How-To Geek

Fix for Special Folders Reverting to Default Folder Icon in Windows Vista

My inbox has been flooded with people asking why the “pretty” icons in their user folder keep turning back into regular folder icons, and what they can do to fix it.  After writing the first article about the Music folder, I decided to just put all of the information into a single article.

Using the same example as last time, the Music folder here is showing the generic folder icon instead of the slick one that it should be using.


The icons that are displayed on the folders are set through the hidden desktop.ini file inside of each folder. The problem is that a lot of applications seem to screw with this file and cause it to become corrupted or otherwise unusable. What we’ll do here is just reset the offending file to the default values that I’ve listed here.

To open the desktop.ini file, you’ll need to paste this command into the start menu search or run box, which will open the music folder’s desktop.ini file.

notepad %USERPROFILE%\music\desktop.ini

If you wanted to open the desktop.ini file in the pictures folder instead, you’d substitute “pictures” for “music” in the command, like this:

notepad %USERPROFILE%\pictures\desktop.ini

You’ll see a file that should look exactly like this, but probably does not.


Select the entire contents of the file and delete it, replacing the contents with the default values that I’ve listed below. (You only need to pick the one that matches the folder you are trying to edit)

Note that you will need to logout and back in to see the changes, or you could just restart explorer.exe if you are feeling ambitious.












Recently Changed.lnk=@shell32.dll,-32813


Sample Music.lnk=@%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21806


Sample Pictures.lnk=@%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21805

Saved Games



Shared By,-32802
Recent Pictures and,-32806


Sample Videos.lnk=@%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-21807

  Hopefully by this point your icons should be back to looking good again…


For extra credit… you can also create a desktop.ini file in any folder and use it to show a custom icon.

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 11/5/07

Comments (90)

  1. Matt

    This is great! I Googled for this (my Pictures folder was out of whack) and couldn’t find the fix. And voila, you post the solution!

    A good companion article to this, if you haven’t written about it already, would be the registry fix for when the Pictures, Documents, etc. links in the Start menu no longer work… I believe many times the two problems go hand-in-hand.

  2. Logan

    Thanks! This is exactly what I was looking for. Now all of my custom user folder icons in the Vista explorer side panel match. :)

  3. Blue

    You really deserve a medal for the clarity of your pages.
    They are well aerated and designed, and simply very, very pleasant to read

    Oh, and by the way: thanks also for the information.Plus, in a totally unrelated fashion, I’d like to offer a suggestion that I’ve been meaning to leave but keep forgetting:

    In the body of the REG files you sometimes offer as solutions, you really ought to always include at least 2 comment lines every time:
    (1) a comment identifying the provenance of the information e.g: ;; from the the How-To GeeK – {insert date} )
    (2) a comment line (or two) specifying the object of the reg key addition or modification

    That would be greatly appreciated, at least by me!) and would, I think, ultimately enhance the usefulness of the codebits you supply so generously.

  4. The Geek


    Those are great suggestions… I’d never even thought about commenting them =)

  5. OmegaNemesis28

    You can use TuneUp Utilities 2007 to automatically fix not only 1 but all the “special” folder icons that get messed up with a click of a button.

    It’s a handy program that can do all sorts of stuff from clean up tools to windows optimization for your preferences.

  6. raymundka

    it works but it is much easier as follows:
    right click the folder, properties>customize>change icon> browse>windows>sysem32>imageres.dll
    select the proper icon and click ok.that’s it!

  7. Martin Chalifoux

    This is good info. I have this issue with the “Recent Items” folder, for which the right-clock menu has reverted to the default one, instead of the one with the “Clear recent items” command. Can you provide the info for that folder ?


  8. JF Boulay

    “it works but it is much easier as follows:
    right click the folder, properties>customize>change icon> browse>windows>sysem32>imageres.dll
    select the proper icon and click ok.that’s it! ”

    Actually the change icon menu isn’t available for default Vista folders… this is why this method is a heaven-sent — for me at least! Thanks Geek!

  9. Paul

    I don’t know what’s going on. It does not work at all for me. My problem folders are Music and Pictures. I even tried taking all my files out of the picture folder to see if some file in there was screwing it up. I then did everything above, and logged off and on. It still didn’t work.

  10. ra18thangel

    you are my savior !!

  11. Planet Lowyat

    Cool! Finally I found the solution here..

  12. richardcrowell

    This is very cool of you to do this,your a wonderful person!
    I have a question , What if I wanted to put my own custom folders in like this what do I do?

    The folders that you are showing are green.
    If I wanted to put a different color what will I have to do & know to be able to change the folder to a Transparent or different see through color folder?

  13. Chris

    I followed the instructions exactly and it doesnt work.

    I open the desktop.ini and it already has what you tell me to put in it. I replace it with the exact same text, save it, restart and no change.

  14. Matt

    Is there something else to try when this doesn’t work? I’m having the same issue as Paul and Chris. I open the desktop.ini and it already has what you tell me to put in it. I replace it with the exact same text, save it, restart and no change.

  15. Style

    Hello everyone! i have found a new an easy way for all those whose problem is still their as it was before.
    In order to do this, first copy all the file (no need to copy desktop.ini) from the folder that is having problem to a safe folder.
    Now go to your user account panel and switch Guest account to On.
    Now switch your system to Guest account.
    Go to “Guest” folders and copy “that” folder (itself).
    Paste this folder in |(your window drive):\Users\(your personal user account folder)|
    Switch back to your account and turn off guest account.

    This one works for me.I have done for myself just a min ago.I hope it will solve your problem.

  16. jane

    doesnt work with my videos folder./sad

  17. Al

    I tried this for my screwed up downloads folder several times, reading the instructions carefully and it didn’t work…

  18. simo

    this didn’t work for me as the contents of the videos desktop.ini was the same, however copying the folder from a guest account did fix it :)

  19. FarStrider

    looking to reset the recent items icon in vista ?

  20. Chris

    Still haven’t found a way for this to work 100%.

    I’ve tried the copy all files out of the folder and paste them back. It works at first but then just goes back to the yellow folder once I put any new files into it.

    Not exactly something I can do everyday for 40GBs of Videos in my video folder, Or the 50 or so GBs of files in my Downloads folder.

  21. Ryan

    Well I tried this for my messed up Downloads and Pictures folders and it still did not work :(

    I don’t really want to do the Guest account method because I have tons of files in each of those folders and it would take a long time.

    Any other hints??

  22. Andy

    save game dose not work the rest works fine :P

  23. Ryan

    Well I ended up getting this nice program called Tune Up Utilities and it actually has a feature for restoring/changing icons, that worked perfectly lol

  24. Michael

    It won’t let me save it for videos.

  25. Michael

    How do you save the new file? When I press save it won’t let me for some reason.

  26. Andrea R

    I know this works for sure because I did it with another folder, but I’m having trouble doing it for the desktop folder….any suggestions?

  27. michael

    I figured out any easier way. Transfer all the content in the folder onto the desktop. Then inside the users folder, right click and go to new, then new folder. Right click the folder and click properties. Then go to customize and at the bottom, click customize icon, then go to browse, local dick c:/windows system 32 imageres.dll. then find the icon.

  28. Suresh

    I tried the desktop.ini file setting – did not work.
    Then I tried moving to “Downloads” folder the desktop – something weird happened – The folder seemed to have moved but I had a shortcut in my user folder also. Both the desktop “Downloads” and the user folder shortcut had the correct icon now.
    If I delete the shortcut in my user folder, the actual “Downloads” folder in the desktop also got deleted. I tried moving the desktop “Downloads” folder back to the user folder (it should have given an overwrite warning since the shortcut was there – but it did not) – everything is fine now. Weirdness of VISTA – I cannot believe I spent an hour trying to make an folder icon look pretty!!!!

  29. Tom

    Thanks for the suggestion! I was really getting desperate…
    I found a much easier way to solve this, if Vista gives you the opportunity to change the icon:
    just open the system32/imageres.dll file and you find all the icons you need

    best regards,

  30. alexs3d2

    Actually I found a rather easy solution for those of you whose folder will not change with the INI!!!
    Just try to RENAME the problematic folder. Immediately Windows reverts back to the original name and icon. As simple as that!

  31. Poncho Franzwarez

    I deleted the desktop.ini file and made a new one with the correct data, and I didn’t have to restart explorer.

  32. AdmiralNemo

    I tried several times to repopulate the desktop.ini files of the user folders, but even after several reboots, they were all showing up as normal yellow folders. Then I tired alexs3d2’s suggestion of renaming them (with the correct desktop.ini files inside, of course) and it worked! If you are picky about the actual name of the folder within C:\Users\\ you will have to use the command prompt to rename them back.

  33. Juan

    is there a way to do this in windows XP. all the files are regular folders and i cant get the “pretty folders” i need help!

  34. Geoserv


    Very nice. A method for XP would be cool.

  35. Rednwhite

    I tried this and it did not work for me. However, I accidentally did something that did. First I made sure the right desktop.ini was in place. Then I simply tried to rename the folder [I was going to try and copy a new one in from another account to see if that worked as it had for others]. I tried to rename Music Musicx. It did not work and returned the name to Music but in doing so brought back the original icon!

  36. Mark S.

    For the folks who have tried renaming it: You WILL see two “Music” icons, one is yellow, one is special.

    Right-click the new folder, select properties, and then go to “Location”.

    Change the destination from whatever you had (Mine was “C:\Users\Mark\The Music”) back to just “Music” (with your profile folder of course) and the click ‘OK’ or ‘Apply.’

    When it asks you if you want to replace desktop.ini, click on “Replace,” the first button at top.

    And then you’re done!

  37. Soheil K.

    WOW. Well I tried what this said, and it didn’t work for me. But then I saw Rednwhite’s comment, and it worked for me! First I did what the guide said, but then after that I just went to My Account (e.x. John) and changed the name of Music (or probably any other file that doesn’t have the right icon) to Musicx. Then it just turned back to music. I saw that in the left part of the folder it was back to the real icon, and then I went back to my My Account (e.x. John) and it was fixed! THANKS!

  38. Marcello

    It’s a good solution but I needed it to go one step further. I was about to deploy Vista on my company when I noticed I had the some problem on my core image. The trick above fixed it but only for the current user. Every time a new user log onto the computer the folder’s icons are messed up again for the user. Does anybody know how to fix that for all new profile that will be created?

  39. Aaron

    I used this fix on my Videos folder but now when I view the folder’s properties the available options are identical to those of a regular folder, and not like the other special user folders (whatever they’re called. Specifically, it lacks the the ‘Locations’ tab, which I need because I keep all of my videos on my D drive. Any ideas?

  40. Irving

    @AdmiralNemo: How can I rename my folder back from musicx to Music at the command prompt? can anybody tell us how can i do this? thanks

  41. Victor

    I did as you described exactly but it still did not fix the problem. Any other suggestions? Please email me. Thanks

  42. Yonah

    Thanks Rednwhite,

    Like the others, I could not get my Desktop folder icon back to the default, even with editing the desktop.ini file. I tried what you did, and renamed my desktop folder to “Cheese”. It did not allow this, but made another Desktop folder, except it had the original default Icon I wanted.

    I deleted the old incorrect desktop folder. On the new Desktop folder, with the original default icon, I went to Properties, then Location. It was set to Cheese, so I changed it to desktop. It asked me if I want to move the files (there were none) and I said yes. BOOM, problem solved. Hope it works for others.

  43. joao

    This work for me
    Thanks alot

  44. Emily

    Thanks so much for this input! I thought I was the only one experiencing this as first.

  45. Greg

    Works only “partially” for me (Windows Vista). My problem is that I’ve moved the Music, Pictures, and Videos folders to a removable drive, and for some reason the Videos folder got screwed up. The instructions above give it the proper Icon, but it does not make it appear under my documents or give me the Location tab when I look at its Properties. The Music and Pictures folders are working as they should (appearing in my documents folder and re-directing to my drive F:), but Videos does not.

  46. jerieljan

    thanks. it worked perfectly for my case (i had it accidentally removed lol.)

  47. jd2066

    @Greg: Here is how to restore the videos folder in the user folder:
    Download Known Folders Browser from
    Rgith click on the Videos entry and click Change Path.
    Browsed to and select the video folder.

  48. Zach


    Try to rename the folder in question. I did it with “Pictures”. Single-click the folder to highlight it and press F2 to rename. Name it “Picturesx” and hit enter. It will NOT rename it, but press F5 to refresh the folder and the icon should have reverted back to original!

  49. anonymous

    you…are a LEGEND :D

    ive been trying to work this one out for ages, and this just did the trick ;)

  50. Kristin

    that would work…. but that option is not there for the folders that need the fixing :(

  51. jvd897

    Of course, if another user on your computer has the correct icon showing on their account, you can simply copy their desktop.ini file into your user folder. This is what I did for my Music folder, and it worked like a charm.

    Great page, though! Something tells me this problem has to do with how Windows Media Player stores album art and the corresponding folder thumbnails, and then this problem occurs when you store audio files w/ art directly in the Music folder and not in subfolders. Or at least, this is my theory.

  52. Joe

    Zach: It sure does work, but it changes the address. If your media player (in my case iTunes) is looking for all your music in the whatever\music folder, it won’t find it anymore.

    Here’s an easy workaround.
    1. Rename the folder like Zach said to. That should restore the icon.
    2. Go to the directory where the folder is located.
    3. Create a new folder with the original name (It will look like it already exists, but it doesn’t. Vista just covers up the name)
    4. Cut and paste all the files into the new folder
    5. Right click on the folder in your User folder and select properties, then location.
    6. You’ll see that it’s pointing to the renamed file from Zach’s fix. Change it back to the original name.

    1. When copying things to the folder, never overwrite the desktop.ini
    Just sayin’

  53. RUGRLN

    Thanks alot man for this, been looking for this fix since ages!

  54. Andy_J

    I wrote a VB script to automate this (it even killed explorer and allowed it to restart), but it doesnt seem to work?
    It worked for the Links folder (and maybe one more i forget what it looked like before :-\ ) but not Documents and Downloads. How did you find out the reference numbers for the Icons inside the DLLs?

    You’d think Microsoft would make Vista correct this when you log in… but moreover, they should be a LOT more clear as to what these ‘folders’ actually are… they smell like symbolic links to me (thanks to the ‘location’ tab).

    I’m tired of trying for now.. If I get it working, I’ll post the script if people are interested in fixing all their folder icons with a double click of the mouse :)

  55. KEITH

    I did what one of the above person said…..RENAME the file to like sszdkjdj or something and the folder will automatically switch then rename it to Music or w/e

  56. Joe

    What I did to fix this problem:

    Right click, properties, un-check ‘read-only’

    Hope this helps.

  57. Thiago Santos

    Thank you so much!
    I’ve been looking for this for quite a time… those yellow icons in just one or two folders really bothered me.

    Sorry if my english is not very good, i’m brazillian. Just wanna to thank you.

  58. Answerer


    I found a way! I tried to do what this website says, and my situation was just the desktop looked like a regular folder. It didn’t work. Now what I did was copied all my folders and files on my desktop to a seperate folder in My Documents, which I named Desktop. I moved that file into the default Desktop folder, and it asked if I wanted to merge the files. I did, but nothing happened. Then, I renamed the file I created to “Desktopp”, then changed the icon (Desktopp is still in My Documents) by typing in …..imageres.dll*, then I chose the icon, moved it in to the default Desktop place, and voila! The default just went back to the glassy icon! I deleted Desktopp and everything is now fine!!

    *where I said …..imageres.dll, I meant to say %SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll

  59. user_who_needed_help

    Thank u very much. I’ve copyed the download ordner on another HDD for testing something. I loaded it back on the primery HDD, then the icon was away. With your help it’s normal again.
    sry for my bad english, I’m german.

  60. OhCanadaEh2009

    What do I paste into the desktop.ini file if I have 2 folders that are corrupted?

    For me, the My Videos icon was not present when I got my laptop last Christmas, so I created it, but Windows Vista Home Premium won’t let me change the icon.

    Also, My Music is corrupted too.

    Would I copy and paste both into the file, one after another, or would that massively screw up my desktop?

    Someone please leave a comment, with a desktop.ini that fixes both My Videos and My Music PLEASE so I don’t massively corrupt my laptop.

  61. Marc

    @ Zach

    hey thank you very very much!!!!!

    thats is the easiest way to fix my problem ..

    thank you!

  62. Patric

    This still does not work. I’ve tried this, logged out, logged back in. Doesn’t help.
    I’ve copied the desktop.ini from another user, still no luck

  63. Nadeem

    After finding this link, I discovered I’d accidentally deleted my desktop.ini file in my downloads folder. So I just created a new file and pasted the appropriate section from above, and from properties made it hidden.

    The only difference being, the desktop.ini file in the other folders is a hidden system file. Whereas my new desktop.ini downloads file is hidden but not a system file. Any idea how to make it a system file again?

  64. Nadeem

    Figured out my own question with help from this site and google. Here is how I did it for the downloads folder.

    1. Removed the hidden property of the desktop.ini file in appropriate folder (if hidden)
    2. Get the command prompt through ‘run’ on the start menu by typing ‘cmd’
    3. It starts up at ‘C:\Users\Username’
    (if not then navigate to it. ‘cd..’ takes you up a folder, ‘cd foldername’ takes you into a folder)
    4. Type ‘cd downloads’ enter. It then showed ‘C:\Users\Username\Downloads’
    5. Double check the attributes of desktop.ini, by typing ‘attrib desktop.ini’, which showed ‘A’ only.
    6. Type ‘attrib +s +h desktop.ini’.
    7. desktop.ini is now hidden and a system file at the same time!

    Thanks howtogeek for the command prompt attributes, and the solution on this page!

  65. guzz

    This may be off topic but what happened to public folder? I mean it’s yellow by default, I wonder if there’s somewhere else a free icon to make things look more even?

  66. Johnny

    I have change for picture and music in which you have provides it us with the link to open them, my problem I can open the rest or I don’t know to.

    How do you open the rest in notepad, e.g link, documents, searches, videos, favorites, contacts etc?

  67. doronb2

    BTW, its working with windows 7.

  68. anonymous


  69. Din

    i have a question..
    how can i put the folder icon into plain yellow folder icon rather it shows it’s content on it’s icon it self..
    i hope you guys can help me..

  70. esther

    this does NOT work for me.
    im having trouble with the music folder.
    it suddenly changed after i downloaded frostwire so i even REMOVED frostwire and tried and it STILL doesnt work :/
    and i dont want to copy and paste from the guests account because i have a lot of songs in there and i dont want to have to replace all of the on my itunes.. and yeahhh..

  71. Nadiah

    I would like to ask why when i put the %USERPROFILE%\pictures\desktop.ini in the search menu, there would be always be no results.
    Why is that so?

  72. Mandie

    Thank you so much!
    I had a huge problem when I accidently moved my ‘Pictures’ folder into ‘Downloads’ folder.
    I got that all fixed, but the “pretty” icon was gone, and i tried many things to fix it.
    This helped a LOT.

  73. Amy

    Does anyone know the desktop.ini code for the user folder, the one that is your name? It changed to the yellow icon after I went to “desktop icon settings” and clicked “restore default” for my user folder, which was suggested on another site to try and restore the blue icon for my downloads folder (I did manage to fix the downloads folder using the tips here). I can’t find the code for the user folder desktop.ini anywhere!

  74. Anonymous

    Thank you very much. This helped me restore the icon for my Downloads folder. I accidentally shift deleted all the contents of the folder some time ago, so I had to recreate the desktop.ini and paste the contents you posted here. It was a lot of help. Thank you so much. :)

  75. grant

    Holy crap! Nice fix! …and so easy to find too! took me 2 minutes to find this page.

  76. Pete

    Genius. Thanks for taking the time & posting all the desktop.ini contents.

  77. Alex

    thanx a lot! It worked :)

  78. BILLY


  79. Szu9

    I started loving GEEKS! thanks allot! you great! :P

  80. Viengvilay

    C:\Windows\System32\imageres.dll ( all icon default

  81. Sherry

    Thank you so much for this! I come back to this page for help with this problem every couple of months or so and it’s really wonderful.

  82. Anonymous

    YAY :D Thank you sooo much ! :D
    My Downloads folder was messed up ! now its fixed , I just wanted to know what .dll holdes the original icons.

  83. Andy K

    Woop woop!!
    Videos folder had been blank for about a year, i’d never found a concrete solution, until now!
    Thank you!!!

  84. pcwas here

    For Vista users:
    Click Start, Settings, and then Control Panel. Click Personalization icon.
    Select ‘Change Desktop Icons’ under Tasks. Desktop Icon Settings box appears.
    Click ‘Restore Default’ located at bottom right-hand corner.
    — All icons will be restored to default —.

    I’m sure Win XP also has this type of option.

    This has helped me solve most/all icon problems.

  85. UppityNegro

    I was looking for a fix for my mis-matched Music Folder Icon in Vista and found your blog. Worked like a charm! I feel so bad for the people that it is not working for. Why does Microsoft put people through this pain?

    I second Blue’s comment. Your information is impeccably written and always useful. Much appreciated. If you have a “like” button I will push it. If you don’t, get one :)

  86. Skyblissful

    Dear Geek:

    I’m writting this message to tell you that this post have destroyed my computer. I did all the steps correctly. I restarted my computer and then the windows explorer (explorer.exe) stopped working.
    People: DON’T DO THIS STEPS!!!! You can finish like I, formatting my computer!!!

  87. Charl Swanepoel

    it works but it is much easier as follows:
    right click the folder, properties>customize>change icon> browse>windows>sysem32>imageres.dll
    select the proper icon and click ok.that’s it!

    THIS works much easier. I DID NOT know WTF the GEEKFACE was on about, could not do that long method, but RAYMUNDKA has the solution… make a new folder, change the icon that is found in windows>sysem32>imageres.dll (look for imageres.dll file), then just search the icon and merge with music…. BAM! Biznitch!

  88. Nick Marino

    My issue is that windows media player nor VLC will play this DvD I have and only opens as an empty DVD-rw named desktop.ini Neither players will recognize the DvD as a movie. I was told to try K-Lite, but to no preval. Maybe I installed the program incorrectally. Any ideas?

  89. john shaw

    alexs3d2 got it right….!!!!! cheers mate

  90. Pearlsphere

    Thanks so much for writing this! I followed all your instructions and managed to restore all the desktop.ini files in my User Folder that were corrupted by a recent virus attack. By the way, please mention that when you save the fresh desktop.ini files, you have to set it to Unicode encoding in order for it to work. I accidentally set some to ANSI, and they didn’t work until I re-set them to Unicode. Other than that, this article you’ve written is perfect!

    Warm regards,

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