[Guide] How to Change Default Folder Icons in Windows

This tutorial has been written by AskVG reader "Slinky Grafix".

This simple method of changing the standard, default and ugly folder icons in Windows operating system has existed for many years and does not involve modifying any system file using Resource Hacker or any other tool. It can be applied easily with the help of a simple Registry tweak.

To make it easier to follow, this tutorial has been broken down into 2 parts:

  • PART 1: How to change default folder icon
  • PART 2: How to customize individual folder icon

PS: Also see the "Tips for Using Customizing Icons" given at the end of this tutorial.

So without wasting time lets start the tutorial:

PART 1: How to Change Default Folder Icon

1. On your keyboard press WIN+R keys together to open the Run dialog box. Now type regedit and click on OK button to launch Registry Editor.

2. Now go to following Registry key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer

3. With the Explorer key highlighted, right-click on it and in the pop-up menu select New -> Key option. Name this new key as Shell Icons

4. Now in right-side pane, right-click on a blank area and in the pop-up menu select New -> String Value, do this twice and name these string values to 3 and 4

5. Double-click on each String and set their value to C:\Icons\Folder.ico

Change_Default_Folder_Icon_Windows_Registry_Editor.png

6. Now close Registry Editor and open an Explorer Window.

7. Open C: Drive and create a new folder and set its name as Icons

8. Open Icons folder and place the icon file (.ICO) you want to use as your new folder icon in this folder. Name this new icon file as Folder.ico

Copy_New_Folder_Icon_Windows.png

9. Now restart your computer to take effect.

Once the computer restarts, open an Explorer window and you should see your new folder icons.

Customized_Folder_Icons_Windows.png

TIP:

If you like to view large folder icons as shown in the image above, you can change this in the "View" menu on the Explorer toolbar. To make large icons show correctly you'll also need to enable "Always show icons, never thumbnails" option in the "Folder Options" menu:

Enable_Always_Show_Icons_Never_Thumbnails_Option.png

NOTE:

The change mentioned above in the "Folder Options" has one undesirable effect which prevents thumbnail images appearing on some files. Thankfully however, there's a simple solution to this problem. You'll need to download and install the free program called "Sage Thumbs". Sage Thumbs will restore those missing thumbnail images once more:

See this interesting AskVG article on Sage Thumbs for download link

PART 2: How to Customize Individual Folder Icon

So if you've got this far, you might have noticed that some Windows Icons have not changed, especially in the "Users" folder. Changing these individual folder icons or any others for that matter is very easy to accomplish.

Simply right-click on the folder you wish to change and in the "Properties" tab, select the "Customize" tab. Here you can choose another icon of your choice.

Here's a before screenshot:

Default_User_Folders_Icons_Windows.png

Here's a screenshot after customization:

Customized_User_Folders_Icons_Windows.png

Tips for Using Customized Icons

Can I use any kind of Icon?

=> No! Only icons with the file extension '.ico' can be used. Windows 10 can show very large icons in the Explorer window, each icon is made up of several icons of differing sizes, typically these sizes are as follows:

256, 64, 48, 40, 32, 24, 20, 16 [All icons are 32-bit true color + Alpha channel]

If you're not sure about a particular size, open the icon in an icon editor to see what sizes are contained within the icon. There are many free icon editors available for this purpose. My favorite is IcoFX.

Where can I get customized icons?

=> Luckily there are many icon resources available online, here are some of my favorites:

  • deviantart.com/browse/all/customization/icons/os/win/
  • iconarchive.com
  • findicons.com
  • veryicon.com




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Posted in: Windows 10, Windows 7, Windows 8 / 8.1, Windows Vista, Windows XP


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Comments

  • Nice tutorial. Will come handy. Thanks Slinky Grafix" and AskVG for posting it. :)

  • Nice Tips!, Thanks you Guys!

  • @Lewis - @ Asrin475

    You're welcome guys! :)

    I'm now working on my next tutorial for changing the folders using a modified system. I've already implemented this myself to great success by modifying the 'imageres.dll' file, the bonus of which means that all image thumbnail previews continue to work without additional software.

    Stay tuned...

  • Hi Vishal,
    Greeting of the day!!!!!
    I have Dell Inspiron 14 with genuine windows 8.1 single language pre loaded. I had try the upgradation through windows update but every time i got an installation error. as my net connection is too slow so i decided to download ISO file. Now i am trying to upgrade windows 8.1 but setup ask for product key. I don't have product key of windows 8.1 because there is no sticker of product key in back of my laptop. there is only sign of widows and a confirmation code.
    I have also read the article and all related article to that.
    but all thing is correct in my laptop as i had reserve my update through windows 10 app.
    Please suggest any working solution.

  • VG

    ^^ Just click on SKIP option i setup wizard. Check "IMPORTANT NOTE:" given at the end of following tutorial:

    http://www.askvg.com/how-to-perform-clean-installation-of-windows-10/

  • Good tutorial, just want to add my 2 cents, for this task I am using FolderIco, it allows to change folder icons much faster.

  • Yes 'FolderIco' is a simple yet effective way to change the colour of your icons and some people may prefer this option however it doesn't allow the user to apply custom icons. Also it should be mentioned that FolderIco does not allow the user to change all default Open/Close folders at once like this tutorial demonstrates.

  • Nice tutorial!

    I have some questions if someone might like to assist in answering?

    - How do you change the default icon folder for shortcuts, as these still display the yellow one.
    - How do you permanently change special folders i.e. Downloads, Pictures etc , doing it from folder properties works for a while then it's default back after a reboot or two
    - Any idea how to change the Google Drive default icon, doing it from folder properties works for a while then it's default back after a reboot or two

  • VG

    ^^ These things can be done by modifying shell32.dll and imageres.dll files using Resource Hacker and then replace desired icons.

    http://www.askvg.com/ultimate-collection-of-best-resource-hacker-tutorials-to-customize-windows-look-n-feel/

  • Thanks, I'll check it out

  • What icons file did you use for the tutorial? I would like to use the same

  • It's urgent, please. The icons folder I got is in .zip, it contains several icon files. Do i rename the whole folder to Folder.ico?

  • Sorry, this doesn't work. Created the reg key and icon folder with file as suggested and restarted. Same flat folders. Any ideas?

  • Happened only: not my own icon and then windows default icon is now blank windows icon.
    When I deleted this new key, nothing happened.
    How I return at least windows default icon???

  • This didn't work for me. I made sure I thoroughly ran through all of the steps listed and when I restarted my computer, I ended up getting white, blank icons for all of my folders.

  • I tried both of these on Win 8.1 & neither one works. Oops.

  • Followed all the steps, desktop icons are blank and explorer icons didn't change at all. Running Windows 10 Pro.

  • Hi, i followed these steps on my windows 10 pc, and now almost all folder icons are blank white generic as others above have mentioned. I tried rebuilding the icon cache but it doesn't work. Any suggestions? It's really annoying.

  • Hey y'all i figured how to un-do it. Just open regedit and delete the new strings you entered (3-4) and you're done.

  • Hey y'all i figured how to un-do it. Just open regedit and delete the new strings you've just added and voila.

  • Hello People you will change the default folder,simply follow the Instruction,but with the ico,you must download a set of ico-24x24-32x32-48x48-64x64 128-256 and this set of ico you rename Folder.ico but not "Folderico.ico" and then restart enjoy

  • I need help with making custom folder icon changes permanent. They changes back to default whenever I copy/move them to any other folder or drive.
    Tried few things but no solution. Any help will be appreciated.

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