I’ve been trying to clean up and organize the Desktop on my Windows 10 system, now that I have a Desktop again! Been wondering if I can easily change the icons on my many Web page shortcuts and if so, how?
You might think that changing those file and folder icons that appear on your Desktop would be pretty easy, but Windows 10 isn’t so forgiving. In fact, it’s a real mishmash of different techniques – some of which require additional software! – depending on exactly what that icon represents. You can enable smart folder icons that give you a mini-preview of the contents of a subfolder, but even then it’s going to be standard Windows icons. Change themes? You can do that and get new icons too, but only for the standard set of icons, that still doesn’t let “FILE-A” have a different icon than “FILE-B” if they have the same creator.
Fortunately, you asked about the one type of Desktop file icon that is easy to change and as we go through the steps, you’ll realize why the task is so complex. That icon, of course, can also show you useful information too: if it’s generic, there might not be a program on your computer that can open that particular file type or your registry (which associates file types with programs that can read those files, among other things) might have gotten corrupted.
The first puzzle is how to create desktop shortcuts from Web pages. Microsoft Edge just went through a major facelift, so the technique has changed. Usually you just drag the URL or tiny lock icon adjacent to the URL in the address bar to your Desktop and *poof* it shows up. But latest version of Edge? It’s not so easy. Instead, I generally recommend Google Chrome for Windows and on Chrome it’s a breeze. No UI facelift required 🙂
To demonstrate, here’s a Web page for the Colorado state capitol building at colorado.gov/capitol:
See that tiny padlock to the left of the URL in the Address Bar? You can click on it to find out about the security of the page (smart, particularly if you’re unsure if a page is legit or not) but you can also simply click and drag the padlock onto your Desktop!
As you drag it, you’ll see a tiny page title summary:
Let go of the mouse button and that shortcut will pop up on your Desktop, ready to click and use:
Where did that Microsoft Edge logo come from if we’re using Google Chrome? It reflects that Edge is the default Web browser and that any .url shortcut file will default to being opened by Edge, not Chrome. Either way, not a very useful icon to remind us of the page contents, theme or subject.
What would be really cool would be to assign a random photo as the icon, of course, but that’s really tricky in Windows because you need to turn the image into a .ICO icon image file, which requires software. Naawwww. Instead, let’s just look through the collection of default file icons.
That’s done by right-clicking on the file (shortcut) icon:
Choose “Properties” from this list and you’ll get a skinny little window popping up:
Handy if you want to tweak the URL or assign a shortcut key to the Web link. But for what we want, your attention should be on the “Change Icon…” button. Unfortunately, most file or folder icons in Windows don’t get that handy button so don’t be surprised if you start poking around and find that it’s the rare file that offers “Change Icon…” rather than a common occurrence.
Click on “Change Icon…” and you’ll see a tiny pop-up gallery of system icons:
I’m pretty convinced that they’re all from Windows 3.1 and haven’t been updated in years and years, but that’s another story! For this particular file icon, I’m going to browse until I find a camera icon, then choose that:
That’s it. An OK and an APPLY and it’s updated and lookin’ good:
Creating your own custom icons? And using them for files, not shortcuts? That’s a bigger issue I’ll tackle at another time!
Pro Tip: I’ve written quite a bit about Windows 10 and invite you to check out my extensive Windows help library while you’re here. Thanks.