View and Extract Icons from Shell32.dll in Windows

Windows 7 and 8 have a lot of attractive icons that make both system look good and fun to use.  Have you ever wondered where Windows may bury them in the system? You won’t be able to find anything if you do a search for .ico files, because those nice looking icons are not stored individually on your system. Instead, they are all buried in a single Windows system file called shell32.dll, located in c:\windows\system32\ folder by default. And that’s why a lot of time when you are changing a icon to a shortcut or folder, you are prompted by a long list of icons by default.

Change Icon from Shell32.dll

Each icon in Shell32.dll has an unique number that can be referred later on with a syntax like below when used in some registry tweaks.

shell32.dll,-number

To find the exact number that refers to the icon you want to use, we will need a tool that can view and extract icons from Shell32.dll file. NirSoft’s IconsExtract is one of these tools made just for this purpose.

Most NirSoft’s tools are made portable. IconsExtract is no different. Download it from its website, extract the executable file to your local computer. And simply launch it.

It has the ability to search for both icons and cursors contained in the file. Since in this case we are only interested in the icons, we will just uncheck the option Cursors from Resource Types section, and do a quick Search For Icons.

IconExtract - Search For Icons

And it returns 322 items on my Windows 8 machine. They are all listed in the tool’s main window with each having a number assigned next to the name. And that’s the number you can use later on to exactly pin down a specific icon you want to use.

IconsExtract - with list of icons

To extract them out of the DLL file and save them individually on to your own folder, you can highlight the ones you want to extract, right click, and choose Save Selected Icons.

IconsExtract - Save icons

You can also use the tool to search icons from other DLL files, just select different file through Browse Files icon. Heck, you can even use the wildcard to find icons from multiple files or even all files from single folder. A quick search on System32 folder returned 3840 items found in the result.

Kent Chen

Microsoft MVP, IT Professional, Developer, Geek, and the co-founder of Next of Windows.

Last updated: 10/28/2014

Posted in: Tips & Tricks , Tools
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