[xplorer˛] — Customize drive icons
home » blog » 17 August 2008

xplorer˛ has a special toolbar (View > Toolbars > Drivebar menu command) that lists all the top level drives accessible from your computer. Each device is assigned a letter, e.g. C:\ for your hard disk, D:\ for your DVD etc. When you map network drives and attach digital cameras and external USB sticks, this list can get quite long and it's not easy to tell the drives apart. If you hover the mouse pointer over a drive letter the drivebar will show its full device name on the statusbar but that's awkward and slow.

A quicker and more pleasing way to recognize your drives is to assign them distinct icons, which will show in the drivebar so you'll know where to click. But how do you change drive icons in windows XP or vista? For normal folders you can use Customize tab in the standard folder properties dialog to change the icon. For top level drives like C:\ there is no equivalent easy option, but there are workarounds.

When a drive has a fixed letter (same after each reboot) you can use a registry hack to change its icon. Open regedit and create a registry key HKCR\Applications\explorer.exe\Drives\E\DefaultIcon — substitute E for whatever drive letter you want to change. For its default value enter a fully qualified path to an icon file you like like D:\umeca74\res\cabinet.ICO. When you reboot the new drive icon will show.

Where do you find such ICO (icon) files you like? You can create one yourself using various free icon editors. Or you can nick one from a friend or relative. Or you can get one from a resource DLL; a specification like %SystemRoot%\system32\SHELL32.dll,17 would extract icon 17 from SHELL32.DLL which has loads of icons. (you can see such contents using xplorer˛ toolbar customization tool)

For removable USB sticks this method isn't very handy. As you attach them to different computers, chances are that they will be assigned a different drive letter each time. The solution is to carry your favorite icon file in your USB stick. Let's call it test.ico and place it in the root folder of your stick. In the same folder create a plain text file called autorun.inf (you may have one already), where you add the following lines using a text editor like notepad:


Each time you attach this drive, windows will read the custom test.ICO we supplied and use it as the icon for the removable drive. For even more icon customization options see this extended article, where you'll find some programs that will help you customize your drive icons.

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