through the settings UI, you can try the Registry Editor instead. This is a bit more complex, but you’ll be fine so long as you read our safe registry editing guide and follow our instructions carefully.

  1. Open Registry Editor

    Press Start and type “Regedit”, then click the top result.

    Windows 10 - Open Regedit

  2. Go to the DefaultIcon registry key and edit the “Default” string

    To change the default icon for the user folder in Windows 10 or Windows 11, paste the following into your RegistryEditor address bar and press Enter:

    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\CLSID\{59031A47-3F72-44A7-89C5-5595FE6B30EE}\DefaultIcon

    Double-click the “(Default)” string and change the “Value data:” to point to the file path of your new icon. Press “OK” to apply the change. You may have to sign in and out of your account before you see any changes.

    Windows 10 - Regedit - Key To Change Default Icon for User's Files - DefaultIcon - New Value Data - Accept

  3. Restore the default user’s files icon

    If you don’t like the change, replace the value data in the (Default) string with:

    C:\Windows\System32\imageres.dll,-123

    After you log in and out, the default user files icon will be restored.

    Windows 10 - Regedit - Key To Change Default Icon for User's Files - DefaultIcon - New Value Data to Restore - Accept

How to Change This PC Icons for the Current User in Windows 10

As well as the default desktop icons, Windows has system icons for the “This PC” section of your File Explorer. These can be changed on a per-user or per-system basis using Regedit. Here’s how to do it per user:

  1. Open Registry Editor

    Press Start and type “regedit”, then click the top result.

    Windows 10 - Open Regedit

  2. Navigate to the CLSID key and create a new key

    To get to the CLSID key, past the following in your Registry Editor address bar:

    Computer\HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\CLSID

    Once there, right-click the CLSID folder in the sidebar and select “New > Key“.

    Windows 10 - Regedit - CLSID - New Key

  3. Rename the key to reference the 3D objects icon

    The name you’ll want to paste into the key is:

    {0DB7E03F-FC29-4DC6-9020-FF41B59E513A}

    If you already have a key named {0DB7E03F-FC29-4DC6-9020-FF41B59E513A}, you do not need to create another one.

    Windows 10 - Regedit - CLSID - New Key - Rename

  4. Create a new key inside the “{0DB7E03F…}” key 

    To do so right-click on your newly created key and press “New > Key”.

    Windows 10 - Regedit - CLSID - Key To Change Icon of 3D Objects Folder - New Key

  5. Name the new key “DefaultIcon”

    If you already have a DefaultIcon key, you do not need to create the folder.

    Windows 10 - Regedit - CLSID - Key To Change Icon of 3D Objects Folder - New Key - Rename

  6. Double-click the “(Default)” string in the main pane and set the value data to your icon path

    Make sure you are inside of the “Default” icon key before you do so. Press “OK” once you have specified the path to your .ico file in quotation marks.

    Windows 10 - Regedit - CLSID - Key To Change Icon of 3D Objects Folder - DeafultIcon - New Value Data - Accept

  7. Repeat the process for the icon of the Desktop folder

    For the Desktop folder, you’ll want to use/search for the key name {B4BFCC3A-DB2C-424C-B029-7FE99A87C641} in your CLSID key instead. You’ll need to create a “DefaultIcon” folder and point the “(Default)” string to your icon file like in the previous steps.

     Windows 10 - Regedit - CLSID - Key to Change Icon of Desktop Folder - DeafaultIcon - New Value Data - Accept

  8. Repeat the process for the Documents folder

    For the documents folder, you should name the key {d3162b92-9365-467a-956b-92703aca08af}.

    Windows 10 - Regedit - CLSID - Key To Change Icon of Documents Folder - DeafaultIcon - New Value Data - Accept

  9. Repeat the process for the Downloads folder icon

    The key name for the Downloads folder is {088e3905-0323-4b02-9826-5d99428e115f}.

    Windows 10 - Regedit - CLSID - Key To Change Icon of Downloads Folder - DeafaultIcon - New Value Data - Accept

  10. Repeat the process for the Music Folder icon

    The key name for the music folder is {3dfdf296-dbec-4fb4-81d1-6a3438bcf4de}.

    Windows 10 - Regedit - CLSID - Key To Change Icon of Music Folder - DeafaultIcon - New Value Data - Accept

  11. Repeat the process for the Pictures folder icon

    The key name for the Pictures folder is {24ad3ad4-a569-4530-98e1-ab02f9417aa8}.

    Windows 10 - Regedit - CLSID - Key To Change Icon of Pictures Folder - DeafaultIcon - New Value Data - Accept

  12. Repeat the process for the Videos folder icon

    The name of the Videos icon key is {f86fa3ab-70d2-4fc7-9c99-fcbf05467f3a}.

    You have now changed the icon of every folder in the the “This PC” section. If you’d like to restore them to their defaults, you should use the following file paths in the default string:

    Folder

    Default Icon
    3D Objects %SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-198
    Desktop %SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-183
    Documents %SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-112
    Downloads %SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-184
    Music %SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-108
    Pictures %SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-113
    Videos %SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-189

    Refresh your File Explorer window to apply any changes.

    Windows 10 - Regedit - CLSID - Key To Change Icon of Videos Folder - DeafaultIcon - New Value Data - Accept

How to This PC Folder Icons for All Users

If you have multiple users on the same PC and wish to add custom folder icons for the This PC section for all of them, there’s no need to repeat the above process multiple times. Instead, you can change the keys in the HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT section of Registry editor. Here’s how:

  1. Open Registry Editor

    Press Start and type “regedit”, then click the top result.

    Windows 10 - Open Regedit

  2. Navigate to the root 3D objects folder icon key, right-click it, and press “Permissions…”

    To get to the 3D objects key, paste the following in your Regedit address bar:

    Computer\HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Software\Classes\CLSID\{0DB7E03F-FC29-4DC6-9020-FF41B59E513A}\DefaultIcon

    You can right-click the folder in the left sidebar to bring up the permissions menu.

    Windows 10 - Regedit - Key To Change Icon of 3D Objects Folder - DefaultIcon - Permissions

  3. Click “Advanced”

    Windows 10 - Regedit - Key To Change Icon of 3D Objects Folder - DefaultIcon - Permissions - Advanced

  4. Press “Change” next to the owner field

    Windows 10 - Regedit - Key To Change Icon of 3D Objects Folder - DefaultIcon - Permissions - Advanced - Change

  5. Click “Advanced…” in the “Select User or Group” menu

    Windows 10 - Regedit - Key To Change Icon of 3D Objects Folder - DefaultIcon - Permissions - Advanced - Change - Adavanced

  6. Press the “Find Now” button, select your admin account, and press “OK” 

    Windows 10 - Regedit - Key To Change Icon of 3D Objects Folder - DefaultIcon - Permissions - Advanced - Change - Adavanced - Find Now - Choose uno - Accept

  7. Press “OK”

    Windows 10 - Regedit - Key To Change Icon of 3D Objects Folder - DefaultIcon - Permissions - Advanced - Change - Adavanced - Find Now - Choose uno - Accept

  8. Tick “Replace owner on subcontainers and objects” and press “OK” again

    Windows 10 - Regedit - Key To Change Icon of 3D Objects Folder - DefaultIcon - Permissions - Check Replace On Subcontainers and Objects

  9. Right-click the DefaultIcon folder and press “Permissions…” again

    Windows 10 - Regedit - Key To Change Icon of 3D Objects Folder - DefaultIcon - Permissions

  10. Press “Add…” in the permissions window

    Windows 10 - Regedit - Key To Change Icon of 3D Objects Folder - DefaultIcon - Permissions - Add

  11. Click “Advanced…”

    Windows 10 - Regedit - Key To Change Icon of 3D Objects Folder - DefaultIcon - Permissions - Add - Advanced

  12. Press “Find Now”, select your user, and press “OK”

    Windows 10 - Regedit - Key To Change Icon of 3D Objects Folder - DefaultIcon - Permissions - Add - Advanced - Find Now - Choose One - Accept

  13. Press “OK” again

    Windows 10 - Regedit - Key To Change Icon of 3D Objects Folder - DefaultIcon - Permissions - Add - Advanced - Find Now - Choose One - Accept

  14. Select the user from the “Security” list and tick “Allow” next to “Full Control”

    Press “OK” to apply the changes.

    You’ll have to repeat steps 1 – 14 for each icon you change.

    Windows 10 - Regedit - Key To Change Icon of 3D Objects Folder - DefaultIcon - Permissions - Add - Advanced - Find Now - Choose One - Accept - Result

  15. Double click the “(Default)” string the 3D object’s “DefaultIcon” folder and enter your icon path in the “Value data” field

    Press “OK” to apply the changes.

    Windows 10 - Regedit - Key To Change Icon of 3D Objects Folder - DefaultIcon - New Value Data - Accept

  16. Repeat the process for the Desktop folder icon

    For the Desktop folder, you’ll want to use/search for the key name {B4BFCC3A-DB2C-424C-B029-7FE99A87C641} in your CLSID key instead. Remember that you should be changing the “(Default)” string in the “DefaultIcon” folder, not in the main one. Press “OK” to apply the changes.

    Windows 10 - Regedit - Key To Change Icon of Desktop Folder - DefaultIcon - New Value Data - Accept

  17. Change the Documents folder icon

    To change the Documents folder icon, you should navigate to the {d3162b92-9365-467a-956b-92703aca08af} key and change the value data of the “(Default)” string in its “DefaultIcon” subkey.

    Windows 10 - Regedit - Key To Change Icon of Documents Folder - DefaultIcon - New Value Data - Accept

  18. Change the Downloads folder icon

    To change the Downloads folder icon, you should navigate to the {088e3905-0323-4b02-9826-5d99428e115f} key and change the value data of the “(Default)” string in its “DefaultIcon” subkey.

    Windows 10 - Regedit - Key To Change Icon of Downloads Folder - DefaultIcon - New Value Data - Accept

  19. Change the Music folder icon

    To change the Music folder icon, you should navigate to the {3dfdf296-dbec-4fb4-81d1-6a3438bcf4de} key and change the value data of the “(Default)” string in its “DefaultIcon” subkey.

    Windows 10 - Regedit - Key To Change Icon of Music Folder - DefaultIcon - New Value Data - Accept

  20. Change the Pictures folder icon

    To change the Pictures folder icon, you should navigate to the {24ad3ad4-a569-4530-98e1-ab02f9417aa8} key and change the value data of the “(Default)” string in its “DefaultIcon” subkey.

    Windows 10 - Regedit - Key To Change Icon of Pictures Folder - DefaultIcon - New Value Data - Accept

  21. Change the Videos folder icon

    To change the Videos folder icon, you should navigate to the {f86fa3ab-70d2-4fc7-9c99-fcbf05467f3a} key and change the value data of the “(Default)” string in its “DefaultIcon” subkey.

    Windows 10 - Regedit - Key To Change Icon of Videos Folder - DefaultIcon - New Value Data - Accept

Extra: How to Change Desktop and Taskbar Icon Size

Now that you have learned how to change app icons, folder icons, and more, you’ll probably want to know how to change your desktop and taskbar icon size to show off them off better. You can do so by following our guide here.

Extra: How to Make Your Taskbar Bigger or Smaller

Alternatively, you can show off your customized icons by following our guide on how to make your entire taskbar bigger or smaller.

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