How to Fix: Blank White Icons on Desktop (Windows 10)

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Infopackets Reader Marcy O. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I just installed Windows 10 October 2018 update (clean install) on my machine. Everything was working fine for a few days until I installed MS Office. Now, I have a bunch of blank white icons on my Windows 10 desktop. I understand that there is an 'icon cache database' in Windows that can go corrupt, which may be the reason why I have these blank white icons on my desktop. I searched Google on how to fix the problem, and a few posts suggested deleting the icon cache databases using the command prompt. I did that, however, the output I'm receiving is 'access denied' when attempting to delete iconcache_16.db, iconcache_256.db, iconcache_32.db, iconcache_48.db, and iconcache.idx. So as far as I can tell, this isn't working and after several reboots I still have blank icons on my desktop. Can you please help! "

My response:

I asked Marcy if she would like me to connect with her using my remote desktop support service in order to have a closer look, and she agreed.

Below I will discuss my findings.

How to Fix: Blank White Icons on Desktop (Windows 10)

First and foremost, the reason why the blank icons appear on the desktop is because the icon cache is corrupted, as Marcy has pointed out. This can be a result of an improper shutdown - for example, powering off the machine or losing power, instead of clicking Start -> Shutdown.

In the case of an improper shutdown you will want to run chkdsk (check disk) on the C drive to ensure the file system is not corrupt, otherwise you may encounter the same issue again.

Marcy also reported "access denied" when attempting to delete some of the icon cache files. The reasoning for this is two-fold. One is that all programs must be closed in order to successfully clear the cache. The second reason for the access denied errors is because the script she was using to clear the cache files did not take into account that the command prompt (which is used to run the script) uses the icon cache files. As such, a "move" command should be used instead of a "del" command in the script, followed by a reboot. I have corrected this with my own script below.

Here are the steps I used to fix the issue:

  1. First, press CTRL +D to bookmark this page as you will be rebooting the machine (possibly a few times) in order to correct the issue.
     
  2. Save your work and close ALL programs, as the script will reboot your machine automatically.
     
  3. Click Start, type in "cmd" (no quotes); wait for "CMD.EXE" or "Command Prompt" to appear in the list, then right click it and select "Run as administrator".
     
  4. Next, highlight the text below:

    @echo off
    ie4uinit.exe -ClearIconCache
    taskkill /IM explorer.exe /F
    del /f "%localappdata%\IconCache_old.db" >nul 2>&1
    move /y "%localappdata%\IconCache.db" "%localappdata%\IconCache_old.db"
    cd "%localappdata%\Microsoft\Windows\Explorer\"
    rmdir /q /s temp
    mkdir temp
    move /y "%localappdata%\Microsoft\Windows\Explorer\iconcache*" temp
    echo "The system will now reboot. SAVE ALL WORK if you have not done so, then press Enter to continue."
    pause
    shutdown /r /t 0
    echo this is a dummy line
     
  5. Right click over the above highlighted text, then select "Copy" from the dialogue menu. Next, go to the middle of the administrative command prompt you opened, then right click in the middle of the window. The text you copied in Step #4 should output to the command line. You will need to press Enter on the keyboard to have the system reboot. Don't forget to bookmark this page (press CTRL+D in the browser) in case you need to come back or the issue isn't resolved.
     
  6. Finally, login to Windows and your icon cache should be rebuilt and the blank white icons on the desktop should be fixed. If it is not, start from Step #1 and repeat. If it still doesn't work after that, you are welcome to contact me for additional help, described next.

Additional 1-on-1 Support: From Dennis

If you are still having issues with blank white icons on the desktop despite having run the script above a few times, I can help using my remote desktop support service. Simply contact me, briefly describing the issue and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Got a Computer Question or Problem? Ask Dennis!

I need more computer questions. If you have a computer question - or even a computer problem that needs fixing - please email me with your question so that I can write more articles like this one. I can't promise I'll respond to all the messages I receive (depending on the volume), but I'll do my best.

About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of Infopackets.com. With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.

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