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]
LocalizedResourceName=@%CommonProgramFiles%\system\wab32res.dll,-10100
InfoTip=@%CommonProgramFiles%\system\wab32res.dll,-10200
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-181

Documents

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

Desktop

[.ShellClassInfo]
LocalizedResourceName=@%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21769
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-183
[LocalizedFileNames]
GameExplorer.lnk=@%SystemRoot%\system32\gameux.dll,-10082
Windows Media Player.lnk=@%SystemRoot%\system32\unregmp2.exe,-4
Chess.lnk=@%SystemRoot%\system32\gameux.dll,-10054
FreeCell.lnk=@%SystemRoot%\system32\gameux.dll,-10055
Hearts.lnk=@%SystemRoot%\system32\gameux.dll,-10056
Internet Checkers.lnk=@%SystemRoot%\system32\gameux.dll,-10101
Minesweeper.lnk=@%SystemRoot%\system32\gameux.dll,-10057
Spider Solitaire.lnk=@%SystemRoot%\system32\gameux.dll,-10061

Downloads

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

Favorites

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

Links

[.ShellClassInfo]
LocalizedResourceName=@%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21810
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-185
DefaultDropEffect=4
[LocalizedFileNames]
RecentPlaces.lnk=@shell32.dll,-37217
Desktop.lnk=@shell32.dll,-21769
Downloads.lnk=@shell32.dll,-21798

Music

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

Pictures

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

Recent

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

Saved Games

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

Searches

[.ShellClassInfo]
LocalizedResourceName=@%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-9031
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-18
[LocalizedFileNames]
Indexed Locations.search-ms=@searchfolder.dll,-32820
Everywhere.search-ms=@searchfolder.dll,-32822

For Windows Vista

Documents

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

Pictures

[.ShellClassInfo]
LocalizedResourceName=@%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21779
InfoTip=@%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-12688
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-113
IconFile=%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll
IconIndex=-236
[LocalizedFileNames]
Sample Pictures.lnk=@%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21805

Music

[.ShellClassInfo]
LocalizedResourceName=@%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21790
InfoTip=@%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-12689
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-108
IconFile=%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll
IconIndex=-237
[LocalizedFileNames]
Sample Music.lnk=@%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21806

Videos

[.ShellClassInfo]
LocalizedResourceName=@%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21791
InfoTip=@%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-12690
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-189
IconFile=%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll
IconIndex=-238
[LocalizedFileNames]
Sample Videos.lnk=@%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21807

Searches

[.ShellClassInfo]
LocalizedResourceName=@%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-9031
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-18
[LocalizedFileNames]
Indexed Locations.search-ms=@shell32.dll,-32811
Everywhere.search-ms=@shell32.dll,-32814
Shared By Me.search-ms=@shell32.dll,-32802
Recent Music.search-ms=@shell32.dll,-32803
Recent Documents.search-ms=@shell32.dll,-32804
Recent Pictures and Videos.search-ms=@shell32.dll,-32806
Recent E-mail.search-ms=@shell32.dll,-32807
Recently Changed.search-ms=@shell32.dll,-32813

Downloads

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

Favorites

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

Contacts



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

Desktop

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

Links

[.ShellClassInfo]
LocalizedResourceName=@%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21810
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll,-185
DefaultDropEffect=4
[LocalizedFileNames]
Public.lnk=@shell32.dll,-21816
Searches.lnk=@shell32.dll,-9031
Recently Changed.lnk=@shell32.dll,-32813
Music.lnk=@shell32.dll,-21790
Pictures.lnk=@shell32.dll,-21779
Documents.lnk=@shell32.dll,-21770

Saved Games

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

Public Desktop

[.ShellClassInfo]
LocalizedResourceName=@%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21799

Public Documents

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

Public Music

[.ShellClassInfo]
LocalizedResourceName=@%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21803
InfoTip=@%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-12689
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-237

Public Pictures

[.ShellClassInfo]
LocalizedResourceName=@%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21802
InfoTip=@%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-12688
IconResource=%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-236

Public Videos

[.ShellClassInfo]
LocalizedResourceName=@%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21804
InfoTip=@%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.

About the author

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

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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