Change icon greyed out

Change icon greyed out

The issue with the change icon greyed out, related to icons not displaying correctly, can be solved by simply clearing and regenerating the shell icon cache.

Some users using Windows Vista or Windows 7 experience a strange behavior such as that their icons, especially MS Word and MS Excel icons, malfunction and do not display correctly. When they go to shortcut properties to change the icon, the change icon button is greyed out.

Change icon

Upon starting Windows, a number of icons on user's desktop, especially the Microsoft Word and Excel icons change in appearance to a white square with a thin band of blue along the top. The icon looks like a small MS flag. The same behavior is experienced in file directories containing MS Word documents.

The following picture shows the behavior of the icon on the Windows task bar.

Change icon greyed out

However all the shortcuts work fine. When you click the icon, the application opens up correctly.

Change icon greyed out

The following picture demonstrates the issue with the change icon button being greyed out. When you select the Excel or Word shortcut properties, the "Change Icon" button is greyed out.

Windows 7 change icon greyed out

The "Open File Location" icon is greyed out as well.

How to fix the change icon greyed out issue


Many people get this issue resolved by just rebooting their computer.

Delete and regenerate shell icon cache (SchellIconCache)

If rebooting the system does not solve the problem, the issue with the change icon greyed out can be fixed by deleting and regenerating the shell icon cache in the Windows system directory. The cache will recreate upon system reboot and icons should display correctly.

If using Windows XP, each user has his own shell icon cache file that is called Iconcache.db

C:\Documents and Settings\[User Name]\Local Settings\Application Data\Iconcache.db

If using Vista or 7 each user has their own file that is called Iconcache.db.


Older Windows have the shell icon cache located in a file named SchellIconCache in the Windows directory.

Locate the shell icon cache file and delete the file.

Note, the shell icon cache file is a hidden file, so the "Show hidden files, folders, drives" feature in the Windows Explorer needs to be enabled.

Recreate shortcut icon

The change icon greyed out problem often appears because the shortcut looses its link to the source file. In other words, the MS Word link is still linked to the WINWORD.EXE file but looses some information. When this happens the shortcut displays generic icon and the change icon button in shortcut properties is greyed out. This can be fixed by completely recreating the shortcut.

Locate the underlying file in the Program Files Microsoft Office folder:

MS Word -- WINWORD.exe
MS Excel -- EXCEL.exe
MS Access -- MSACCESS.exe
MS Outlook -- OUTLOOK.exe
MS PowerPoint -- POWERPNT.exe

Right click the file and select Create Shortcut, place the shortcut on the desktop. The icon should be restored.

Increase shell icon cache size

The change icon greyed out issue can be solved by increasing the size of the icon cache by modifying the following registry value

Max Cached Icons = "2048" (Range = "100"-"4096", Default = "512")

Change icon size

Another way to fix change icon greyed out is to recreate the icon cache by changing the icon size. In Windows 7:

Control Panel
  -> All Control Panel Items
    -> Personalization
      -> Window Color and Appearance
        -> Select Icon
          -> Increase icon Size
            -> OK

After rebooting the computer, the shell icon cache should be regenerated, and icons should display correctly. The change icon greyed out issue is fixed.

More greyed out tips & tricks

See here for more interesting tricks:



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