How to repair desktop icons in Windows 7 with AB Commander

Sometimes something happens and Windows starts displaying wrong icons on the desktop. For example, you might have upgraded an application and the new version came with a new and improved application icon, but you still see the old icon on the Desktop. Or, a blank or damaged icon image appears where a perfectly good icon was displayed before. Does this sound familiar?

The most common reason for the problem with the icons is the corruption of the Windows icon cache. If you don't know what icon cache is, it's a special file that Windows uses to keep copies of each icon handy. When Windows needs to draw an icon, it uses the copy from the cache rather than retrieving the icon image from the original application file. It makes Windows draw the icons much faster.

NOTE: The following procedure should work for Windows 7, Vista, and XP. With the release of Windows 8, Microsoft changed the rules of the game: the icon cache is no longer stored in the IconCache.db file described below. Read more: How to repair the icon cache in Windows 11, 10, 8

The location of the icon cache file depends on the version of Windows that you have. In Windows 7 and Vista, the icon cache file is:


In Windows XP the icon cache file is:

C:\Documents and Settings\User\Local Settings\Application Data\IconCache.db

So, what to do if the icon cache file became corrupted or damaged, or if Windows did not replace a copy of an icon in the icon cache with a new image of the icon for some reason? The solution is simple: you need to force Windows to rebuild its icon cache! The easiest ways of doing that is by deleting the IconCache.db file. If that file is missing, Windows will build it from scratch. However, deleting this file is tricky: it turns out that Windows keeps a copy of this file in the RAM memory, and if you delete it, with will create a new copy of this file from it's RAM copy, without refreshing the icon images!

To prevent Windows Explorer from recreating the old icon cache file, you can do the following:

  1. If you have not done so already, make Windows display the hidden files and folders. To do so, choose the Folder options command from the Tools menu of AB Commander (or open it from Windows Control Panel), select the View tab, and change the option:

Make Windows display the hidden files and folders

If you don't like Windows displaying the hidden files and folder, you can change this option back after completing the steps below.

  1. Use AB Commander to navigate to the folder where the IconCache.db file is located (see above for the possible locations):

Locate the icon cache file with AB Commander

(If you have just enabled the Show hidden files option, you may need to press F5 in AB Commander to refresh is window and make the hidden files and folders to appear in the file listings.) Delete the IconCache.db file, and keep AB Commander window open, do not close or minimize it, you will need it a bit later.

  1. Now end the Windows Explorer process. To do that, start Windows Task Manager (by, for example, right-clicking on an empty space of Windows taskbar and selecting Start Task Manager from the menu). Select the Processes tab and right-click on explorer.exe in the list. Finally, select End Process from the menu:

Use Task Manager to end Windows Explorer process

The icons on your desktop will disappear, but don't panic, they will be back in a minute!

  1. Finally, restart the Explorer process. To do that, switch to AB Commander window, enter explorer in its launch box, and press OK:

Start Explorer with AB Commander

(You could also start Explorer using the File - New Task (Run) command of Windows Task Manager.) Your desktop icons should be back.

The above procedure should force Windows to recreate its icon cache file from scratch. If you don't see the IconCache.db file right away, don't worry, it will appear after you log off and log back on to (or restart) Windows.

UPDATE: If you use Windows 8 (or newer) the above procedure may not work. In such a case, you need to use a different procedure. Read more: How to repair the icon cache in Windows 11, 10, 8

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