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Disable Shortcut Icon Arrow Overlay in Windows 7 or Vista

The shortcut icons in Windows Vista have Huge arrows on them. If you are worried about the look of your desktop, you may not want to see the ugly arrows.

Note: We’ve tested this and it works perfectly in Windows 7 32-bit as well, but does not work in 64-bit.. Here’s some before and after pictures so you’ll know what to expect:

Default:

Shortcut Arrow Removed:

Note: Because so many people have written in about problems with the registry tweaks, I’m going to suggest that you use the FrameworkX application first, and I’m removing the registry tweaks from this page.

Preferred Method: Using Vista Shortcut Overlay Remover utility

You can download a small, free utility from Frameworkx.com that will easily let you remove the shortcut arrows without having to do any registry patches. See how easy it is:

vistashortcuts.png

Update: I’ve stashed the file locally on this server since the original site is dead in the water.

Update 2: I’ve added the 64-bit version of this application.

Download 32-bit Vista Shortcut Overlay Remover from howtogeek.com (mirrored copy)

For 64-bit Windows, you can use Ultimate Windows Tweaker.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 02/7/07

Comments (72)

  1. cliff

    You won’t need to reboot once you’ve made changes to the registry, just bring up task manager, end the explorer process then file>new explorer .. And there you have it :)

  2. Will Proctor

    This works like you said it would, but it also screws up Favorite Links in the Navigation Pane in Windows Explorer.

  3. The Geek

    Will,

    I’ve not encountered that, but I keep seeing that other people have. I’m going to put this on my list of things to check out, and I’ll potentially update the article.

  4. Peppe

    This tip works also in windows Xp.

  5. Yert

    I used the TweakUI Powertool in Windows XP to do the same thing. Instead of a IE icon, I have a Firefox icon without an arrow pointing to it.

  6. Caffeine Kitty

    Meh, who needs the fav link bar in explorer? … it just uses extra desktop space.

  7. Michael

    This screws up the game explorer.

  8. Rory

    Is there any way to disable short-cut arrows for windows XP via the same method? Thanks!

  9. The Geek

    I think I’ve updated the article to properly work without the errors.

  10. The Geek

    Thanks very much to the Neowin forums.

  11. James Nealon

    Well done, worked like a charm.

  12. tammy

    help – I did the reg edit and now all my icons are gone and appear as a white page

  13. The Geek

    tammy,

    Did you make sure to copy the icon file as well?

  14. murty

    thats great, it actually works. the size of the arrows in vista are ridiculous

  15. Jack Margolis

    I am now using Vista on a new computer and notice that when I create a shortcut for a popular website like Google or Yahoo the G or Y logo doesnt flow to my desktop icon. I assume that some security setting in Vista is blocking this, but haven’t found where to tweek the right setting. Any guidance?

  16. The Geek

    Jack,

    You are absolutely correct. That’s something that has annoyed me for a while now.

    The solution is to download the icons off the website and use that as the icon for the link. I’ve been meaning to write an article about it.

  17. Richard Newberry

    Please tell me registry patch as it did a number on my icons I want to undo patch. thank you

  18. devlin

    Thanks for this I wondered why they stopped working

  19. The Geek

    I’ve updated the article with the uninstall as well.

  20. Fran

    Sweet

    I thank you sir…

    Regards

  21. Tim J

    Everything worked great for me, thanks for a great tip!

  22. Matt W

    I just tried this and I got a great big icon as if a file had been delete instead of the arrow… can you help me on this?

    E-mail: drummershuff@hotmail.co.uk

  23. cleggie

    works ok for me no problems here

  24. cleggie

    forget my previous remark.
    i find now that if i use my printer ,i get a black square where shortcut arrow is supposed to be,and then i have to refresh desktop to remove it

  25. Matt W

    Everything working fine now, thanks!

  26. Wingsbr

    Sweetness. Thanks for the help…

  27. Huskerboy

    Very Nice! Worked like a champ. Thanks! :-)

  28. HawkeEye

    This one did not work for me. I tried several times and the result was always a default icon over the real icon and not a transparent icon shortcut.

  29. The Geek

    I don’t think this works in Vista 64-bit.

  30. Travis

    Does not work for me. Copied the icon to my windows folder and then on each icon there is one that looks like the icon for a deleted /missing folder. It’s hard to describe. Used the uninstall and it’s back to normal.

  31. Texas

    Explore favorites missing? I hit “Alt+C” and they all came back.

  32. John

    I am having the same problem as several others – I did this multiple times and keep getting the blank page instead of the arrow. Did I put it in the wrong place in the windows directory? Thanks for any help you can give!

  33. John

    I guess you can disregard…after several reboots it did finally hide the arrow. Not sure why it took so many restarts, but it works fine now!

  34. John

    Me again. It was working, then after another restart the blank page is back. I guess I’ll uninstall unless someone can tell me why it won’t use the blank icon I added to the windows directory.

  35. The Geek

    If you installed windows into a directory other than C:\windows you’ll have to modify the registry file to work with that.

  36. John

    Well, it works, but only sporadically. Anyone else have that issue?

  37. andy

    i have download’ed it now what do i do? i see the blank.icon folder, what do i do?? please help me!! i had this stupid annyoing arrow problem on my old pc with windows xp ………. help!! please!!!

  38. Edrene

    I followed the directions, put Blank.ico in my Windows folder, downloaded, unzipped, and clicked on HideArrow file and nothing happened. Reversed the process and tried again. Logged on and off several times. Even went to NeoWin and tried their version of the fix. Nothing. What am I doing wrong? Why won’t it work? I hate those arrows and would love to get rid of them. Help!

  39. Pete

    Worked perfectly for me, no issues, thanks for the tweaks :)

  40. Todd

    To go a little further with this, I used the registry information in the .reg file but instead of using the blank.ico, I just used the existing shell one. I used one of the following for entry 29:

    %SystemRoot%\\shell32.dll, 49
    %SystemRoot%\\shell32.dll, 50
    %SystemRoot%\\shell32.dll, 51
    %SystemRoot%\\shell32.dll, 52

    Any one of those are transparent.

    If you want the old, smaller shortcut overlay, use:

    %SystemRoot%\\shell32.dll, 29

    I haven’t found any problems using these yet.

  41. DooDonDanDee

    When I try to add to registry, it says: “error accessing registry”
    I get this because the folder in: “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\explorer\Shell Icons” is missing, why is this? The closest folder to it is named ShellIconOverlayIdentifiers

  42. Frazil

    Hey, I have a problem with my Vista. I accidentally installed StyleXp and it messed up my explorer.exe file, but after I uninstalled it all my Icons have become corrupted. I mean the disk drive, All programs, and folders. They show the icon for unidentified files. Please help on how to reapair it? I thought reduilding the icon cache would fix it but Vista doesn’t has a TweakUI feature like Xp did.

  43. tAz

    Top lateral thinking Todd -

    Most peoples %SYSTEMROOT% will, however, equal their Windows directory ( same as %WINDIR% ) so the path to shell32.dll should be amended to read:

    %SystemRoot%\\system32\\shell32.dll, 49

    Excellent work around tho guys :)

  44. tAz

    Some of the icon sizes (128x, 64x) are missing from the blank.ico which may cause problems for people not using aero – such as me :(

    create your own blank.ico including 256x [png compressed], 128x, 64x, 48x and 32x to cover all the bases.

  45. Dan

    I added the reg entry using the shell32.dll, 50 icon on my Vista machine as I did on my XP machine years ago. This was working fine on Vista for over a week, no shortcut arrows, but on starting the PC yesterday all of my desktop icons showed black squares, no icons or arrows. However my Recycle Bin icon shows normally. When right-clicking and refreshing the desktop the icons show for a split second and then go black again. I removed the reg entry and the icons show normally with the arrow overlay. I tried your blank icon and got the black squares again. I can’t make this work any more and have switched back to the annoying arrows.

    Has anyone had a similar occurence and/or know of a solution?

    Some more notes:
    My desktop color was set to Black. I changed this to blue but the icons still showed as black squares.

    View was set to Classic Icons (right-click on desktop > View > Classic Icons). I had set the Icon size to 32px (Classic Appearance properties > Advanced button).
    If I change the view setting to Medium Icons or Large Icons (right-click on desktop > View) the black square stays the same size and only covers the bottom left portion of the icon leaving the rest of the icon visible.

  46. tAz

    Hey Dan,

    I’ve uploaded an updated blank.ico which should solve your problems. As per my previous post it looks like some of the required size icons a missing from the orig blank.ico linked at the head of this article. The updated one should now work regardless of icon display size / vista theme. Installation instruction remain the same unzip the new blank.ico into your windows folder then just need to update the reg file to point at the correct path ie:

    “%WINDIR%\\blank.ico”

    Updated blank.ico can be found at http://www.subvsys.co.uk/downloads/vista/blank_ico.zip

  47. Dan

    Thanks tAz,

    I solved the problem last night by downloading a transparent icon from another site.

    It appears that if Windows encounters a missing or completely blank icon (without colored or transparent pixels) in the .ico file it paints the overlay black. Finding this out is what solved it for me. Seems to me that Windows should have been made to paint a missing icon overlay transparent instead of black, but then there would be no indication of a problem with the overlay icon file

    One more note for others encountering this problem, refreshing the desktop after changing the overlay setting didn’t always clear the black square, but a reboot did.

    And finally a semi-related question:
    What program do you use to create icons / do you know of any good free ones? I don’t like the free one I’m using very much.

    Thanks again
    Dan

  48. The Geek

    I’ve updated the article with the icon from tAz which should fix the problems with the blacking out icons.

  49. tAz

    Dan,

    Some of the freeware progs are ok for the basics but at only £20 (ish) Iconworkshop is the top banana :)

    http://www.axialis.com/iconworkshop/

    This one looks pretty cool in the freeware market: http://icofx.xhost.ro/ not tried myself though.

    Exactly why do MS insist on making this most basic – and most popular – of tweaks soooo tricky…? You would have thought it would have found it’s way onto the control panel somewhere by now.

    Mind you it might be there already filed under Control Panel -> Stuff We Hide To Annoy You -> Shortcut Overlay.

    Enjoy your overlay free desktop – Glad to help,

    tAz

  50. Wayne London

    Installing the above tweaks and then trying to uninstall them caused a major problem. My windows and desktop flashed wildly; forcing me to shut down and restart. Clicking on the install or uninstall causes this. How do I get rid of these downloads when it won’t let me delete. Thanks, Wayne. PS – The tweak didn’t work. I got white folders where the arrows once where.

  51. tAz

    What version of Vista are you using Wayne?

  52. Wayne London

    Vista Business. The install downloads are in Drive C in “downloads”. Whether I click on them to run or click the uninstall on this page I get the flashing. Just tried it again and I had to shut down and restart.
    What could it be. In layman’s terms, please. I’m new at this. Thanks, Wayne

  53. Brad

    Hello. I tried out your tweak, and I just wanted to let you know that I still got black squares as icons even with the updated blank.ico. They appeared after minimizing a game I was playing, so I went ahead and uninstalled it because I figured removing the arrows wasn’t worth the hassle. Anyways, I just thought you might like to know that.

  54. Wayne London

    Brad. Go to – frameworkx.com – for the “black box” fix. If it works, you’re luckier than me.
    My problem is that the Geek’s tweak gave me white folders where the arrows once resided. With some tweaks that I cannot reconsruct, I was able to get rid of both arrows and folders. For one whole day! On my first restart my arrows were back.
    Is there a person anywhere on the planet who got rid of those idiotic, redundant arrows and didn’t get “black boxes” or “white folders” instead? How did you do it? Thanks, Wayne.

  55. tAz

    Hmmm… seems there are still people having problems with this one.

    It would be interesting to know what versions / combinations are causing probs.

    If you post with a “hurrah” or “boo-hiss” please state which version of vista you are running, whether 32 or 64 bit, and if you are using transparent Aero theme.

    For the record this tweak worked fine for me [with the updated blank.ico] on Dell Inspiron 1300 wid Vista Home Basic 32-bit (ie no Aero) and any desktop icon size ie classic, Extra-large etc.

    For the record i’ve dumped Vista in the last week due to pants performance, essential software incompatibilities [Ableton Live in particular], and the fact that the only redeeming feature [Live Search] can be reproduced on XP with Microsofts own Windows Desktop Search… the remaining “new” Vista features are either pointless eye-candy or half-baked ideas that can be emulated with 3rd party softwares that already have a proven track record. If you are not desparate for a new machine save your cash and wait ’til 2009 for Longhorn.

    tAz

  56. Brad

    I’m running Vista Premium 32-bit with Aero theme on a Dell Inspiron E1505. And I did try the program from frameworkx.com, and it worked perfectly for me, thanks Wayne.

  57. The Geek

    I’ve updated the article to point to the utility at FrameworkX, which is definitely a simpler way to remove the arrows.

  58. Wayne London

    Brad,
    Don’t collect on any bets just yet. Don’t forget about the pixie inside every Vista! As soon as your back is turned -
    tAz – I have DimensionE521 with 238 GB and 446 MB Ram.32 bit Vista Business.
    It rates 2.0 out of 5.9 on performance chart in Control Panel. It is too underpowered to run Aero which is no loss to me. My first Hard Drive was 160 GB and 512 MB. It crashed within a week and was reluctantly replaced under warranty. Because Dell lies about their “next day, one year, in house service” they shipped it and I put it in.
    The Dell rep. who tied me up for hours on the phone admitted that they had to put Vista in underpowered old stock because they could no longer sell XP. This tidbit might help people know why Vista has so many problems. Thanks, Wayne

  59. Wayne London

    Since others are having success with Frameworkx, I tried again. How do you do it? I forgot.
    I can’t get to the option box to click “no arrow” It keeps asking me to save, and I can’t get any further.
    Thanks Wayne.

  60. james

    Hello all, I have a Compaq Presario (laptop) 1.6gig processor, 1gb RAM, Vista Home Premium 32 bit, utilizing Areo, used Frameworkx, got rid of my overlay arrows no problem at all, instantly removed them and didn’t have to reboot, no text, no arrows, gotta love it, nice and clean desktop !!!!

  61. Bob

    Used version 1.3 & got the black box.
    6/3/07
    Vista Home Premium 32 bit with Areo on

  62. Arna

    I think it is a small miracle that there are people like you out there willing to take the time to share their wisdom. The frameworkx worked a treat – thank you Geek

  63. Tony Christian

    The Frameworkx fix worked like a charm.

    Thank you for your effort.

    TC

  64. Rene

    Well, this only worked for about a week… I had a security update from micro$oft today, and the arrows were replaced by black boxes… Something got changed in the registry. So I tried undoing your change, then redoing it, and nothing… I’ll just wait for you to come up with another fix before trying it again. Thanks.

  65. April

    I to have the black boxes. Almost every folder an icon on the computer is black. I was just playing a game an the screen went black an the black boxes where there when the screen went back normal. I have tried to reboot, refresh, even done the system restore nothing has worked. I didn’t download anything not even the file where you can change the arrow like some has. All I can think of is it has to be a damaged file somewhere,something to do with the icons but I don’t know how to fix it. If anyone knows please let me know.
    Thanks

  66. Obiewahn

    Tried your blank.ico icon and registry tweak which worked after an initial reboot – however after a second reboot got the dreaded black box. Uninstall of registry tweak had no effect and had to do a system restore to a point before applying your tweak to repair things. May try Frameworkx fix later but am a little shy about doing so now after the black box’s. I am using Vista Home Premuim with Aero enabled on a Nvidia 8400 card.

  67. The Geek

    Because so many people have had issues with the black box problem (no clue why), I’ve removed the registry tweaks from this page entirely.

    You should use the FrameworkX utility first, and it should also resolve the black box issue as well.

  68. tAz

    Hi all,

    Looks like problems still remain with both Frameworkx and the reg tweak…

    Has anyone tried rebuilding the icon cache after applying either method (as prev said i’m not using Vista myself at the mo). It is just too odd, even by MS standards, that this simple tweak should create such a seeming random and sporadic problem.

    If the original arrow overlay is still present in the icon cache but cannot be found (cos we’re overriding it) this may explain the black box effect.

    To delete iconcache:

    Enable view hidden folders with Tools -> Options -> View in an explorer window
    then DELETE C:\Users\***YOUR_USER_ACC***\AppData\Local\IconCache.db
    Disable view hidden folders just to be on the safe side
    A reboot would then be best me thinks

    As said not tried it but on XP this simple procedure can fix any number of icon related ills and woes.

    Cheers,

    tAz

  69. Gabby

    thank you so very much! Just one click after a search and google and you gave me the exact answer that I needed. (crossing fingers of course).

  70. Gabby

    could the black box appear because of the setting of allowing transparency in the windows options?

  71. Slevah

    okay… I have Vista Home Premium and UNINSTALLED a program using the control panel…. the shortcut on my desktop DID NOT disappear and now it won’t let me remove it because the program is uninstalled … How can I get rid of this! Thanks much….

  72. The Geek

    ————————————- NOTE ————————————

    I am closing the comments on this article because of the large amount of support questions.

    You are welcome to leave any computer help questions on the Forum

    http://www.howtogeek.com/forum/

    ————————————- NOTE ————————————

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