Microsoft changed the default folder icon in Windows 10 to a flat, closed folder. If you prefer the open folder icon from Windows 7, you can make that the default folder icon in Windows 10 with a registry tweak.
You can, of course, change any folder’s icon by right-clicking on it, but if you want to change all the folders at once, you’ll need to dig into the registry.
How to Change the Folder Icons to Windows 7-Style Icons Using the Registry Editor
Standard warning: Registry Editor is a powerful tool and misusing it can render your system unstable or even inoperable. This is a pretty simple hack and as long as you stick to the instructions, you shouldn’t have any problems. That said, if you’ve never worked with it before, consider reading about how to use the Registry Editor before you get started. And definitely back up the Registry (and your computer!) before making changes.
To start, download the Windows 7 folder icon file. Extract the Folder.ico file from the .zip file and place it in a folder somewhere on your hard drive. It doesn’t matter where, but you’ll need to leave the .ico file in its place for good, so don’t put it somewhere temporary like your desktop. You can change the name of the folder icon file, but do not change the .ico extension.
Then, open the Registry Editor by clicking on Start and typing
regedit. Press Enter to open Registry Editor, or click on “regedit” under Best match.
Give the Registry Editor permission to make changes to your PC.
NOTE: You may not see this dialog box, depending on your User Account Control settings.
In the tree structure on the left, navigate to the following key:
Right-click on the Explorer key and select “New > Key” from the popup menu.
Shell Icons as the name of the new key and press Enter.
Right-click in the empty space on the right and select “New > String Value” from the popup menu.
3 as the name of the string value and press Enter.
Now, you’ll need the path to the Folder.ico file. To get that, press Shift as you right-click on the file in File Explorer, and select “Copy as path” from the popup menu.
Go back to the Registry Editor and double-click on the new
3 string value you created. Paste the path you just copied into the “Value data” box and click “OK”. The quotes are included when you paste the path and are required if there are spaces in your path. Even if there are no spaces in your path, the quotes will still work, so it’s best to include them.
Create a new string value just like you did with the
3 string value, but name it
4. Double-click on the
4 string value and enter the same path to the Folder.ico file as the Value data.
Close the Registry Editor by selecting “Exit” from the “File” menu.
When you’re finished, you must restart explorer.exe for the changes to take effect.
How to Fix the Icons if They Don’t Change
If the folder icons don’t change after restarting explorer.exe, there are a couple of things you could do to fix the problem.
First, try restarting your computer–in theory, you shouldn’t have to do this, but I’ve seen one or two situations in which restarting fixed an icon problem when restarting explorer.exe did not.
If that doesn’t help, you can turn on the setting to always show icons and never show thumbnails. To do this, open File Explorer and click on the “View” tab.
Click the “Options” button on the View tab.
On the Folder Options dialog box, click the “View” tab and check the “Always show icons, never thumbnails” box under Advanced settings. Click “OK”.
You can also try rebuilding the icon cache to refresh them. To do this, download a free tool called Rebuild Icon Cache and extract the “Rebuild Icon Cache.exe” file. You do not need to install the program. Simply double-click on the file to open the program. On the window that displays, click the “Rebuilds the Icon Cache” button on the left side. The current icon cache database is backed up and then rebuilt and explorer.exe is restarted automatically.
How to Revert Back to the Default Windows 10 Folder Icon
If you decide to go back to the default Windows 10 folder icon, you can delete the Shell Icons key you created. Open the Registry Editor again and navigate to the following key:
Right-click on the Shell Icons key and select “Delete” from the popup menu.
Click “Yes” on the Confirm Key Delete dialog box.
Download Our One-Click Registry Hacks
If you don’t feel like diving into the Registry yourself, we’ve created some downloadable registry hacks you can use. There is a hack to change to the Windows 7 folder icon and one to go back to the default Windows 10 folder icon. Both hacks are included in the following ZIP file. To switch to the Windows 7 folder icon, double-click the “Change to the Windows 7 Folder Icon.reg” file and click through the prompts. To revert to the default Windows 10 folder icon, double-click the “Change back to the Windows 10 Folder Icon.reg” file. Remember, once you’ve applied the hack you want, log out of your account and log back in or exit and then restart explorer.exe for the change take effect.
These hacks are really just the applicable key and values we talked about in this article exported to .REG file that add the key and the value or remove them. Running the “Change to the Windows 7 Folder Icon.reg” hack creates the “Shell Icons” key and adds the “3” and “4” string values. However, you need to change the path to match the path to the Folder.ico file on your computer. Replace the part of the path highlighted on the image below with your path, including the name of the .ico file, if you changed it. Make sure you use two backslashes between the parts of the path, as shown below and leave the parts of the path not highlighted on the image below as is.
If you enjoy fiddling with the Registry, it’s worth taking the time to learn how to make your own Registry hacks.