Mac OS X custom icons: any issues?

Hi everyone, I’m back! I recently found, sort of by accident, a way to fix the custom logo issue in Mac OS X Leopard.

You know, you have a folder, a flash drive or hard drive, and you just want to add a cool custom icon to it instead of having the default one. With Mac OS X it is pretty simple to change it, contrary to MS Windows, in which you will need to run a little program – very simple in fact, but Apple makes it even simpler.

I looked several times for a solution to this bug, which even Apple has not bothered solving on their support page. So many people have worked a way around by using specific icon conversion apps. But the real issue for me was not the custom file, but rather the fact that it should have worked and did not.

How to customize Mac OS X icons

For those among you who have never customized an icon in Mac OS, here is the way to do it:

First, you need an icon file: “.ico”, “.icn”, “icns”… You either find it on the web, take it from another file or make it yourself from a picture – use ConvertIcon! or another converter. You can also use compatible image files, though, such as “.png” etc.

Then, go to the folder, flash drive or hard drive you want to customize. Open its information window – “ctrl” + “i” or second click + “Get Info”.

Do exactly the same with the icon file. You now have two info windows:

So now, on the icon’s info window, select the icon preview up left, it will highlight blue. You will have to copy it – “cmd” + “C”.

Now select the preview icon on the other info window – the one you want to customize – and paste the custom icon on it – “cmd” + “V”.

As simple as that. Note that in order to change an icon that has already been customized, it is better to first erase the old custom icon by selecting it on the info window and “backspace”.

How to solve Mac OS X custom icon issues

Sometimes the icon will not stick, some other times an older custom icon will appear… In any case, here is how to solve this problem.

First, make sure you delete older custom icons before putting a new one, this may prevent any bug. You may also try ejecting your drive and plug it in again later, this works often when older custom icons appear instead of the new one you wanted to put – some icon customizations do not take effect immediately, God knows why…

Now, you need to check that the icon is suitable for what you want to do with it, so check the file format – icons are sometimes already embedded into a folder, which makes them perfectly compatible. Again, you may use some image formats such as “.png” or even “.jpg”.

The real problem comes when your icons does this: you open the custom icon info window – “cmd” + “i” – but the upper left preview of the icon shows nothing more than its file type: “ico”, “icns”…

So when you will copy this icon preview, you will not get the proper custom icon, but this file-type icon.

Ok, do not panic. What you need to do now is open the icon file with OS X app Preview. Now you either copy the icon right from the sidebar – there will be several of the same, just pick the first one:

or select the picture displayed – “cmd” + “A” – and copy it the same way.

Then paste it in the info window of your icon file:

This should get rid of the file-type preview icon and replace it with the right one, so the icon preview actually matches the icon file:

Now your icon is good to go, you can use it as many times as you want, copying the upper left preview from the info window into the other info windows of folder or drives you may want to customize. Of course, you can paste the Preview copied icon directly on any folder info window, but this will force you to go back through all this process again whenever you will want to use that icon again.

That’s it, I hope I was clear enough, in any case, do not hesitate to comment or contact me if you need further advice!

Convert icons on ConvertIcon!
Create icons with Mac OS X Utility:
Other troubleshooters using different icon apps:

Thanks to Design’o’Mat (@) for the cool icons!

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8 Responses to Mac OS X custom icons: any issues?

  1. designobot says:

    Man, cambia el crédito a Design’o’Mat va?

  2. erynne says:

    OMG Thank you! I kept getting the ICNS image for my icon instead of the real thing and it was driving me nuts!

    • Yvan says:

      You’re welcome, my pleasure! I know some parameters have changed since I wrote this article, but I’m glad to see it still is up to date and helpful 🙂

  3. Valesca says:

    I still get the IC icon, even after copying it from preview, any other troubleshoothing tip?

    • Yvan says:

      Hi! I’m sorry to hear that… I know there are some ways of resetting Finder icons, that may help with this. Otherwise you can try a combination of all of the above (i.e. ejecting and replugging external drive if applicable, restarting computer, going through the Preview process). You can also try resetting the Finder like this:
      – open the Terminal app (Applications > Utilities > Terminal)
      – Type “killall Finder” (capital “F” in Finder)
      – Hit Enter

      I hope this helps!

  4. Thanks! I just hit this problem, and appreciate your fix 🙂

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