Desktop Icons Covered with Black Squares or Generic White Overlay in Windows

Here is a mysterious case of the icon overlap problem, which the screenshot below explains perfectly. You can see the original icon for shortcuts is overlapped by a generic white overlay shown for unknown file types. An incorrect icon overlay setting is causing the problem.

shortcuts covered by white icon

As the issue is seen only for shortcuts (.lnk and .url files), the problem is with the “Shell Icons” registry key which you can use to hide or change the arrow icon for shortcuts.

For a proper method to remove or modify shortcut arrow icon overlay, read article How to Remove or Modify the Shortcut Overlay in Windows.

And here is a variation of the same issue, but this time the black square boxes are covering up the shortcut icons. This can happen if the blank icon within shell32.dll ,50 is used to remove the shortcut arrows.

shortcuts covered by white icon

Here is the particular registry key you want to check out.

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

In the subject computer, the value named 29 in the above registry location was pointing to the following .ico file:


Presumably, a software called “WinBubble” was used to change the icons, and later the user removed the program — making the .ico file path invalid. The invalid reference causes the white icons (or black boxes) to show up as the shortcut overlay.

To remove the overriding registry value, start the Registry Editor (Regedit.exe) and go to the “Shell Icons” branch mentioned earlier.

shortcuts covered by white icon

Delete the value named 29 and restart Windows.

This should resolve the problem.

shortcuts covered by white icon

If the icons don’t refresh automatically, then rebuild the icon cache. See the article How to Clear and Rebuild the Icon Cache in Windows for more information.

See also: How to Fix Missing Shell Icons in Various Places in the Windows User Interface?

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About the author

Ramesh Srinivasan founded back in 2005. He is passionate about Microsoft technologies and he has been a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for 10 consecutive years from 2003 to 2012.

3 thoughts on “Desktop Icons Covered with Black Squares or Generic White Overlay in Windows”

  1. I had a similar issue.

    Using regedit I changed the following:




    rebooted and the icons no longer have black squares covering them.

    Note that for Windows XP, I have %windir%\System32\shell32.dll,-50


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