Desktop icons easy to change


September 03, 2001|By James Coates | James Coates,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

I would like to change the icon on a shortcut displayed on my desktop to a more interesting picture. It is a shortcut to an MS-DOS program. I seem to remember in Windows 3.1 that it was very easy to change icons, but I can't find a way in Windows 98. I do find instructions to right-click on the icon and go to Properties and then Change Icon, but I get stopped there.

You are just one step short of cracking the code for changing the icons for shortcuts on the Windows desktop. Naturally the engineers at Microsoft went well out of their way to conceal that last step, but your humble correspondent is delighted to oblige.

Once you get to the Change Icon command that your own detective work uncovered, you need to use the Browse button at the bottom of the display that comes up to find icon data.

You can do it two ways: the easy way or the Microsoft way.

If you want to give a shortcut the same icon as an existing program on the machine, you can use the Browse box to go to the directory where the desired icon's program is located. When you select the file ending in .exe for any program you will find the icon that it uses. Select the icon, and whatever shortcut you are using will adopt that icon.

A far easier source for icons is the master file that Windows uses to store the data: C:




If you type that in the Browse box under Change Icon in Properties, it will give you dozens of icon choices to dress up individual desktop shortcuts.

I have a new Gateway computer with Windows ME and AOL (free for a while). Whenever I try to download a short MPEG movie clip, no matter the source, my system locks up. Sometimes rebooting doesn't work and I have to kill all power to the system. The Windows Media screen comes up, says "connecting," but never does. My connection to AOL is by modem and phone line.

In a sense, you can count yourself among the collateral damage in the nasty war of the info gorillas waging between Microsoft Corp. and AOL Time Warner Inc. over whose software will control the enormously lucrative movies-by-Internet business now in the very early stages.

AOL's software is based on RealPlayer, made by Microsoft's arch foe RealNetworks Inc. Microsoft offers the Windows Media Player that rears its ugly head when you try to view movies while logged on to AOL. Each program has trouble reading files intended for the other one, which often leaves their respective customers in the lurch.

Two strategies probably will help.

First of all, your machine's file associations probably are botched, which would mean that when a file on AOL meant to be read by RealPlayer gets downloaded, the machine tries to display it instead with Windows Media Player, which can't play it. Your best fix is to reinstall the AOL 6.0 software to restore the file associations.

To make this fix work you need to uninstall AOL rather than just install it again, otherwise the botched associations will continue. So click on the desktop My Computer icon and then Control Panel and then Add/Remove Programs. In the window that comes up, pick America Online 6.0 and remove it.

Next, click on Start and then Find Files and Folders and type in Online Services. This will take you to a folder where you will find the installation software to reinstall America Online on that Gateway.

James Coates writes for the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached via e-mail at

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