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How to Customize Your Windows 7 Taskbar Icons for Any App

Would you like to change out the icons on your taskbar with a beautiful set of icons that all go together?  Here’s how you can change out the random candy-colored icons for a stylish icon set of your choice.

As you use Windows 7 and keep more programs pinned to your taskbar, you may start noticing that your icons clash with each other.  From bright colored icons to more modern icons with text, seldom do your app icons truly go together.

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So, instead of dealing with clashing colors and designs, let’s create new taskbar icons.  You technically can change icons directly from the taskbar.  Simply right-click on the icon in the taskbar or click and drag up to open the jumplist, then right-click on the program icon near the bottom of the jumplist and select Properties to change the icon. Unfortunately, though, the taskbar icons did not update immediately when changed this way, and sometimes didn’t change even after rebooting.

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Instead, let’s create new, customized icons for our taskbar.  To do this easily, open the folder that contains all of your pinned icons by entering the following in the Explorer address bar:

%appdata%/Microsoft/Internet Explorer/Quick Launch/User Pinned/Taskbar

Select all of the icons, and copy them to a new folder.  We just used a new folder on the desktop for this, as you’ll only need to store them in the new location temporarily.

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Once you’ve got the icons in the new folder, right-click one and select Properties.

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Select the Shortcut tab if it doesn’t automatically open to it, and click Change Icon.

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Now click Browse to find the new icon you want.

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You can switch the icon to any icon from an .ico, .exe, or .dll file that contains icons, but if you’re using an icon set to get a harmonious look, then you’ll likely be using .ico files.  Once you’ve select the icon you want, click Ok in the previous dialogs to save your changes.

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Now, repeat this with all the icons in your folder.  This will take a few minutes, but when you’re done, you should have a harmonious set of icons for your taskbar.

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Unfortunately, some shortcuts are more tricky, and won’t let you change the icon.  When we tried to change the icons on any Office apps or certain other programs, the Change Icon button was dimmed and unusable.

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Instead, we’ll need to create a new shortcut to this program.  Right-click in the folder or on your desktop, and select New –> Shortcut.

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In the dialog, enter the path to the application you want, and click Next to finish the wizard.

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Now customize this new shortcut as before.

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If you want to add new icons that you didn’t already have pinned, a simple way to get the shortcut is to find the app in the Start Menu and select Send to –> Desktop.  Then change the icon to the one you want as before.

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Once you’ve got all your new icons, you’ll need to unpin your existing shortcuts from the taskbar.  Right-click or click and drag up on each icon to open its jumplist, and then select Unpin this program from taskbar.

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Now, drag your new icons to your taskbar, and line them up as you want.

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Moments later, you’ll have a nice, customized taskbar with icons that look great together!

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You can take your customization even farther and change out your Windows 7 Start orb to match your icons.  Here’s how to do it: Change the Windows 7 Start Orb the Easy Way.

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Additionally, you can group your taskbar icons using the trick we recently wrote about, and get all of your similar apps together so you’ll easily find them.  Now that’s a customized taskbar!

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This is a great way to make your PC truly personalized, and you might make it easier to use if you can find your apps easier.  It may take several minutes to get it looking just like you want, but if you like it, that’s all that matters!

If you’d like the exact desktop look we used here, here’s the icons and wallpapers:

Matthew digs up tasty bytes about Windows, Virtualization, and the cloud, and serves them up for all to enjoy!

  • Published 09/16/10

Comments (37)

  1. Soulshaker

    Really cool! Thx :)

  2. Bikram

    Now THIS is one great HowTo article. Two thumbs up. :-)

  3. Matthew Guay

    @Bikram – And two thumbs up on your comment! Thanks for the support!

  4. cz-man

    Very great. Thanks. I want the same tutorial for ubuntu. How can I change icons for applications and “ubuntu start” icon.

    Excuse my very bad English, please…

  5. Abhay

    Very Nice,Really liked it.
    Thank You.

  6. Collin

    Thanks! Once I apply the new icons, do I have to save the icon files on my computer in the same directory as when I applied them? Or can I move/delete the ico files after I apply them?

  7. JR Fent

    Very cool. I look forward to trying this. I especially like the icon set that was used in the example – very clean looking.

  8. Matthew Guay

    @Collin – No, you need to leave the icons in their original location after you apply them, or otherwise you can end up with your shortcuts saying they’re missing icons…

  9. tim

    I’m not sure what part of this is at fault, i believe its the start orb changer, but once i did this i can no longer use the Zune toolbar as part of the taskbar. Zune will only minimize to the icon now. any way to fix this?

  10. Clayton Burnett

    Anyone know of some other sites to download icon sets? I’m looking for glass or metallic. THanks, cpb

  11. seenu

    great and also useful

  12. nrue ancheta

    Nice post but I thought you were going to show us how to customize icon for any app.
    I thought you were going to show an application wherein you can drop all the icons of the apps that you want to change. And then the output becomes something like the icons in your post. But anyway thanks for the token start orb link:}

  13. Sanjaya

    Hello I liked the article of yours, I had been wishing to customize the way my desktop looks, however, there are some icons that are dimmed and cannot be choosen like MS Office and Safari.
    I tried your method of creating a new shortcut and changing icons but then still “change icon” is dimmed. I don’t know where could I have gone wrong and that you were able to do it.
    Please do let me know

    Regards
    Sanjaya

  14. vcbt

    Great tutorial! It came handy as I don’t like the new IE9 icon, thanks to this article, I could change it back to the IE8 icon.

    If you’ve got problems with Microsoft Office Icons, know that you can change the icon directly in the .EXE file, thanks to Resourcehacker.

  15. vcbt

    Oh, and if you’re looking for icons, try http://www.iconfinder.com/

  16. Ryan

    I’m having trouble changing my icons back to the normal icon. I’ve changed them and it shows that it set to the default icon but on my task bar it still shows the one I changed it to earlier. I’ve rebooted and I’m not sure what else I could do to get them to change back. Thanks for any help.

  17. Chris

    I read and reread the article and the comments to make sure I’m not asking a question with an obvious answer:

    Where did you get those icons?

  18. Chris

    And then I see the links at the bottom of the article. Sorry. Feel free to delete both my comments :P

  19. Jordan

    I changed the target icons in %appdata%/Microsoft/Internet Explorer/Quick Launch/User Pinned/Taskbar, and also on the taskbar icon properties, and these new icons aren’t showing up. Even after a reboot. Thoughts ?

    Using Windows 7-32bit

  20. Matthew Guay

    @Jordan – That was my experience exactly, so as I noted in the article, you’ll likely need to unpin the icons from your taskbar, then pin your new tweaked icons to the taskbar. Literally, I took every icon off the taskbar, and pinned on the new ones. You could try clearing your icon cache if you want, but I think re-pinning them would be simpler.

  21. Damian

    Great article. I was wondering why this would work differently than simply changing the icon on the taskbar itself. Don’t get me wrong, I have changed the icons from the taskbar directly and have some of the issues you mentioned. Sometimes I loose the icon after a day or two and they revert to the original.

    I am just trying to figure out why the icons being changed in the actual folder that contains them all would work differently? Hope my questions makes sense. This worked but I hope they stay this way after a day or two. If they do, I will be happy but I am still confused on why this method works and changing them on the taskbar directly does not.

    Thanks

  22. Mr. X

    Nice Article… , Thank’s.

  23. sj

    Great post. I just wanted to know if one can also change the system tray icons in a similar way?

  24. Hassan

    How can I take ownership of explorer.exe

  25. Finn

    I second what sj above was asking; the icon sets you linked to are great, and include icons for many of the system tray items, and I would love to make them match up..

  26. James Smith

    Or, you could just convert to the Apple OSX what already has nice icons in its Dock. Also, changing those icons, even to custom ones is very easy, too. Search on “Hackintosh” to learn how to get away fro Windows and enjoy computers again.

  27. Aaron

    I am having difficulty changing the folder and file icons. I was able to do application icons without any problems. Running Windows 7 64-bit.

  28. Srinivas

    Useful article. Thanks.

  29. Bob O

    It am having troubles with the black icons showing up from the download. All I get is a black screen on both sets of black. The white come out with no problem. I opened the white icons I needed and saved them as a negative image but that leaves me with a black image in a square white box rather than a floating image……. any suggestions? Thanks

  30. Fergie_addix

    great how to guys…….any icon pack links

  31. Dan

    Heh, you can change just about every icon in windows like this. We always have been able to.

    The thing has always been: getting icons we like.

    Google: icons objectDesktop
    You should be able to find all kinds of icons collections.
    Most of them will just be .PNG files, and need to be converted to .ICO.

    http://icofx.ro/ The free icon Editor.
    Go nuts…

    If that doesn’t give you enough creative voice:
    http://www.gimp.org/
    Paint your own.
    :D

  32. Dan

    P.S. the icons of your systemTray can be changed.

    The non-windows program’s icons can be changed in the fashion of the article.
    Most often, find the .EXE file of that particular program and change it’s icon. The icon should be different on the systemTray after restarting the program. If the program itself changes the systemTray icon at times, it may be more difficult to customize.

    The windows OS systemTray icons can also be changed.
    However, it’s not so easy. These icons are packed into .DLLs and .EXE files of the OS.
    They CAN be changed; it’s not for the inexperienced user.

    So, this article is for beginners
    Changing the non-OS sysTray icons is more of an adept exercise.
    Changing the OS sysTray icons is for the advanced users.

    Great write up by the way. I tend to take little things like this for granted.

  33. Robson
  34. Alex

    When I run one of the programs, it switches back to the default icon and then returns to the modified one once I close the program.

    Any way to stop this?

  35. Carri

    I can’t find the black icons in my folders, i really like the clean look of it…but it is no where to be found…PLEASE I WANT IT! (:

  36. jim

    awesome post – thanks guys!

  37. myztic

    nice!!!!!!

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