How to fix Blank Icons in a Windows 10 Desktop error?

By ivan.diskin | October 30, 2019 |

greater than 11 minutes

From a technical perspective, icons are small images that represent (or illustrate) applications, folders, files, and so on. For example, you are on the lookout for an icon with the big W sign when you are searching for Microsoft Word. After all, your memory has come to associate that particular icon with the Microsoft Word application.

Icons generally help you recognize an application (even without you looking at its name) and distinguish between shortcuts and folders. In other words, they make life easier for you. So, what do you do when you notice the icons on your Windows desktop have gone blank?

A good number of users, in recent times, have reported strange occurrences with their icons. While the icons becoming blank is hardly a major problem in the Windows operating system environment, you might become frustrated that you can no longer identify stuff as fast as you used to (before).

Why do icons become blank?

Icons, like most items, are stored as entries somewhere on your disk. Well, this means their location can change. The entries themselves can go missing or can be deleted. The icon components can also fall to corruption. Interestingly, the spike in complaints about blank icons on Windows 10 devices tends to occur after the release of a major Windows update. It seems Windows Update sometimes breaks the icon setup.

Well, in this guide, we intend to address the blank icons issue for all Windows 10 users regardless of the conditions involved. You might be interested in learning:

  • how to refresh your desktop icons
  • to fix the problem and related procedures, for example.

How to fix the icons on Windows 10

We recommend you attempt the procedures below in the order they appear.

  1. Alter the icon settings:

Windows 10 has functions that you can use to tweak icon settings in the Settings application. If you are experiencing problems with specific desktop icons (with them going blank or missing), then you can try making some alterations to their configurations or even replace the icons themselves outrightly.

Follow these instructions:

  • First, you have to open the Settings program. You can perform this launch task through this keyboard shortcut: Windows logo button + letter I key.
  • Assuming the Settings window is now up, you have to go through its menu items and then click on Personalization.
  • Check the list on the left-pane area of the Settings window and then click on Themes. On the right pane, you must check for the Desktop icon settings link and click on it.
  • The Desktop Icon settings window will be brought up now.
  • Now, you must choose the item for which you cannot find an icon (or the item whose icon has gone blank). Once the object gets highlighted, you must click on the Change icon button to proceed.
  • Choose the image you want Windows to display as the item icon and save the changes.
  • Perform the same task on the other items whose icons went missing.
  • Close the Settings application and go back to your desktop. Check and confirm that the missing or broken icons are now in a good state.
  • If you notice nothing has changed as regards the issue affecting the icons, then you must restart your computer and then check again.
  • If the same icon problems play out after the recommended system reboot, then you must do this: Go through the same steps above to bring up the Desktop Icon Settings window. This time, you must try the Restore Default button and see what changes result from your action.
  1. Rebuild the icon cache on your computer:

We already established that Windows stores the icons for your documents and programs in an icon cache. This way, your system gets to display them quickly instead of having to load them up slowly every time. There is a good chance the blank cache issue you are struggling with now is down to the icon cache being broken, corrupted, or damaged.

Fortunately, you can instruct Windows to rebuild the icon cache to fix the problems. The operation is relatively easy but time-consuming.

These instructions cover everything you need to do:

  • First, we advise that you save your work and close all the applications currently running on your computer.
  • Conflicts must be avoided for obvious reasons, given the task you are about to perform.
  • Open the File Explorer application. You can click on the app icon on your taskbar or desktop screen.

Alternatively, you can use this keyboard shortcut to perform this program launch task quickly: Windows logo button + letter E key.

  • Check the list close to the left pane area, click on This PC or My Computer. Click on your system or local disk (:C).
  • At this point, you must navigate through these directories:

Users \ <InsertYourUsernameHere> \ AppData \ Local \ Microsoft \ Windows

  • At your current location, you must check for the Explorer folder, right-click on it to see the context menu available, and then choose the Open command window here option.

Your system will bring up a Command Prompt window at that path.

  • Here, you want to execute this code (by typing it first and then hitting Enter to run it): dir iconcache*

Windows is supposed to list the iconcache and thumbcache files once the code gets executed.

You should see files like these: iconcache_32.db, iconcache_48.db, iconcache_96.db, iconcache_256.db, iconcache_1024.db, iconcache_1280.db, iconcache_1600.db, iconcache_1920.db, iconcache_2560.db, iconcache_exif.db, and so on.

  • Now, you must minimize the Command Prompt window and then open the Task Manager program.

You can do a right-click on the taskbar on your desktop to see its context menu or options and then select Task Manager. Alternatively, you can use the Ctrl + Shift + Esc keyboard shortcut to fire up the Task Manager program quickly.

Assuming the Task Manager window is now up, you must go through the items under Apps, locate Windows Explorer, right-click on it to see some options, and then click on End task.

The Explorer and desktop should disappear now.

  • Besides the Command Prompt app (listed as Windows Command Processor), you must terminate all other active applications under the Apps section in the Task Manager program window.

Ideally, you should make sure that no other applications or processes are running (besides the Command Prompt window).

  • Here, you must go back to the Command Prompt window you minimized earlier and then execute the following command: del iconcache*

Windows will now act to delete all the icon cache files. Files with names that begin with iconcache will be removed too (due to the asterisk).

  • Now, you must execute this code to check the list of remaining files: dir iconcache*

If you see one or more iconcache files, then their presence points towards some applications being active on your computer in the background. In that case, you have to launch the Task Manager program again, try to terminate all the applications and processes you find, and then reattempt the cache removal operation on the Command Prompt window by executing the required command.

  • Assuming everything went well, you can leave the Command Prompt app. Try to sign out of Windows and then sign back in – you can use the Ctrl + Alt + Del keyboard shortcut, click on Sign off, and then input your credentials to get back in.

All the out-of-date or broken icons will have been repaired by the time your desktop settles down. The missing icons will have been brought back too.

  1. Create and use a BAT file to fix things:

If you prefer to automate the processes that make up the procedure used to rebuild the icon cache on Windows 10 computers, then you can create a BAT file and run it. If anything, you are less likely to make mistakes when you use this method.

Go through these steps to create the needed BAT file and run it:

  • First, you have to open the Notepad application on your computer.

You can access the Windows Start menu by pressing the Windows logo button on your machine’s keyboard (or you can click on the Windows icon on your device’s screen to do the same thing). There, you must type Notepad into the text box that appears once you begin to type.

Once Notepad (Desktop App) shows up as the main entry on the results list returned, you must click on it to launch the needed application.

  • Assuming you are now in the text field on the Notepad program window, you must fill it with the following code:

taskkill /F /IM explorer.exe

cd /d %userprofile%AppDataLocal

attrib –h IconCache.db

del IconCache.db

start explorer.exe

(You can copy the text from this page and paste it into the field on Notepad.)

  • Click on File (an option close to the top of the Notepad window) and then click on Save as.
  • Fill the field for name with FixForIcons.bat.
  • Click on the Save button. Once the file is ready, you must double-click on it to run it.

You might have to click on the appropriate button to confirm things on a prompt – if one shows up.

  • Once the operation is done, you must restart your computer.
  • After the recommended reboot, you must wait for Windows to settle down and then check the state of the icons on your desktop.
  1. Delete the icon cache file manually:

If you could not do the job through the previous procedure, then you have to try to remove the icon cache file through manual operations. If you manage to get rid of the file, Windows will eventually notice that it is missing and your system will work to recreate the icon cache file, which means the issues affected the old file should go away.

Follow these instructions:

  • First, you have to open the File Explorer window. This keyboard shortcut can help you: Windows logo button + letter E key.
  • Once the program window appears, you must click on the View tab (an option close to the top of the Window) and then click on the box for the Hidden items parameter to select it.
  • Now, you must click This PC or My computer, click on your system or local disk, and then navigate through this path:

Users < InsertYourUsernameHere > AppData / Local

  • Assuming you are now in the Local directory, you must go through the listed items and locate a file with the IconCache name. The file should have the DB extension.
  • Right-click on the file there to see some options and then choose Delete.

You might have to click on the appropriate button on a prompt to confirm things – if any window or dialog box comes up.

  • Go to your desktop and then double-click on the Recycle bin launcher or shortcut there.
  • Once the Recycle bin window comes up, you must go through the recently deleted items and locate the file you just removed. You have to delete that file permanently now.

Ideally, you should remove all the items currently stored in the Recycle Bin by clicking on the Empty Recycle Bin option.

  • Exit the Recycle Bin app, close other applications running on your system, and then restart your computer.
  1. Change the application icons manually (special fix):

In a scenario where only one or a few applications have their icons missing or gone blank, you might be better of changing those app icons manually instead of trying to resolve the problem for all programs. If the previous procedures failed to deliver the needed result, then you can rest knowing that the fix here is unlikely to fail you.

You have to download suitable icons for the applications from the web. Some sites even provide icon packs for a wide variety of applications and files. You must fire up your web browser app and get the images you need online.

Anyway, assuming you have obtained the replacement icons and have them ready, these are the steps you must go through to change an application icon manually:

  • Locate the app shortcut or launcher or icon (especially the one on your desktop), right-click on it to see some options, and then select Properties.

The Properties window for the chosen object or program will be displayed now.

  • Click on the Shortcut tab to go there. Click on the Change icon button.

The Change icon window will be brought up now. There, you should see a couple of icons (default options). Well, if you find an image you like among them, then you can choose it. We do not expect you to do that, though.

  • Click on the Browse button. Once the File Explorer window comes up, you have to navigate through the necessary path to get to the location where the replacement icons (or icon packs) are stored.
  • Choose your preferred icon and then click on the OK button to get it selected.
  • Assuming you are back to the Properties window, you will have to click on the Apply button and then click on the OK button to save the new icon configuration for the app shortcut or launcher. That will be all.

Other things you can try to resolve icon issues on Windows 10

If you came here to learn how to get your icons back on Windows 10 but had no success with the procedures we described in full details above, then you might want to go through this list of additional recommendations, solutions, and workarounds to icon problems in Windows 10:

  1. Update or reinstall the affected applications:

If your desktop is missing the icons for certain applications or a specific group of programs, then you might be able to fix things by installing the latest versions of the affected applications. Perhaps, something broke their icon code or configuration. Their icon troubles might be the result of events you know nothing about.

The installation of newer program versions should bring about enough changes to the application components, and hopefully, some of the alterations will rectify the missing or broken icons issue. If updates to the affected apps are not available, then you have to reinstall the old applications. Remember to perform the reinstallation or update operation for all the programs whose icons went missing or got broken. At the end of it all, you have to restart your computer to see the results of your work.

  1. Run scans using the SFC and DISM utilities in an elevated Command Prompt window:

If the blank icons issue has anything to do with file corruption in Windows, then the operation here is your best bet towards resolving things. You will have to launch a Command Prompt window with administrative rights, execute certain codes to get the System File Checker to run a scan for corrupted files, entries, or packages on your computer. If the System File Checker finds bad files, it will replace them with good or standard copies.

If the scan with the SFC tool goes badly or if it does not live up to expectations, then you can use the DISM tool to repair your Windows image and related installation components and then redo the scan involving the SFC tool. The new attempt should go well. In any case, once you finish performing the required tasks with both tools, you have to restart your computer to round up everything and see what effect the operations have had on your problem.

  1. Uninstall Google Drive:

Some users confirmed that the icons on their desktop went back to their normal state after they removed Google Drive from their computers. If you have Google Drive on your PC, then you might want to get rid of it and then reboot your system to see how things pan out.

  1. Download and install the Window updates available for your computer:

Windows updates sometimes do enough to resolve certain issues through the patches or bug fixes embedded in them. In fact, there is a good chance that your struggles with the blank or missing icon issue in Windows 10 are down entirely to your computer missing certain Windows updates. You will do well to initiate a manual check for Windows updates and then fetch and install everything available for your computer.

TIP:

You need to run certain optimizations and repairs on your computer from time to time to ensure your system keeps running at its optimum level. However, given the number of operations involved and the complexity of the processes, you might find it difficult to do the job on your own. Auslogics BoostSpeed will come in handy here. This program will help you do all the hard work to get your computer functioning as it should.

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