Improve the Looks of Your Windows Desktop with the Hidden Collection of Icons that You Didn’t Know You Had


Tired of the way your Windows desktop looks? Want to spruce it up? Take advantage of the hidden collections of icons that come with Windows.

I suspect that most PC users are unaware that there are well over a thousand different icons stored in various Windows system files. Icons are often embedded in EXE or DLL files and the system folder \Windows\System32\ contains many DLL files that come with icons. Shell.dll is a well-known example but there are many more. Below is a list of DLL files in \Windows\System32\ that contain multiple icons. There are also others with single icons.

This list is for Windows 7 but many of these DLL files are also in Windows XP. Most are also in Vista and Windows 8.

  • AccessibilityCpl.dll
  • compstui.dll
  • DDORes.dll
  • gameux.dll
  • ieframe.dll
  • imageres.dll
  • mmcndmgr.dll
  • mmRes.dll
  • moricons.dll
  • NetCenter.dll
  • netshell.dll
  • networkexplorer.dll
  • pifmgr.dll
  • pnidui.dll
  • SensorsCpl.dll
  • setupapi.dll
  • shell32.dll
  • wmploc.dll
  • wpdshext.dll

Another file with a collection of icons is Explorer.exe. This file is located in the Windows folder.

A website that displays what all these icons look like is at this link.

How to use the files to change icons

Windows has a well-known procedure for using embedded icons for shortcuts and for folders.This procedure is described in detail at this link

Related information - Best Free Icon Editor and Replacer

Amd there you have it - a route to a more interesing desktop and better-looking folders.

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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs several websites with Windows how-to's, guides, and tutorials, including a site for learning about Windows and the Internet and another with Windows 7 tips.

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I would like to see a icon editor that will zip icons into a .dll files that works for Windows 7Pro 64 bit. Anyone know of one that works?

Many standard icon editors – all the way back to Windows 3.x – pack icons into .icl files. Despite the different extension, Windows will deal with a .icl in exactly the same way as a .dll file, as far as icons are concerned, and you can probably even rename a .icl to .dll if you really want to.

It is always nice to customize ones own desk top but even when dressing up the icons to make for a more personal environment, they still tend to clutter. Something I have been doing for years and incorporated along with your idea of changing icons, is to create another/new Tool bar. I am still in the antiquated zone happily using XP but by creating a second tool bar (hide away if you like) the user can store a huge amount of mini short cut icons on the desk top and never see them until the mouse moves over the hidden tool bar. It runs the same as the lower tool bar but you firstly need to create a new/2nd tool bar(right click on lower tool bar, Tool Bar, New Tool Bar)then make any desk top short cut you need or have already, change the icon if you like and then drag & drop it into the second tool bar, then simply delete the larger/original shortcut from your desk top and when ever you want to run that particular operation....look to the 2nd tool bar, nicely tucked away. You are free to move this tool bar like the original to any position on the outer edge of the screen you like. Change the view to, icon only or text & icon etc. I of course still have use for standard desk top mounted short cuts for my many drives or for an often used file but the second tool bar becomes very useful for many other short cut needs where I might have in past, had to go to Start, Programs, etc. Additionally and thanks to the Gizmo's, I can take URL's that I may need or often visit and make short cuts for those websites as well, all easily accessed in the second tool bar. Now of course who knows if this is available to do in Windows 7 or 8....and don't get me started with 8, touch screen!!! who wants to touch their screen, doesn't anyone see the mess fingers do to the screen surface....yuck!

I am so behind the times. And that tip was so terribly vague.

I've been looking for a list like this for years.

I knew just 2 or 3 from this list... cool tip, thank you, Vic! :-)