How To Add an Icon to a File

Customization can be a game-changer when organizing your files. Your PC files have icons usually chosen by the operating system. In most cases, they look all the same, and it’s easy to get confused. If you want to give your PC a refreshed look and have an easier time handling a plethora of files for work (or play), adding custom icons to files will help.

How To Add an Icon to a File

Whether you have a Windows or a Mac PC, you will find everything you need to know to customize your files in this article.

Finding or Creating New Icons

Before changing your icons, find some icons that will replace the default ones.

Windows has a relatively good selection of icons that it doesn’t use. However, many are outdated or used for system utilities, making them too “official.”

Many online resources offer millions of other icons that are unique and high-quality. Some popular icon archives are IconArchive, Findicons, Flaticon, GraphicBurger, and DeviantArt, which also have free content.

If you’re techy and art-savvy, you can also create your icons from scratch! All you need is photo editing software, like Photoshop or its free cousin GIMP, and some time.

You can download icons in several formats, but the recommended one is PNG for easy conversion to the ICO format since this is the format that Windows uses. A conversion is, at this point, needed to use your new images as icons.

ConvertICO is a server that can quickly help you here. You can upload 50 PNG images at once to convert them into icons without losing image quality. The program will provide a folder where you can conveniently stash your future default icons should you need to change them later.

Add Icon to File – Windows

Windows allows you to set up a custom icon for a single file or folder. This is useful if you have a few important items and have found great icons you want to use to differentiate them from other files of the same type.

Here’s how to change a single icon:

  1. Right-click on the folder or file and select “Properties.”

  2. Go to the “Customize” tab at the top of the popup window.

  3. Select “Change Icon…”

  4. You can choose from a list of pre-loaded icons (most of them are dull or old) or select “Browse” at the top to open a file manager and locate your custom icon.

  5. Select the icon and click on “OK.”

  6. You can select “Restore Defaults” on the same window to remove the customized icon.

To personalize the icons for all files of a specific file type, you will need a tool called File Types Manager. The provided link for FileTypesMan is one of many such software solutions you can find online, but this one should work well enough. Keep in mind to review everything you download to ensure it’s safe.

Let’s see everything you need to do:

  1. Download, install, and open the freeware.

  2. Click on the “Find” icon on the top.

  3. Type in the file extension you want to edit. The cursor should point you to it from the list.

  4. After that, you can close the “Find” box.

  5. Right-click on the entry in the list and select “Edit Selected File Type.”

  6. In the entry for “Default icon,” click on the three dots button on the right.

  7. Choose your icon. In this step, you can use an already existing icon or import a unique icon by clicking “Browse.” Select one of your new icons from the dialog menu and press OK to change it.

  8. When you’re happy with the results, you can click “Ok” to execute the changes.

Add Icon to File – Mac

While Mac is a bit simpler in terms of using customized icons, you still need to find icons that are better than the defaults. That’s where icon archives such as IconArchive, Findicons, Flaticon, GraphicBurger, and DeviantArt shine. Most of these contain free art you can use for your icons, but a Premium account can give you endless options for customizing the look of your Desktop.

When downloading custom icons, you can select JPG or PNG formats. Mac makes it easier to use downloaded files since you can use JPG or PNG images instead of needing a conversion.

After you’ve found your perfect image(s), here’s what you need to do:

  1. Select the image you want to use and open it.

  2. Go to the menu bar, select “Edit,” then choose “Copy” from the dropdown.

  3. Click on the file or folder you want to customize.

  4. Select “File” on the menu bar, then “Get Info.”

  5. On the Information window at the top, click the icon.

  6. Click “Edit” in the menu bar, then “Paste.” If the option is unavailable, ensure you’re clicking the icon at the top of the Information window.

Should these steps not work, make sure you’re copying the content of the files, rather than the file itself.

If you want to use an icon of another file or folder, follow these steps:

  1. Pick the file with the icon you want to use.

  2. Click on “File” from the menu bar, then “Get info.”

  3. Click the small icon situated at the top of the Information window.

  4. Go to “Edit” and select “Copy.”

  5. Navigate to the file or folder that you want to customize and open it.

  6. Go to “File” and “Get Info.”

  7. Click the icon at the top of the Information window.

  8. Select “Edit” and “Paste” in the menu bar.

If you want to return to system defaults for an icon, here’s what you need to do:

  1. On your computer, choose the file or folder.

  2. Go to “Choose file” and then “Get Info.”

  3. Click the custom icon which is situated at the top of the information window. Be careful with this step, you can’t use the icon under “Preview.”

  4. Choose “Edit” and then “Cut” in the menu bar.

If you want to change the icons of an entire file type, you can use specialized file type manager software. You can look into third-party services that offer this feature, but double-check their credentials and validity before using them.

Changing Default OS Icons

If you want to edit the basic desktop icons for This PC, Recycle Bin, Network, Files, and Control Panel, you can do that via the Personalization screen, under “Themes” > “Desktop icons settings.” The dialog screen will allow you to search for new icons and show its vast library of (honestly, ugly) default icons to use.

Make Your PC Iconic

Personalizing the computer is much like personalizing our office or home. With a fresh set of custom icons, you can create a comfortable, consistent, and coordinated digital workspace.

What icons did you use to customize your files? Let us know in the comment section below.

One thought on “How To Add an Icon to a File”

Grim says:
when I try to press “edit selected file type” it tells me that it is “you cannot open a percieved type”, what can I do to get past this??

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