How to Change Desktop Icons in Windows, Mac, and Linux

If you love personalizing your PC, you'll be glad to know that you can actually fully customize or replace your desktop icons. Because let's face it: default desktop icons are boring!
This article guides you on how to change desktop icons through a straightforward, step-by-step process.

Where to Find Custom Icons for Windows 10

Windows 10 has several built-in items to choose from. However, they're really nothing special. To make your desktop icons stand out, consider downloading high-quality icons online.
Flaticon, for example, has over a million icons you can download. You can also find neat icons on GraphicBurger, IconArchive, Findicons, and even DeviantArt. Most icon packs are completely free.
Once you’ve downloaded the icons you want to use, extract and store them in an easily accessible folder. For easy ICO format conversion, we recommend downloading the icons in a PNG format.

How to Change System Desktop Icons on Windows 10

To change program icons in Windows 10, you'll first need to go to your desktop settings. Here's how to do it:

Changing Desktop Icons

  • On the bottom-left corner of your screen, click on the Windows logo. Alternatively, press the WIN key on your keyboard.
  • Click on the "Settings" icon above the power button.
  • Click on the "Personalization" icon.
  • Once the menu loads, select the "Themes" option.
  • Upon clicking "Themes," you'll be given three options under the "Related Settings" tab: advanced sound settings, desktop icon settings, and mouse pointer settings.
  • Click on "Desktop Icon Settings." A small window should appear.
  • Click on the icon you want to change. Press "Change Icon" at the bottom of the window.
  • Choose the icon you fancy. If you want to use a customized icon, click on "Browse" and search for the icon PNG from your list of folders. Once you've located the icon, click "Open."
  • Save changes by clicking "OK" then "Apply."

Changing Program Icons

If you want to change program icons, you'll first have to move the program to your desktop. Then, right-click the icon you want to change and navigate down to "Properties."
In the "Shortcut" section, you'll find an option that says "Change Icon." Follow the same steps above to change the icon.
For folder items, choose "Customize" instead of "Shortcut."

Changing Multiple Folder Icons at Once

If you want to change all the folder icons at once, you’ll have to dig into the registry. Here's how to change your computer’s folders through the Windows registry:
  • Type "regedit" into the start menu and navigate to the following location: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer
  • Right-click the explorer folder and select "New" then "Key."
  • Name the new key "Shell Icons."
  • Right-click the blank space on the right and select "New" then "Expandable String Value." Name the value 3.
  • Create another string value named 4 by repeated the same process.
  • Double-click on the 3-string value. Select the "Value data" field option and paste (CTRL + V) the icon's folder location in between the field quotes. Do the same to the 4-string value.
  • Press "OK" and exit the registry editor.
  • Turn off your computer for the changes to take effect.
To reverse changes, simply delete the Shell Icons registry key.

How to Change System Desktop Icons on MacOS

Much like Windows 10, you can easily change desktop icons on your macOS in just a few steps.
  • Copy the picture or icon you want to use on your Clipboard. You can do this by double-clicking the picture file and choosing "Edit" then "Copy."
  • Select the file, folder, or application you want to replace. Then, choose "File" then "Get Info."
  • Click the icon at the top of the info window. Choose "Edit" then "Paste" or Command + V on your keyboard.
  • Close the app and clear it from your dock if needed.
  • Reopen the app.
To restore the original icon, simply select the custom icon in the "Get Info" page then choose "Edit" then "Cut."

How to Change System Desktop Icons on Linux (Mint and Ubuntu)

Changing desktop icons in Linux is a bit more involved than Windows 10 and macOS, especially with Linux Ubuntu.

Linux Mint

  • On the bottom-left corner of your screen, click on the "Menu" icon or Linux logo.
  • Click "Menu" on the top of the window screen. Then, click "Open the Menu Editor."
  • Choose the app/folder/file icon you want to change and press "Properties."
  • Click the icon image on the "Launcher Properties" screen. Select "Browse" and search for the icon PNG from your list of folders. Once you've located the icon, click "Open" then "Select."
  • Click "OK" then "Close."
  • Log out of your Linux Mint PC/laptop to save changes.
To change the menu icon, click "Configure." In the panel section, tick the box that says "use a custom icon and label." Click on the "Icon" box and press "Browse." Choose the icon of your choice from your folders. Press "OK" and exit the screen. Save changes by logging out of your PC/laptop.
If you want to change only the folder's color rather than the icon itself, follow these steps:
  • Click on the Linux logo on the bottom-left corner of your screen.
  • Select "Themes."
  • Click on the "Icons" menu. From here, you'll be given a ton of color options to choose from. Select the color you like.
  • Close the menu and reboot your computer.

Linux Ubuntu

  • Copy the icon name.
  • Find the application you want to change in the application menu. Then, click "Copy."
  • Open the terminal folder (CTRL + ALT + T) and type "sudo gedit."
  • Paste the folder application name (CTRL + V) and press enter.
  • Enter your PC password once prompted.
  • Search for the code that says "Icon=preferences-system."
  • Open a new finder window and copy the icon you want to use. Then, replace "preferences-system" with the icon you've just copied.
  • Press "Save" and "Exit."
  • Reboot your computer to finalize the changes.
Once you’ve changed the icon, don’t move the original source from the folder directory. If you move it, the icon will revert back to its original icon.


Changing your desktop icons is a great way to personalize your computer. If you can't find an icon online, why not make one yourself? As long as the image is in a PNG format, you can use it as a desktop icon.