This article shows how to delete or clear icon cache in Windows 10 and 11 in case it is broken or corrupted due to any reason.
Almost all applications and files have their own icons. Windows dynamically builds the icon cache as needed to make it easy to show them. i.e., it scans the icons and stores them in a cache database folder. The next time you visit the same folder or application, Windows can show the icons from the cache. Showing icons from the cache is much faster than dynamically generating them.
However, if the icon cache files are corrupted, Windows might not be able to display the icons correctly or show a black background behind the icon. The good thing is that you can clear the icon cache and force Windows to rebuild it with a few simple clicks.
So, without further ado, let me show you how to delete or clear icon cache in Windows 10 and 11 operating systems.
Table of contents:
- What is icon cache in Windows?
- Why should I clear the icon cache?
- How to clear icon cache in Windows
- Difference between icon and thumbnail cache
- Icon cache FAQ
What is icon cache in Windows?
The icon cache is a set of database files in Windows that stores copies of the icons that are used by the operating system and individual apps.
It allows Windows to quickly access and display the icons when they are needed without having to retrieve them from the original location each time.
The icon cache can help improve the performance of the operating system and the responsiveness of the user interface by allowing icons to be displayed more quickly.
Why should I clear the icon cache?
Here are a few reasons why you might want to clear the icon cache in Windows:
- Fixing corrupted or missing icons: If the icon cache becomes corrupted or contains outdated information, it can cause icons to appear incorrect or to be missing entirely. Clearing the icon cache can help fix these issues and restore the correct icons to their proper locations.
- Updating the appearance of icons: If you have changed the appearance of an icon, such as by using a custom icon pack, clearing the icon cache can ensure that the updated icon is used instead of the old version stored in the cache.
- Improving system performance: Over time, the icon cache can become large and use up a significant amount of disk space. Clearing the icon cache can free up this disk space and improve system performance by reducing the amount of data that needs to be accessed and stored by the system.
- Troubleshooting icon-related problems: If you are experiencing issues with icons on your system, such as icons not appearing correctly or not working as expected, clearing the icon cache can sometimes help resolve these issues. This can be a useful troubleshooting step if other solutions have not worked.
Overall, clearing the icon cache in Windows can help fix corrupted or missing icons, update the appearance of icons, improve system performance, and troubleshoot icon-related problems.
The steps below work the same in Windows 10 and 11.
How to clear icon cache in Windows
To clear the icon cache, you must delete a few files in the hidden AppData folder.
However, there is a catch. Since the system actively uses icon cache files, we cannot delete them using File Explorer. So, we must use the Command Prompt. Sound not so easy, but it is straightforward. Let me show you how.
- Open the Start menu.
- Search and open “Command Prompt” as admin.
- Run the below command to go to the “Explorer” folder.
- End the explorer.exe process with the below command.
taskkill /f /im explorer.exe
- Run the below command to clear the icon cache in Windows.
- Restart the explorer.exe process.
- Close the Command Prompt window.
- Reboot Windows.
Steps with more details:
First, open the start menu, search for “Command Prompt,” and click the “Run as Administrator” option. You can also select the same option by right-clicking on the Command Prompt result. It will open Command Prompt with admin rights.
Windows 11 users can open Command Prompt in the Terminal window. Don’t forget to open Terminal as an admin.
In the Command Prompt window, use the below command to go to the Explorer folder inside the hidden AppData folder. This is where the icon cache files are stored.
Related: Wondering what’s the
%LocalAppData% string in the above command? It’s an environment variable for the hidden Local App Data folder. Here’s a list of useful Windows environment variables.
Before clearing the icon cache, we need to kill the File Explorer process. To do that, run the below command. Don’t worry when your screen goes blank, or the taskbar disappears. It’s completely normal.
taskkill /f /im explorer.exe
Now, execute the below command to delete the icon cache in Windows. The command will only delete the icon cache files. Once deleted, you will not see any message as long as there is no error.
Finally, restart explorer using the below command.
Once that is done, the screen turns normal, and the taskbar reappears. Close the Command Prompt window and reboot the computer. After restarting, Windows automatically rebuilds the icon cache.
With that, you’ve successfully cleared the icon cache in Windows 10 and 11.
Difference between icon and thumbnail cache
Here are a few differences between the icon cache and thumbnail cache:
- The icon cache is used to store icons for folders and files, while the thumbnail cache is used to store small versions of images.
- The icon cache is used to display icons in the user interface, while the thumbnail cache is used to display thumbnail previews of images.
- The icon cache is typically smaller in size than the thumbnail cache, as it only stores icons and not full-sized images.
- The icon cache is typically updated more frequently than the thumbnail cache, as the icons for folders and files can change more frequently than the images in a folder.
Icon cache FAQ
The icon cache is a set of database files that Windows uses to store icons for faster access. It helps Windows to quickly display the icons for various files and folders on your computer without having to load them from the original source each time.
If the icon cache is corrupted, out-of-date, or too large, deleting it will fix the issue. After clearing, Windows automatically rebuilds the icon cache.
Yes, you can clear the icon cache using Command Prompt. You can find the step-by-step instruction on how to delete the icon cache above.
Deleting the icon cache should not cause any problems or data loss on your computer. The icon cache is a temporary file that Windows uses to store icons for faster access. It can be safely deleted without affecting your personal files or the functioning of your computer.
No, you cannot prevent the icon cache from being rebuilt after you delete it. When you restart your computer after deleting the icon cache, Windows will automatically create a new icon cache file to store icons for faster access.
Yes, you can disable the icon cache in Windows. For that, you have to create a new registry value called “Max Cached Icons” and set it to “0.” However, keep in mind that disabling the icon cache may cause icons to load more slowly on your computer, so use this option with caution.
That is all. It is that simple to clear the icon cache in Windows 10 and 11. As I said before, you don’t have to rebuild the cache manually. Windows will dynamically generate the icon cache.
I hope this simple and easy Windows how-to guide helped you.
If you are stuck or need help, send an email, and I will try to help as much as possible.
If you like this article, check out how to remove the arrow overlay icon from shortcut icons and how to clear recent files from File Explorer.