Windows and the Case of the Unexpectedly Incorrect Desktop Icon

Tonight I moved my installation of Eclipse to another folder. I made sure to update the registry accordingly… this is where NirSoft’s free RegScanner utility came in handy: it’s something like Agent Ransack (another awesome free utility) for registries. I found all the instances of the old path, exported the .reg file, updated it, then imported it. It worked, and saved lots of tedium hunting through the registry manually for the same things.

Then, in the course of updating things I updated the software for my OWON oscilloscope. Up to this point everything worked fine, but when I put the ‘scopes icon on the desktop it was the Eclipse icon, not the one that is very clearly the one for the scope.

This bugged me, having dealt with the occasional desktop icon problem before. I figured my moving Eclipse did the deed, and I was determined to fix it. I did everything: re-selected the icon in its executable, changed it to some other apps’ icon, cleared the icon cache db and rebooted (several times)… nothing changed the fact that on the desktop this icon was for Eclipse and was nothing like the icons I was selecting. Put the shortcut anywhere else and the icon looked right, but not on the desktop.





At this point (actually, right from the outset on some forums) the drumbeat sound of the modern day version of “reinstall the OS” begins to echo across my search results: roll back with System Restore… roll back with System Restore! Nope… no thanks! I didn’t come this far to trash everything else I’ve done today for the sake of a stubborn icon!

(Side-note: The MVP punter’s friends, “Run System Restore”, along with the other answers of “redirect the question to the third-party software maker” and “drown the question in data requests” seem ubiquitous when it comes to semi-official channels for Windows “support”. They’re right up there with “Go away kid – you bother me!” when it comes to help. Fortunately there are far better forums out there that think outside the “it can’t be Windows – it must be something you did!” box. Unfortunately some MVP ranks appear to come free with a box of Cracker Jacks.)

Looking deeper, I noticed a peculiar “.eclipseproduct” file in the OWON folder. That made me wonder if a) this app was made with Eclipse and b) the icons I was seeing weren’t all the icons in the executable (logically, one might be an Eclipse icon for some reason, perhaps a default placeholder!) I grabbed BeCyIconGrabber (another handy and free utility) to see exactly what icons were in the exe… and the true nature of the “problem” was revealed:


Well, isn’t that special! An executable can contain numerous icons, but they are usually identical except for sizing. In this case, the 256×256 icon was defaulted to Eclipse’s (which appears to be the IDE used to develop the app).

Short of injecting a “corrected” icon into the .exe (not worth my time) it appears you would have to find a file with a valid 256×256 icon and use it for your icon source instead – or just live with the unexpected but now understandable icon, safe in the knowledge that it was neither Windows’ nor your own fault that this icon was stubbornly strange.

Funny how much better life is when you find the root cause, rather than hitting the system with the MVP’s flamethrower (bka System Restore), which would have solved exactly nothing here while adding a ton of work to re-do all the other work since that restore point was created!

And you can bet that if that didn’t work, “nuke it from orbit” (bka re-install Windows) would come next… what a great away to drive people to other OSes, even though Windows 7 is one of the most stable and robust versions of Windows out there. I’ve yet to encounter a non-virus problem in Windows that actually required doing a restore, let alone a re-install .. which has to count for something versus wearing a puffed-up acronym, parroting a troubleshooting script and racking up some sort of “points” for ineptitude in the process. (I’ve almost never found a useful answer on MS TechNet. At least on StackExchange answers are vetted by the community and points tend to mean something, while SevenForums tends to have pretty solid answers when it comes to Windows.)

tl;dr – If a particular desktop icon is stubbornly strange, particularly for a third-party app, it might be because its actually strange in the source file. If someone suggests system restore or re-installing Windows for a seemingly simple issue… look elsewhere for answers first.

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