The Case of Missing or Corrupt Windows 7 Icons
Posted by John Dangerbrooks
Occasionally, I have seen Windows 7 being unable to render computer icons. In these cases, Windows 7 uses the same generic icon that it uses for files without an associated icon. (See screenshot 1.) Unfortunately, Windows 7 then caches this generic icon and forever deprives the user of having a visually pleasing experience (assuming that the missing icon is actually pleasing.)
I have tried different programs (including TuneUp Utilities 2013 and Tweaking.com Windows Repair) but all have failed to fix this problem. However, I have discovered that manual erasure of the icon cache or refreshing it fixes the problem.
Deleting the icon cache
Every user account in Windows 7 has an icon cache of its own. The icon cache is stored in %userprofile%\AppData\Local\IconCache.db where %userprofile% is the user’s profile folder. Deleting this file causes Windows to regenerate it.
Surprisingly enough, this file is not constantly in use. It is possible – albeit futile – to delete this file when its owner has logged on. I believe Windows loads this file upon user log on and saves it again (along with any changes) upon log off. Thus, each logoff creates an icon cache on disk. I used the first and second options until I discovered how easy it is to refresh the icon cache.
The correct way to discard the icon cache is to delete IconCache.db when its owning user account is offline. There are four possible ways:
- Via another user account (when the affected account is logged off)
- During Windows startup (Use MoveFile.exe)
- Via Windows Recovery Environment
- When Windows is offline
I used the first and second options until I discovered how easy it is to refresh the icon cache.
Refreshing the icon cache
Ramesh Srinivasan, the author of TheWinHelpOnline Blog, discovered that it is possible to ask Windows to refresh the icon cache by issuing the following command:
I confirmed that this command actually works in Windows 7, Windows 7 SP1 and Windows 8 (though I never had corrupt icon issue in Windows 8).
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