Special Folders Showing Up With Generic Yellow Icon in Windows

When you open Explorer, the shell folders such as Documents, Videos, Music or Pictures may be displayed with a standard folder icon rather than the special folder icons. This behavior can occur when the desktop.ini file in the shell folder is missing or incorrect, or it has no attributes set.

If a shell folder has lost its special icon and showing up as a generic (yellow) folder, you need to create or fix the Desktop.ini file for the shell folder.

The default contents of the desktop.ini file for various shell folders are given below for each Operating System. In each shell folder that’s missing the special icon, create a file named desktop.ini and paste the content corresponding to the shell folder.

Once done, set the desktop.ini file attributes to Hidden and Read-only. Then, set the Read-only attribute for the shell folder using the attrib command. Finally, refresh the shell icons, or log off and log in again for the icons to refresh. See full instructions provided at the bottom of this article.

Desktop.ini Contents for Various Shell Folders

For Windows 7

Contacts

[.ShellClassInfo]
[email protected]%CommonProgramFiles%\system\wab32res.dll,-10100
[email protected]%CommonProgramFiles%\system\wab32res.dll,-10200
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-181

Documents

[.ShellClassInfo]
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21770
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-112
IconFile=%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll
IconIndex=-235

Desktop

[.ShellClassInfo]
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21769
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-183
[LocalizedFileNames]
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\gameux.dll,-10082
Windows Media [email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\unregmp2.exe,-4
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\gameux.dll,-10054
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\gameux.dll,-10055
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\gameux.dll,-10056
Internet [email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\gameux.dll,-10101
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\gameux.dll,-10057
Spider [email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\gameux.dll,-10061

Downloads

[.ShellClassInfo]
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21798
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-184

Favorites

[.ShellClassInfo]
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21796
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-115
IconFile=%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll
IconIndex=-173

Links

[.ShellClassInfo]
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21810
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-185
DefaultDropEffect=4
[LocalizedFileNames]
[email protected],-37217
[email protected],-21769
[email protected],-21798

Music

[.ShellClassInfo]
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21790
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-12689
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-108
IconFile=%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll
IconIndex=-237

Pictures

[.ShellClassInfo]
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21779
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-12688
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-113
IconFile=%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll
IconIndex=-236

Recent

[.ShellClassInfo]
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21797
[email protected],dll,-12692
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-117
CLSID={0C39A5CF-1A7A-40C8-BA74-8900E6DF5FCD}

Saved Games

[.ShellClassInfo]
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21814
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-186

Searches

[.ShellClassInfo]
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-9031
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-18
[LocalizedFileNames]
Indexed [email protected],-32820
[email protected],-32822

For Windows Vista

Documents

[.ShellClassInfo]
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21770
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-112
IconFile=%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll
IconIndex=-235

Pictures

[.ShellClassInfo]
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21779
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-12688
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-113
IconFile=%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll
IconIndex=-236
[LocalizedFileNames]
Sample [email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21805

Music

[.ShellClassInfo]
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21790
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-12689
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-108
IconFile=%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll
IconIndex=-237
[LocalizedFileNames]
Sample [email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21806

Videos

[.ShellClassInfo]
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21791
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-12690
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-189
IconFile=%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll
IconIndex=-238
[LocalizedFileNames]
Sample [email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21807

Searches

[.ShellClassInfo]
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-9031
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-18
[LocalizedFileNames]
Indexed [email protected],-32811
[email protected],-32814
Shared By [email protected],-32802
Recent [email protected],-32803
Recent [email protected],-32804
Recent Pictures and [email protected],-32806
Recent [email protected],-32807
Recently [email protected],-32813

Downloads

[.ShellClassInfo]
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21798
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-184

Favorites

[.ShellClassInfo]
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21796
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-115
IconFile=%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll
IconIndex=-173

Contacts

[.ShellClassInfo]
[email protected]%CommonProgramFiles%\system\wab32res.dll,-10100
[email protected]%CommonProgramFiles%\system\wab32res.dll,-10200
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-181

Desktop

[.ShellClassInfo]
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21769
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-183

Links

[.ShellClassInfo]
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21810
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-185
DefaultDropEffect=4
[LocalizedFileNames]
[email protected],-21816
[email protected],-9031
Recently [email protected],-32813
[email protected],-21790
[email protected],-21779
[email protected],-21770

Saved Games

[.ShellClassInfo]
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21814
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-186

Public Desktop



[.ShellClassInfo]
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21799

Public Documents

[.ShellClassInfo]
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21801
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-235

Public Music

[.ShellClassInfo]
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21803
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-12689
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-237

Public Pictures

[.ShellClassInfo]
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21802
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-12688
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-236

Public Videos

[.ShellClassInfo]
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21804
[email protected]%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-12690
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-238

Enable Read-Only and Hidden Attributes for the Desktop.ini file

After adding contents and saving the desktop.ini file, right-click the file desktop.ini and choose Properties.

Place checkmarks near Hidden and Read-only attributes, and click OK.

Press {F5} to refresh the folder views, and see if the special folder icon is restored. Or better, you may check again after a reboot cycle.

If the icons are not refreshed, you need to set the read-only attribute for the shell folder if it’s not already set.


Setting the Read-Only Attribute for the Special Folder

Open a Command Prompt (CMD.EXE) window. To do so, click Start, click All Programs, click Accessories, click Command Prompt. Using the Attrib command, set the Read-only attribute for the shell folder. Here is an example, which explains how to set the Read-Only attribute for the special folder “Downloads

Note: Where Ramesh (in the above example) is the user account name, and Downloads is the shell folder name. You may run the Attrib command from any Command Prompt path, as long as you mention the full path to the folder, as in the above example.

You could use the Copy as Path shell command to copy a shell folder path to the clipboard, and paste it in the Command Prompt so that you don’t have to manually type the entire path.

Using DesktopINIFix for Windows Vista

Here is a small utility DesktopINIFix that I wrote which fixes the desktop.ini file for various shell folders in Windows Vista.

desktopinifix for windows vista
DesktopINIFix for Windows Vista

Download DesktopINIFix.zip for Windows Vista.

Note: After fixing the Desktop.ini, you may have to log off and login back (or restart explorer.exe shell) for the folder icons to refresh.


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About the author

Ramesh Srinivasan founded Winhelponline.com 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.

8 thoughts on “Special Folders Showing Up With Generic Yellow Icon in Windows”

  1. I LOVE this tool!!! Manually replacing desktop.ini is not only a bother, sometimes it doesn’t work. I’ve tried fixing it like 50 times before I found this program. Previous attempts were successful though, but this just saves the hassle.

    Thanks!!!!

    -Earl

  2. On my Windows 7 RTM 32-bit, “Downloaded Program Files” folder is behaving like a regular folder instead of showing ActiveX objects with special columns. I have tried registering occache.dll elevated as this article (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/174925) suggests and making sure its desktop.ini is unmodified and has correct attributes but no use.

  3. @anon: Same problem here, in Windows 7 RTM 64-bit. Desktop.ini is intact, set the “RO” attribute for DPF via admin Cmd Prompt, but nothing changed.

  4. For “Downloaded Program Files”, make sure the folder has the system and read-only attributes set.

    C:\Windows>attrib +s +r “Downloaded Program Files”

    I had the same issue, and this resolved it.

  5. Here’s how to hide desktop.ini

    D:\Wolf\Desktop>attrib +a +s +h desktop.ini attrib +a -s -h desktop.ini.

    If you want to check how desktop.ini is configured in another folder, just navigate there and do >attrib desktop.ini to see what flags are set.

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