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How Do I Set a Custom Icon for a Desktop URL Shortcut?

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I recently purchased a new PC. I would like to make a custom icon to Google that shows the Google square as red, white, and green, as opposed to the IE world. It’s the same with files; it shows just an open manilla folder on the desktop, which I would like to change. Any info on this would be appreciated.

It’s not that difficult to provide a custom icon for a shortcut at all. In fact, there are a couple of approaches.

I’ll show you both.

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But first, a word from the website…

Websites have the ability to provide a custom icon in the form of a “default icon”, which can be used for several purposes. The icon, often called “favicon.ico”, is placed in the root of the site. For example, Ask Leo!’s favicon is at https://askleo.com/favicon.ico.

When you bookmark a site, or add it to your Favorites, the favicon is typically used as the icon that  appears in the Favorites toolbar or menu – hence, the name: favorites icon. (“ico” is the file format used for icon images.) Some browsers, like Internet Explorer, display the favicon in the browser address bar when you visit a page on that site.

Favicon in the Address Bar

If a site doesn’t provide a favicon, it’s up to the browser to pick one. Usually, it picks its own icon – IE’s ‘E’ icon, Firefox’s fox, and so on.

Pinning a desktop shortcut

When using Internet Explorer in Windows, you can click and hold on the favicon in the address bar and drag it to the desktop to create a shortcut to that page.

Drag an Icon to the Desktop

Visit the page you want the shortcut to go to, click and hold on the site’s favicon, drag it to the desktop, and release. Windows will create a shortcut using the favicon supplied by the website — or the default browser icon, if the site doesn’t provide one.

What Windows creates in this situation is a special kind of shortcut: a “pinned” shortcut. And while it is possible to change the icon by hand-editing certain files buried in your system, apparently Windows  doesn’t provide a user interface for the process.

In other words, there’s no super easy way to change the icon. However, because the icon is that of the site, you may not want or need to change it at this point.

What’s worse about pinned shortcuts is this: if I start Internet Explorer from a pinned shortcut to Ask Leo!, the icon for that run of Internet Explorer becomes the Ask Leo! icon, regardless of the fact that I may browse elsewhere, such as Google.com. The pinned icon is considered the icon of the application it starts, not the content  initially shown by the application.

Wrong icon

 

Creating a desktop shortcut another way

Another approach to creating a desktop shortcut is to simply right-click on an empty area on the desktop, click New and then Shortcut.

New shortcut

After that, type or paste in the URL you want the shortcut to go to – say https://askleo.com – click Next and you’re done.

Create Shortcut Dialog

Shortcuts made this way are typically given the custom icon of the program that would open them. In other words, it would be IE’s icon if that’s your default browser, or Firefox’s icon if that’s your default. On more recent versions of Windows, if the web site provides a favicon, then that may also be used.

New Internet Shortcut

If you want something else, then the advantage of this method becomes clear: this shortcut’s icon can easily be changed.

Using a custom icon

Right-click the shortcut icon that you created, and click Properties.

Shortcut Properties

In the Web Document tab, there’s a Change Icon… button. Click that. The result is a Change Icon dialog with a number of icons to select from.

Select Icon Dialog

Icons are typically stored in .exe or .dll files. In some versions of Windows, the Change Icon dialog will default to display icons contained within your default browser, which usually contains only the familiar icons for that browser. It appears that Windows 10, at least, will instead display icons from the shell32.dll file contained in Windows itself1. This file contains hundreds of icons to choose from. Just click on the icon you want, and click OK.

Alternately, you can download or create “.ico” image files, and specify them using the Browse… button.

If you want to display the actual site’s icon and it wasn’t used by default, you’ll need to download it.

Getting a site’s custom icon

Using Ask Leo! as an example, enter https://askleo.com/favicon.ico in your browser; that should display the favicon image.2

Ask Leo! Favicon

Right-click that image and click Save picture as…. Navigate to the folder where you want to save the file, and save it with the name askleo_favicon.ico.

You can then specify it as the icon for the shortcut.

Choose Custom Icon

With 300 icons to choose from in shell32.dll, you may not need to do this, but it’s nice to know you can.

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Footnotes & references

1: You can select this file manually by entering c:\windows\system32\shell32.dll as the file to open.

2: Unfortunately, while “favicon.ico” is a common name for the site icon, and probably the most widely used, it’s not required that it be called that. Sadly, you’ll need to be able to decipher the site’s HTML encoding to determine what the actual name might be if you can’t find favicon.ico.

23 comments on “How Do I Set a Custom Icon for a Desktop URL Shortcut?”

  1. Interesting and would be useful but my Win 7 chooses not to display any “Web document tab” in the shortcut’s properties. Is this easily fixed, I wonder?

  2. FYI RE: Icons
    I’ve found most custom icons and folders to somewhat boring. I’ve come across some excellent ones that are created by artists vs tech people. The difference is worthy of sharing. They are free, and the artist only ask for their recognized due.
    My FavCons are:
    http://deleket.deviantart.com/gallery/
    The full gallery is:
    http://browse.deviantart.com/?q=Icons&order=9&offset=48
    ** Quite a big difference when icons arise from the minds of artists.

  3. I am familiar with favicon.ico(ns) because I own a few websites. Hadn’t thought about capturing a favicon.ico by simply typing in its address. Doh!

    Anyway, I decided to put your website in a desktop shortcut. This was easily accomplished, but in the process I discovered that two of the three major browsers are not displaying your favicon.ico at all!

    Now, I’m confused. Conventional wisdom is that the favicon.ico is stored in the root directory of a website, and the server automatically loads it. But when I put in http://ask-leo.com, it loads in Firefox but not in IE nor in Chrome.

  4. Re the missing web document tab feature, I found by dropping the url in a folder and then creating a desktop shortcut I got the full ‘change icon’ option in properties. Only a work-around but good enough for me. Found a good selection of Google icons at findicons.com. Sorry to have wasted your web real estate.

  5. THANK you! I hated it when I got Vista and could no longer save the link to the desktop. All this time I just thought it was no longer an option. Who knew it was as simple as pulling it from the url box? Now if I can just figure out how to save some of my favorite sites to my toolbar, I’ll be all set! :^)

  6. I am on windows 7.

    I just wanted to add that, if you want to make your own icons to customize your folders, it’s really easy. First create a folder in your pictures folder called “My Icons” or something like that. Every time you make an icon, store the image there. That way you can browse to it when you want to customize a folder or shortcut.

    Then, using paint (the simplest and quickest image program out there), take a screen shot (prt scr key) of what you want, paste it in the Paint program and trim it so just your icon image is visible. Then save with the name it thus: name.ico and save as a 24-Bitmap bmp (*.bmp) file.

    That’s it. now you can use that icon on any folder you wish. IOW, anything you can see on your screen can be print screened into an icon.

    Just remember that the path to the icon image must not change. So keep you personal icons folder in the same place, please.

  7. Leo! I just LOVE this! I tried the 1st way to add a customized desktop icon for 2 different launches, and it worked. I then deleted them, and did it the 2nd way….click > hold > drag favicon from the website to my desktop. And just to make sure they worked, I launched both of them (one at a time, of course) and went into them, just to make sure they would work from my Google Chrome browser, and to make sure that I was doing it correctly…. and I did it.

    Years ago, when I bought my Dell laptop using Windows XP OS, I right-clicked on the website and the drop-down window would give me a menu of options. All I had to do was click on the “Send to > Desktop” option, and there would be my shortcut launch. But was unable to do the same thing, or using the same method didn’t work, after my pc tech changed to Windows 7 OS. But now I’ve got the know-how. Thank you, Leo! 😀 Being a basic newbie, it’s the little things like this that excite me and make me happy. : – )

  8. Hi, Leo.
    I would like to put an icon somewhere in my website, in a widget, perhaps, that visitors can download to their desktop, ipad or mobile/cell ‘phone’s front/home page.

    Can you help me with this?

    Peter Fitzgerald.

  9. Hi Leo – I was able to create a new icon shortcut on the deskto following your instructions. It will not allow me to “pin” it to the task bar – any suggestion? Thank you

  10. Your tutorial about setting ICONS was very good, but I have a special problem beyond the problem. I have both the Edge browser, and the Google Chrome browsers, and this is where I have my problem. I want to set a shortcut from a game I play online to the Start Menu 8, and the Windows 10 Start Menu. I have a Favorite ICON from the site that I was able to set to my desktop, and even the Start Menu, but it hasn’t got the ICON I want to have, and it won’t put an shortcut with the chosen ICON in the Programs list in the Games area of same, and then I want the chosen ICON. The Start Menu is using the GOOGLE CHROME ICON, and that won’t make finding my game easy, so how can I get the ICONS to be he same in all of the areas, and also make Windows 10 put a shortcut in the list of programs, in the area that has Games. My game FYI is Goodgame Empire, and it has it’s own Favorite ICON. Thanks in Advance in solving this trying problem from Windows 10. P.S. I am using also an App called Start Menu 8, and it comes from IOBit.com, and helps fix menu problems with the Windows 10 Start Menu. Especially the failure of the Windows 10 Start Menu to work properly.

  11. Hi,

    To everyone wondering why they can’t open webiste shortcuts created on Internet Explorer, try to hold the shift key while dragging to desktop. This occurs because after IE8, the browser create a “pinned site shortcut” instead of a normal shortcut.

    So, this way, you can create your shortcuts on IE and they will open on your default browser of choice.

    Best whishes,
    Rafael Romagnoli

  12. I have a new computer with Windows 10. I am having no problems of getting the short cuts to my desktop, however they all look alike having the blue E for internet explorer on them. I have to read each and everyone of them to find my shortcut. I would like to personalize them with icons I find on the internet, but it just wont let me do it. I have read your tutorial and it is not working or I am doing something wrong. I need help.

    Michelle

  13. 18apr2017
    problem with win 10 icon display on desktop

    up till 15 days ago, my desktop icons were all great
    icon and name of program icon takes u 2

    now,
    icon and name of program icon takes u 2
    shortcut
    1.28kb

    or
    icon and name of program icon takes u 2
    internet shortcut
    1.28kb
    ****************************
    can’t figure out how to get rid of the
    “internet shortcut
    1.28kb”
    or

    ” shortcut
    1.28kb”

    please help me

  14. This was really helpful and easy to follow. How can I take that custom desktop icon and share it with a small group keeping the link intact? They want a desktop icon to use for a form I created and most of them are not tech savvy enough to even do the simple steps you outlined. I created an image and hyperlinked it, but the link disappears when saved to the desktop. Is there a way to ensure the link stays active when the image is saved to the desktop? Thanks!

  15. Hello Leo…

    I’m commenting on this page because it’s the closest to my problem. I did search your site for “default icon url shortcut” but there was nothing on point. Here’s my issue:

    When I drag a URL icon from a browser address bar to the desktop, it creates a shortcut to that web page. Before, the shortcut icon was the website favicon. Now (for reasons unknown) the icon is a plain white square with just a tiny favicon in the middle. However, the browser tab icon is correct.

    See this screen shot for the “before” and “now” shortcut icons, and the browser tab and address bar:
    https://goo.gl/smvJJc

    I’ve spent hours searching but can find nothing directly on point. I’m familiar with program default icons, desktop and Firefox icon cache, creating custom icons, changing shortcut icons, etc. But nothing that fixes the default white square (drag and drop) behavior.

    What should I do to make the dragged shortcut AUTOMATICALLY use the full favicon, NOT the white square with the tiny favicon?

    Thanks for your help.

    Fully updated Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit.
    Internet Explorer turned OFF in Windows features (Programs and Features control panel).
    Browser is Firefox 54.0. Disabling add-ons does not help.

  16. New Laptop. II cannot place websites on desktop with their own ICONS for easy finding. Only the CHROME icon places for each website link/shortcut

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