Chainging File Type Icons – Vista Style

Playing around with Vista has brought to my attention something which is thoroughly annoying. There is no UI to change icons anymore!

The reasons that a feature that has been included since Windows 95 would suddenly disappear are unfathomable, yet I can understand to a certain extent why it would happen. In today’s world of computer security, people who want to gain access to your system are nasty, crafty, and will try to trick you in anyway possible.

However, changing icons is easily done at the registry level. I doubt anyone wanting to take control of your system would sit in front of it and use the change file type tool.

So, for the rest of us who actually want to do that, we have to resort to hacking the registry or using 3rd Party Tools. As it happens, there’s a nifty little program out there called IPhile (or Icon Phile), which has been around for years. Suddenly, it has become useful. This will allow you to change icon file types with minimal effort, as long as you haven’t used ‘Open With…’ to change the default program. If you have, then we have another step (which I’ll cover in a moment).

Open up Icon Phile, select the file type you want, double-click and find the icon you want to change it to. Beautiful. Make sure that you run IPhile as administrator, otherwise it will either kick up an error, or have no effect.

Once done, the icons should change in your environment. If not, click the Options button, and the click Rebuild Icon Cache.

Now, if you HAVE used ‘Open With…’ to change the relationship of a program, then you’re going to notice that IPhile has had no effect. Windows likes to ‘help’ by putting the program icon on a default file type icon. As I wanted Windows to use it built-in compressed folders tool for ZIP files, I had an icon showing a picture of a computer (the default explorer icon) on a blank page. Not very helpful when looking for ZIP files.

To fix this, you just need to delete the registry entry that points to this. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Open up the registry editor (Click on the start button and type ‘regedit’ and press Enter
  2. Click on ‘Continue’
  3. Follow the registry path to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\FileExts\
  4. In the FileExts key, you should see a list of file extensions. For my example, I’ll go to .zip
  5. Finally, delete the UserChoice key

This will restore the icon to its default, which is what you may or may not have set in Icon Phile already. Although, this will also make the file association revert back to its original program. So make sure that the right program is associated by default.

  • Dan

    Here’s another way to change file type icons in Vista:

    http://www.annoyances.org/exec/show/article01-500

  • http://www.maxpower.plus.com John

    Thanks for that Dan,

    I’ve just installed Creative Element Power Tools, and it works pretty well. I can’t believe I haven’t seen it before!

    Just two notes on the annoyances.org atricle though:

    1 – If you have already tried to use the ‘Open With…’ method, you still need to delete the registry key mentioned above, or the Power Tools will seem to have no effect.

    2 – You will need to rebuild the icon cache after changing any icons. That being the case, having a program such as IPhile to hand would still be useful.

    Thanks for putting me onto the Power Tools link though, there are some potentially great tools that I’ll be trying out!