We’ve covered a lot of Windows tweaks over the years, and today we’re going to show you how to customize the look of your folders in Windows Explorer to add a background image or change the folder icons.

This guest article was written by our friend Ciprian from 7Tutorials, who also authored the Microsoft Press book covering networking Windows 7. Be sure to check out his web site for some interesting Windows 7 content.

Choose a Picture to Show as a Background for the Folder Icon

Did you know that the default folder icon in Windows Explorer can be customized to have a background image? Just like your Desktop!

The default background of folder icons is a thumbnail preview of the contents inside: images from inside the folder, icons of the applications or file types found in the folder, etc. This can be customized and you can have it replaced by an image of your choosing.

To do this, right click on the folder for which you want to change the icon background image and select Properties. Or simply select it and press Alt+Enter on your keyboard. This opens the Properties window of the folder.

Here, go to the Customize tab, in which you will find the Folder pictures section. Click on the Choose File button, Browse and select the picture you want to use as background. Then, press OK twice.

Once you selected the picture, click on OK again, and you are done.

Now the background image is applied to the folder icon.

Pretty cool, isn’t it?

Change the Icon of your Folder

Another thing you might want to do, is change the icon of a folder. If you’ve customized your folder as shown in the previous section, the background image of the folder icon will be replaced with the new icon. To switch back to the background image view, you must revert to the default folder icon.

This section will show you how to customize your folders assuming that you are not interested in changing the background image of the folder icon but you simply want to change its icon completely.

This is done from the same Customize tab of the folder Properties window. Go to the Folder icons section and click on Change icon.

In the Change Icon window, you need to select the new icon that you want applied. Click on Browse and navigate to its location, select it and press OK twice.

One thing to remember: icon files are stored as standalone .ico files but can also be found inside .exe, .icl or .dll files.

Once you select the new icon, click again OK, and you are done. The new icon is applied to the selected folder.

Use a Background Picture for your Folder

Another piece of customization you can do, is to set a background picture for your folder and also change the way text is shown, in order to match your background. This can be done using a number of free tools. The most user friendly you can find is called Windows 7 Folder Background Changer. Long name isn’t it? :)

This tool was released by the WindowsClub and can be downloaded from Softpedia. Once you have it on your computer, unzip it and run its main executable as admin (Right click -> Run as administrator).

Note: If you don’t run it as administrator, chances are high that the application will crash.

Once the application is open, select the folder for which you want to add a background image. Then, click on Change Background Image and select the image you want to use.

One very important tip: do not forget to change the text color. Simply click on the box near Text Color and customize it so that it has enough contrast vs. your background image. Otherwise you won’t be able to see the text very well.

As an added feature, you can select if you want to Show Shadows Under Text and choose to Apply To Sub Folders the background image you have just chosen.

Once all configuration is done, close the application and the settings are applied.

Any Other Tips?

I’m pretty sure many How-To Geek readers love customizing the visual aspects of their operating system. Do you have any other tips worth sharing about how to further customize how folders in Windows Explorer look like?

Profile Photo for Lowell Heddings Lowell Heddings
Lowell is the founder and CEO of How-To Geek. He’s been running the show since creating the site back in 2006. Over the last decade, Lowell has personally written more than 1000 articles which have been viewed by over 250 million people. Prior to starting How-To Geek, Lowell spent 15 years working in IT doing consulting, cybersecurity, database management, and programming work.
Read Full Bio »