How to Change Desktop Icons on Mac or PC

  • You can change almost any desktop icon on Mac and PC.
  • To change desktop icons on a Mac, open the Get Info menu and insert the image you want to use.
  • On a PC you will need to create an .ICO file as Windows uses this for icons.

There are few places on your computer that you will look at more than your desktop. It’s like a megafolder that contains dozens – if not hundreds – of your most important apps and files.

And while most people know how to change their desktop backgrounds, not everyone knows that you can also change your desktop icons.

The process is a bit different depending on what kind of computer you have – here’s how to do it on both Mac and PC.

How to change your desktop icons on a Mac

In macOS, you have almost complete freedom over how each individual desktop icon looks.

Before you get rid of the old icon, find the new icon you want to switch to, either online or saved on your computer. It can be a .JPG, a .PNG, or an .SVG file — pretty much any image file. And it doesn’t matter how big it is.

When you find the new icon, copy it. You can usually do this by right-clicking on the image and selecting it Copy – Once you have it open in the Preview app, click To edit at the top of the screen and then Copy.

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The Business Insider logo displayed on a Mac, with the right-click context menu above it.

Copy the image you want as an icon.

William Antonelli/Insider

Locate the app, folder, or file on your desktop whose icon you want to change. Right-click on it and then select get information.

A window with all possible information about this file will appear. And at the top next to the file name you will find the current icon.

Click on the current icon to highlight it, then insert your new icon by pressing Command + V on your keyboard. Once you’ve selected a compatible image, the icon should change immediately.

A menu

Click on the original icon and insert your new image.

Apple; William Antonelli/Insider

If you later want to restore the original icon, just open the Get Info menu, click the icon again, and then press the delete key on your keyboard.

How to change your desktop icons on a Windows PC

Things get a little trickier when you’re using Windows. First of all, you can’t change each desktop icon individually – you can only change folders, shortcuts, and default Windows apps. To change anything else, you’ll need third-party apps, which we won’t go into here.

You can’t use just any image either. Your icon must be perfectly square resolution (typically 256×256 pixels) and saved as an .ICO file.

Once you have your icon saved to your PC, you can paste it into your desktop files. However, each file type has a different process.

Change desktop folder icons

Folders are the easiest to change.

To change a folder icon, right-click and select it Characteristics from the drop down menu. In the window that opens, click To adjust top right.

Under folder iconsclick change icon… and use the menu that opens to find the folder where you saved your icon and select it.

Once you’ve chosen your new icon, click on it Apply.

The menu that allows you to change a folder's icon in Windows 10.

Windows also has dozens of preinstalled icons that you can use.

Microsoft; William Antonelli/Insider

Change desktop shortcut icons

Shortcuts are icons that don’t contain much data themselves, but act as links to other apps or folders. You can usually tell an icon is a shortcut because it has a small arrow in its lower-left corner.

To change a shortcut’s icon, right-click and select it Characteristics. Click on the menu that appears shortcut above, and then click change icon… near the bottom.

The menu that allows you to change a shortcut's icon in Windows 10.

Shortcuts have a small arrow icon in the lower-left corner.

Microsoft; William Antonelli/Insider

Use the menu that opens to find out where you saved your icon, select it and then click Apply back to the Properties menu.

Changing the default Windows app icons

Although you probably added most of the items to your desktop yourself, there are some that Windows puts there itself, like the Recycle Bin.

To change these icons (or remove them from your desktop), press the Windows key + I to open the Settings app. Once it’s open, click on it personalizationand then subjects. Under Related settingsclick Desktop Icon Settings.

The Themes settings menu in Windows 10.

Some standard Windows apps let you control their icons in this menu.

Microsoft; William Antonelli/Insider

A menu will appear allowing you to choose which of the standard Windows shortcuts you want to keep on your desktop. You can change their icons by selecting one and clicking on it change icon… and find the icon you created. Be sure to click Apply once you’re done

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