How Icons Are Stored in Windows XP

The Windows desktop icons (the defaults and alternatives provided by Microsoft) are stored in several Windows resource files. A listing of the desktop icons and their associated resource files follows:

  • My Computer C:\Windows\explorer.exe

  • My Documents C:\Windows\System32\mydocs.dll

  • My Network Places C:\Windows\System32\shell32.dll

  • Recycle Bin (full and empty) C:\Windows\System32\shell32.dll

These icons don't exist as separate icon files or in an actual icon set, which is solely a grouping of icons. They are extracted from a system resource file (see Figure 10.1).

Figure 10.1. The default desktop icons are held in resource files.

When you take a look at the alternative icons made available in these resource files, there are few choices. So, the big question revolves around how you put together a collection of alternative icons.

Fortunately, you don't have to hack these resource files or replace the resource files to select alternative icons. You can use other icons that come in the form of a single icon file (.ico), are held in a program file (.dll, .exe, and .ocx, such as the default desktop icons are), or are part of an icon library file (.icl and .acl).

The possibilities for creating a collection of alternative icons include downloading premade icons and icon sets, and creating your own icons. In the following sections we cover some of the possibilities for downloads; we then look at ways to create icons.


Although it is a tricky and risky endeavor, you can change the icons in a resource file. This subject is beyond the scope of this book, but we do discuss one of the tools that can be used to hack resource files. See Appendix A, "Using ResHacker," which discusses Resource Hacker, a utility that enables you to modify Windows resource files.

    Skinning Windows XP
    Skinning Windows XP
    ISBN: 078973348X
    EAN: 2147483647
    Year: 2003
    Pages: 160
    Authors: Joe Habraken © 2008-2017.
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