We’ve featured a lot of nicely designed icons for Windows, but have you ever wondered how to customize your own? Load up a web browser and your favorite image editor, because here’s an easy way to do it.

Being able to use high-res icons really goes a long way to making your PC look fantastic, but it’s just so annoying when you can’t find one that looks the way you want it to. So make them yourself, and really give your installation the custom look you’ve been craving.

Changing Icons on Windows 7

Changing some system icons, like the ones on system drives and libraries can be quite problematic. If you need a refresher, you can check out Matthew Guay’s excellent roundup article on how to change icons in Windows 7 and Vista. You’ll find links to some great programs, like the one featured above, that will help you swap out those icons Windows doesn’t normally let you edit.


Grabbing Graphics for Custom Icons

Your new icons can be themed whatever you want, or whatever you can Google. You can design your own, if you’re feeling arty, but for the sake of demonstration, we’ll simply grab something cool from Google Images. If there are multiple versions of the graphic you’re looking for, grab the best looking one at the highest resolution, which should be above 256 x 256 pixels. Higher is fine, but smaller could give you a low resolution icon!

The next step is to remove the parts of the image you don’t want in your icon. Have you been practicing removing backgrounds in your favorite image editor? If this is not something that comes easy to you, we’ve covered several simple ways to do it in the past, as well as exhaustive articles on 50+ Ways to get the job done. In this case, we’re using Photoshop, but there’s no reason you can’t use GIMP or Paint.NET to remove your background and save your new icons.


You’ll want to create a PNG graphic, because the icon editor works best with PNG and it is the best option for transparent, icon style graphics. If your image is really big, don’t worry about it, we’ll be resizing it in the next step. Simply make sure that you’re saving a transparent PNG in RGB, and you’ll be ready to rock.

IcoFX, Freeware for Creating Icons

One of the easiest programs to create Windows 7 icons with is IcoFX, a simple piece of freeware that simply makes icons without any trouble or fuss. Download it here.

Admittedly the program is not much to look at. Install it, run it, and then navigate to File > Import Image.

Alternately you can use the shortcut key Ctrl + M.

Select your transparent PNG file from where you saved it. In this case it’s the Desktop. Select “Open.”

This is the dialog box you’re given. You have the choice to make custom sized icons, although using these options will work perfectly fine for nearly all HTG readers. 256 x 256 pixels is the best option for high resolution icons, and True Color + Alpha Channel is the best option for those of you wanting transparency in your icon. If you’d rather have an ordinary square icon, you can simply pick true color and have a marginally smaller icon file. However, that’s not likely to be most of you, so if you’re unsure, simply stick with “True Color + Alpha Channel” and pick “OK.”


You’ll probably not have to change anything in this Dialog box, although you can crop out parts of the image you don’t want to use in the area on the left. This step will also automatically resize large images to fit the 256 x 256 square. When you’re satisfied with these settings, hit “OK.”

And, voilà, your icon is ready to be saved.

Make sure you use a Windows Icon format (.ico) when you’re saving—IcoFX also saves in Macintosh Icon format.

And, simply done, your new icon is ready to be installed in any way you choose. Make all the custom icons you can dream up and really make your Windows 7 desktop your own!

Have questions or comments concerning Graphics, Photos, Filetypes, or Photoshop? Send your questions to ericgoodnight@howtogeek.com, and they may be featured in a future How-To Geek Graphics article.

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