Whenever you create a shortcut, Windows automatically adds a small overlay arrow icon on top of the regular program, file, or folder icon. The main job of this overlay icon is to let you differentiate between the shortcut link and the actual file, folder, or program.
Though the default overlayed shortcut icon is not bad, it is not that good either. If you are like me and want to change it, this is how you can replace a default shortcut icon with a custom icon on Windows.
Download Alternative Shortcut Icon
Since you are looking to set a custom icon as the shortcut arrow, you first need to download the icon beforehand. You can either Google to find your favorite icon or use a free icon-sharing website like IconArchive. Just make sure that the icon you download is in ICO format and exactly 32 x 32 pixels. In my case I downloaded this icon from IconArchive and modified it a bit to suit my needs.
Note: If the icon you downloaded is in PNG or JPG format, use this web service to convert it to ICO format. Most ICO image conversion services offer multiple icon sizes. If that’s the case, don’t forget to choose 32 x 32 pixels as the output size.
Once you have the icon, store it somewhere in your local storage. I have a dedicated folder for all my system icons, so I stored my icon in that folder.
Change Shortcut Arrow Icon
The following guide is applicable to Windows 7 and 8, too.
To get things done, you will need to make changes to the Windows Registry. Before editing the Registry, back it up. The backup lets you restore Registry in the event of any mishaps.
1. To open Windows Registry, press Win + R, type “regedit” in the field and click on the “OK” button.
2. In the Windows Registry go to the following location. If you are using Windows 10, simply copy the below path, paste it in the address bar and press Enter to get to the key faster.
3. Here we need to create a new registry key in order to set a custom shortcut icon. First, right-click on the Explorer key and select “New” and then “Key.” Name the new key as “Shell Icons” and press Enter.
4. On the right panel right-click on the empty space and select “New -> String Value.” Name the new value “29.”
5. Double-click on the “29” key, enter the icon location in the Value Data field and click on the “OK” button to save the changes. As I’ve stored my new shortcut icon in the E drive, I’ve entered “E:\System_Icons\shortcutIcon.ico” in the Value Data field.
6. The changes are not instant, as you have to restart the system for the changes to take effect. After restarting you will see the new shortcut icon.
In some cases you might not see the new icon even after restarting the system. The issue might be with the icon cache, so try rebuilding the Windows icon cache.
In the future, if you want to restore the default shortcut icon, just delete the “29” string value and restart your system. No need to delete the “Shell Icons” key.
Comment below sharing your thoughts and experiences regarding using the above method to set a custom shortcut icon on Windows.