Change the icons used for any filetype, file, or folder from the context menu with IconX


IconX is a free Windows Explorer context menu extension that enables you to change the icon used for any file-type. It can also change the icon used for any individual file, and for any individual folder.IconX? Yes.

Do not mistake this with the shareware Stardock IconX, though, which is a completely different product.

A few weeks ago I wrote about how to change the icons used for any filetype using a freeware program called Icon Phile. And although that program worked great for me, I discovered through reader’s comments that it didn’t work on all systems or had problems.

Moreover, it was not as user friendly and I would have liked, so I kept my eye out for other options and found IconX. I am happy to report that IconX does the job easily straight from the Windows right-click context menu. Here are more notes on this program:

  • How it works: simply install IconX, right click on any file or folder and select “change icon” from the context menu. A dialog will be shown with a preview window for any icon files that you might browse to. Note: you can use ICO files, DLLs, ICL icon libraries as your target, just change the “files of type” dropdown at the bottom of the open file dialog. You can also point it to EXE files with icons in them.
  • Individual v. global: to change the icon used globally for a file type, right click “change icon” on any file of that type then check the box in the IconX icon browser that says “use icon for all files of that type”. Otherswise, if the box is unchecked, IconX will change the icon of the individual file rather than globally.
  • Where are the icons stored?: for files with individually changed icons, the new icon is not stored in the file/folder itself, but rather in a centralized place on your system (most likely the registry). This means that files/folders with customized icons that are emailed or moved to a network drive will not display custom icons when viewed from another computer. (Unlike, say, Stylefolder, which will store the icons in the folder itself).
  • Note on changing icons: icons on the desktop might not visibly refresh after implementing a change. Try going into a folder and seeing if the change occured, or logging off/on.
  • Reverting to default icons: right clicking on “change icon” for a file with a changed icon then clicking “restore” will restore the Windows’ default icons. Seems to work only on individually changed icons though. See below for more info on this.IconX Screenshot - browse icons
  • Installation: unzip the downloaded archive, then right click “iconx.inf” and select “install”, then close out the two text files that are displayed. A “change icon” entry should appear in the context menu. You will have to register the program using a free key that’s provided in the readme.
  • Uninstallation: before you uninstall using Windows’ add/remove, you need to go into the program dialog and select “Remove IconX from Registry” in the file menu first to remove all icon associations made with IconX. You might need to re-install your software of choice for handling certain file types to get their default icons re-instated.
  • But is it free?: yes. IconX used to be sharware but is now freeware. The author provides a free registration key in the readme (username=anonymous, Regcode=CFUC-20004919). Once inside the IconX dialog, register through the file menu.

What I do NOT like about this program:

  • Once you define a new icon to be used for a certain filetype that does not have a Windows’ default icon (e.g. PDF, XLS), and want to go back to the previous icon, you will most likely need to reinstall the application that handles this filetype. Using IconX to point to the icons in that program’s executable did not seem to work.

The verdict: I’ve been searching for something like this for a while: a very good, simple utility that can change your system’s default used icons for a certain filetype quickly and easily. The fact that it’s placed inside the context menu is an added bonus. This is not a perfect program (see “what I do not like … “, above), but I recommend it all the same.

Version Tested: 1.2.2

Compatibility: WinAll; no info on Vista.

The program page no longer exists, but you can download ver. 1.1 of the program here.