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How to rebuild broken icons in Windows 10?

By Natallia Pustavalava | July 21, 2020 |

greater than 6 minutes

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Sometimes, you may notice that your Windows icons are not displayed properly. Instead of specific application icons, you may be seeing default Windows icons, or the icons may be missing altogether. How do you repair broken icons in Windows 10? This is the question we will try to answer in this article, giving you every information you need on how to reset and rebuild the icon cache on your computer and get your icons working properly on Windows 10.

What are Windows Icons?

Icons are graphic images that represent a file, a program, a web page, or a command on Windows 10 (and other operating systems). They are a really quick and convenient way of executing commands and opening files and documents, and they make the interaction with your PC smooth and hassle-free. All you need to do to open a program or file is double-click the right icon and the program will open instantly.

When everything is working properly on your PC, you will see the icons of the applications on your computer displayed the way they always are, and double-clicking an icon will bring up the needed program. However, if there are issues with your icon cache, you may stop seeing certain icons or they may appear broken.

How do icons work on Windows 10?

You can see icons everywhere on your PC: The Control Panel, Programs and Features, File Explorer, etc. The icons that the system uses for your documents and programs are stored in the icon cache. This way, they can be shown quickly on your computer without having to load from scratch every single time. Storing them on a hard disk and having to retrieve them and render them every single time would take up a lot of system resources.

Most of the time, this system works perfectly well and all your icons show up looking just the way they are supposed to.

However, at some point you may notice that your icons are loading slowly or not working properly. There are instances when you will suddenly see a blank or damaged icon where a perfectly good icon used to be. In this case, you may need to go through the process of rebuilding the icon cache to fix the issue.

So, why are you running into icon issues on your Windows 10 PC in the first place? There are various possible reasons for that. Your icon cache may be out of date, which will lead to icons displaying incorrectly or not showing at all. You may have upgraded an application and the new version of this application came with a new icon— but your desktop may still be displaying the old one.

If you are experiencing any of the issues mentioned above, you will need to rebuild your icon cache on Windows 10. In this mini guide, we will show you the steps on how to reset the icon cache database on Windows 10.

What is the icon cache on Windows 10?

In order to bring up icons quickly and efficiently, Windows stores them in memory. When you shut down or restart your PC, the operating system will write the icon cache to a hidden file on your computer’s hard drive, and this way, the icons won’t need to be reloaded later and will be ready for instant use. The file keeps growing as more information is added to it.

When Windows needs to show an icon, it will first check the cache, and then display the needed icon if a match is found. If a match isn’t located, the system will check the executable file and scan the application directory.

Where is the icon cache stored on Windows 10?

The icon cache file can be found at the following address:

C:\Users\<your username>\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Explorer.

Where <your username> is the login name for your Windows account.

Once you open the folder, you will find several icon cache files here:

  • iconcache_16.db
  • iconcache_32.db
  • iconcache_48.db
  • iconcache_96.db
  • iconcache_256.db
  • iconcache_768.db
  • iconcache_1280.db
  • iconcache_1920.db
  • iconcache_2560.db
  • iconcache_custom_stream.db
  • iconcache_exif.db
  • iconcache_idx.db
  • iconcache_sr.db
  • iconcache_wide.db
  • iconcache_wide_alternate.db

If you decide to rebuild the icon cache, you will need to delete all the “iconcache” files that you see in this folder. However, it’s not as simple as selecting all the files in the folder and pressing Delete. Rebuilding your icon cache is a more complex process that will require you to follow a specific sequence of steps that we will explain below.

Please make sure to follow all the steps in the order that they are presented in order to avoid further issues with your system icons.

How to Rebuild the icon cache on Windows 10?

Rebuilding your icon cache on Windows 10 is not particularly difficult — but it will require going through several steps in a specific order and you will need to enter the commands precisely for all the processes to work properly. Here’s what you should do to rebuild the icon cache on your Windows 10 PC:

  • Open Command Prompt with administrative privileges.
  • In Command Prompt, type “echo %username%” (without the quotes). The command will let display your username. Make sure to note it down somewhere (preferably, on a piece of paper) because you will use it later on.
  • Then, note down the address:

cd C:\Users\<your username>\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Explorer. Replace “<your username>” in the address with the username you noted down earlier.

  • Note down the following command: del iconcache*
  • Note down the following command: explorer
  • Now, go to Task Manager and click Details.
  • Under Details, locate the “explorer.exe” process, single-click it, and then click on End Task.
  • In Task Manager, go to the File menu and run “CMD” (without the quotes) as an Administrator.
  • In Command Prompt, run the commands you have noted down before and make sure you hit the Enter key after typing each line:

cd C:\Users\<your username>\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Explorer

del iconcache*

Note that the “*” at the end of the command is necessary for all the files that start with ””concache” to be included in the delete operation. This way, you get to delete all the icon cache files.

  • In Task Manager, go to File, click on “Run new task”, type “explorer” (without the quotes), then check the box beside “Create this task with administrator privileges” before clicking on OK.

Once you have gone through the steps above, press the Ctrl + Alt + Del keys on your keyboard and click Sign Off. Next, go on and sign back in. Any broken or missing icon should now be back in order. Please note that rebuilding the icon cache won’t fix your thumbnail issues or restore a missing shortcut icon — you will need to go through a different set of steps to get those issues resolved. In most cases, these things can be easily fixed with just a few tweaks with your system settings.

However, rebuilding your icon cache does help with getting your icons to work and look the way they are supposed to. Thus, after completing the steps above, you should no longer be facing any icon-related issues on your computer.

If you are still experiencing issues with the way your icons are displayed, however, this may have to do with other system issues and it would probably be best to refer to a professional or try running a troubleshooter or a performance boosting program.

In fact, if you are often running into glitches, errors and other issues frequently on your Windows 10 PC, you may need to look for a more comprehensive fix for the problems you are experiencing. As extra files build up and storage gets cluttered, things can get messy — and this can affect not only the icons on your PC, but also lead to a general slowdown and other inconveniences on your computer. This can prevent you from using your PC normally and make it difficult for your system to handle resource-consuming processes like gaming, video editing and more.

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Fed up with your slow PC? Tired of waiting for Windows to start up? Take a look at the most common reasons behind poor performance and the best ways to deal with them here.

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