How to change a pinned app’s shortcut icon on the Taskbar and refresh Explorer icon cache

In Windows 7, Microsoft redesigned the Taskbar and introduced the concept of pinning shortcuts, which were earlier stored in the Quick Launch. However, once you pin a shortcut changing the icon of the pinned shortcut isn't so easy because of a bug in Windows. Let's see how to change it.

Changing the icon of a shortcut on the Desktop, or any shortcut which is located in a folder is an easy and standard task since Windows 95. You can just right click the shortcut -> Properties and click the "Change icon" button on the Shortcut tab.

However, for icons pinned to the new Taskbar in Windows 8 and Windows 7, the icon change isn't reflected immediately because the shell image list (icon cache) that Windows maintains does not get immediately updated when you click OK or Apply in the Properties window. This is an annoying bug.

After you change the icon, you need to force the Explorer shell to refresh its icon cache correctly. We will use a third party tool specially designed to refresh the shell icon cache for this.

  1. Download Winaero Tweaker.
  2. Run it and go to Tools\Reset Icon Cache:
  3. Now every time you want to refresh the icon cache, click the button "Reset Icon Cache".

That's it. This works without even restarting the Explorer shell.

  1. Hold down Shift and then right click on any pinned Taskbar shortcut to show the regular context menu of Explorer instead of the jumplist.
  2. Click Properties in the menu. The Properties will open with the Shortcut tab active.
  3. Click the Change Icon button and pick the icon of your choice.
  4. Even if you click OK or Apply, and close the Properties window, the icon change won't be reflected in the Taskbar.
  5. Now run Winaero Tweaker and reset the icon cache. The new icon will show in the Taskbar.

In fact, this tool to build the icon cache is useful not only in the above scenario but also when Windows displays incorrect icons for file types and sometimes fails to refresh them. Although your icon cache may also be damaged in which case refreshing the system image list won't work and you should try the steps in another article to completely rebuild the cache, most of the times refreshing the icon cache using this tool will work.

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