How to change your desktop icons on a Mac or PC

  • You can change nearly any desktop icon on both Mac and PC.
  • To change desktop icons on a Mac, open the “Get Info” menu and paste in the picture you want to use.
  • On a PC you’ll need to make a .ICO file, since that’s what Windows uses for icons.

There are few places on your computer that you’ll look at more than your desktop. It’s like a mega-folder, holding 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 change your desktop icons too. 

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’ve got almost complete freedom over what each individual desktop icon looks like

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

Once you’ve found the new icon, copy it. You can usually do this by right-clicking the picture and selecting Copy — if you opened it in the Preview app, click Edit at the top of the screen and then Copy.

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

Copy the picture you want as an icon.

William Antonelli/Insider

Find the app, folder, or file on your desktop that you want to change the icon for. Right-click it, and then select Get Info.

A window will appear filled with all sorts of information about that file. And at the top, next to its filename, you’ll find its current icon.

Click the current icon to highlight it, then paste in your new icon by pressing Command + V on your keyboard. If you’ve chosen a compatible picture, the icon should change immediately.

A Get Info menu for Chess on a Mac, with the icon replaced.

Click the original icon and paste in your new image.

Apple; William Antonelli/Insider

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

How to change your desktop icons on a Windows PC

Things get a bit trickier if you’re using Windows. First of all, you can’t individually change every desktop icon — you can only change folders, shortcuts, and default Windows apps. To change anything else, you’ll need third-party apps that we won’t go over here.

You also can’t use any image you want. Your icon needs to have a perfectly square resolution (usually 256 x 256 pixels), and it needs to be saved as a .ICO file.

Once you have your icon saved to your PC, you can start putting it on your desktop files. Each type of file has a different process, though.

Changing desktop folder icons

Folders are the easiest to change. 

To change a folder icon, right-click on it and select Properties from the drop-down menu. In the window that opens, click Customize in the top-right.

Under Folder icons, click Change icon… and use the menu that pops up to find the folder where you saved your icon and select it.

Once you’ve picked your new icon, click Apply.

The menu that lets you change a folder’s icon in Windows 10.

Windows also has dozens of pre-installed icons you can use.

Microsoft; William Antonelli/Insider

Changing desktop shortcut icons

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

To change a shortcut’s icon, right-click it and select Properties. In the menu that appears, click Shortcut near the top, then click Change Icon… near the bottom.

The menu that lets you change a shortcut’s icon in Windows 10.

Shortcuts have a tiny arrow icon at their bottom-left corner.

Microsoft; William Antonelli/Insider

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

Changing default Windows app icons

Although you probably added most of the items on your desktop yourself, there are a few that Windows puts there by 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 Personalization, and then Themes. Under Related Settings, click Desktop icon settings.

The “Themes” settings menu in Windows 10.

A few default Windows apps let you control their icons in this menu.

Microsoft; William Antonelli/Insider

A menu will appear that lets you pick which of the default Windows shortcuts you want to keep on your desktop. You can change their icons by selecting one, clicking Change Icon… and finding the icon you made. Be sure to click Apply once you’re done.