How to Change the Default Folder Icon in Windows?

Windows is all about customizing and hacking the user interface (shell) the way you like. If you want to change the default folder icon with your custom .ico file, this article tells you how. Instructions apply to all versions of Windows, including Windows 10.

Change the Default Folder icon in Explorer

1. Launch Regedit.exe and navigate to the following location:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Shell Icons

2. Create two REG_SZ values namely 3 and 4. To create a new value, from the Edit menu click New, click String Value.

(Value number 3 points to the shell icon #3 which is the closed folder icon and 4 is supposed to be the open folder icon in earlier versions of Windows. However, new versions of Windows, such as Windows 10 doesn’t distinguish open vs closed folder icons.)

4. For both the values 3 and 4, change the value data which points to your custom icon file, such as:

d:\icons\folder.ico

change folder icon in Windows

5. Exit the Registry Editor, logoff and login back for the icons to refresh.

Screenshots

Here are a couple of variations I used and how they appear.

change folder icon in Windows
(Blue folder icon from imageres.dll)

change folder icon in Windows
(Green folder icon from imageres.dll)

Icons Sources

There are some great icons inside Shell32.dll and Imageres.dll. Also, there are sites that provide fancy folder icons which you can download for free. Here are some icons I extracted from Shell32.dll and Imageres.dll which you can use.

change folder icon in Windows

Dowload folder_icons.zip

Additional Tip: Setting a Different “Open” Folder Icon

You can set a different icon for “open” folder (vs “closed” folder). Note that the setting has no effect in Windows 10’s File Explorer. But Registry Editor in Windows 10 respects the open folder icon.

For example, if you set the value data for string value 3 to the following:

c:\windows\system32\shell32.dll,137

(which is an arrow icon)

it appears as follows:

change folder icon in Windows
(Windows 10’s Registry Editor shows the open folder icon – blue arrow)

And in earlier versions of Windows, it’s reflected in Explorer navigation pane as well.


(Folder pane in Windows Vista)


(Folder pane in Windows XP)


(Registry Editor in Windows Vista).

Registry File

To automate the above “open folder” icon setting, download openfolder.zip and save to Desktop. Unzip the files to a folder and double-click openfolder.reg to run it. To reverse the changes to switch back to the default icon, run openfolder-undo.reg.

About the author

Ramesh Srinivasan founded Winhelponline.com back in 2005. He is passionate about Microsoft technologies and has a vast experience in the ITeS industry — delivering support for Microsoft's consumer products. He has been a Microsoft MVP [2003 to 2012] who contributes to various Windows support forums.

1 thought on “How to Change the Default Folder Icon in Windows?

  1. This works just fine for me in Windows 7 but fails completely in my copy of Windows XP SP3. Any thoughts as to why?

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