How to get rid of app shortcut arrows on the Windows 10 desktop

We all have pet peeves. Some are rational, others may appear irrational to others. I am not sure where this registry trick falls into, but shortcut arrows on the desktop drive me crazy. There is just something about making an otherwise nice desktop icon busier with those arrow overlays.

This easy step by step guide shows you how to get rid of them!

What arrows?

In case you do not know what I am referring to let me explain. Since the days of Windows 95 whenever you placed a shortcut on the desktop for app or document, an arrow is placed on the lower corner of the icon. I get why it is there, at least for documents (you do not want to delete the original), but I think it makes less sense for apps. We just do not install apps to the desktop, so I am unsure why I need to be reminded "hey, this is a shortcut, not the real app".

Also since the days of Windows 95 there have been third-party apps to get rid of these arrows. Windows 10 is no different. Due to security reasons, we are not posting or linking some home-made .exe files that people have created to automate this task. There are some apps likes AVG PC TuneUp 2015 (opens in new tab), which I really like, that can do this and other things, in case you are interested.

Instead, we are going to show you how to do it the nitty gritty way through the registry. Truth be told, it is super simple and should take no more than 5 minutes.

Still, you are touching the registry so make sure you have backed up your PC just in case if you feel uncomfortable.

How to remove shortcut arrows in Windows 10

1. Open up regedit

(1) Type in regedit into the Cortana/search box and (2) select regedit at the top

2. Answer yes

When prompted Do you want to allow this app to make changes to your PC? Choose Yes

3. Navigate

Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer

4. Create Key

Right click on \Explorer and using the dialog menu choose New > Key and name it Shell Icons. Press Enter.

5. Create String Value

In the right pane of Shell Icons, right click on an empty area, and click/tap on New and String Value. Name it 29.

6. Modify String Value

Double click/tap on the 29 String Value to modify it. You should see a blank box called Value data.

7. Define String Value

In the Value data box enter (or copy and paste): %windir%\System32\shell32.dll,-50 and hit OK when done.

8. Restart

You can now either reboot the computer or log off and on back again to complete the changes.

Afterwards, you should have a nice, clean desktop with no arrow shortcuts. Of course, you could go more advanced and define your own shortcut arrows or even change your system icons, but that is for another day.

For now, if you want a purer desktop with less clutter, just take the five minutes and make this registry change!

For more resources, don't forget to check our Windows 10 help, tips, and tricks page. Or if you have any questions, you can always count on our Windows 10 Forums at Windows Central for more help.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • This is an irrational one to me. But hey that's why options are a good thing right
  • Yet for me, it's my biggest nuisance. I hate those arrows.
  • Seriously I hate those arrows too no idea why :P
  • My number one complaint is that certain apps pinned to the taskbar clone themselves when you open them. File it for instance and skype right now. Also can't quit skype from the task bar.
  • To hide Skype from the TaskBar, you have to go under Tools->Settings->Advanced. And uncheck "Keep Skype on the taskbar While i'm connected".. One thing you have to know is that the names of options may differ, I'm using Skype in Spanish so I translated them to english.. So names on options may differ..  
  • Certainly one of my annoyances as well. It has consistently been one of the first things I would change on an XP (or newer) installation. The location / process for changing this in the registry has not changed since XP either. Too bad MS dosen't have a current version of the MS Powertoy Tweak UI for W10 to expidite this process. This process could also be used to create a custom icon overlay graphic.
  • It should be in the setting like toggle button
  • Icons on the desktop are like putting your cloths in the living room. I am so glad we have a start menu so i can pin my apps, they are so much better to look at. I never understand why people put icons, not to mention folders on their desktop, it makes it so ugly and chacka chacka ( untidy ). i was so happy when w8 came out with the start menu. Never the less removing those arrows really makes the icons look better but not like the start menu.
  • Because in of itself the desktop is a top-level folder
  • The desk top to me is like my living room, where I keep my self entertained. The desktop is where I open and used my apps not for pining icons. Also the wallpaper looks so good without all the junc I see some people put on there. Not even my recycle bin I have on my desktop. The start menu does it all. No wonder why some people have alot of duplicates and fragmented files caused by dumping every thing on their desktop. So untidy :(
  • Lol at chacka chacka. I'm guessing you're Jamaican?
  • Lol :-) takes one to know one right?
  • I hate icons and since Windows 7 I have removed every icon from the screen. In fact, rows of icons just reminds me of iPhones and iPads now.
    Live Tiles look so much better and tidier than icons and of course are informative.
    And with Hey Cortana on my SP3 I can find anything I want with a quick request.
    Each to their own, choices are the key here and W10 is abundant in choices :)
  • What other visual cue does it have to tell you it's a shortcut?
  • Well...since YOU are the one creating the shortcuts, one would expect that YOU know they are such. The arrows are the for unwashed masses. ;)
  • I absolutely hate those pesky little arrows. It's like spilling wine on a very nice collared shirt.
  • I always hated them, never thought there was something I could do about them. This is awesome!
  • FYI, you'll have to restart the computer after making the change, as this setting is in the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE registry hive.
  • There's that app WinAero shortcut editor that does the same
  • As I mentioned, there are plenty of apps that do this. However, I think it behooves people to learn what they can do on their own. Seems silly to me to install an app for something that takes < 5 minutes and for which you will likely never use again. But hey, it works for some people.
  • Didn't read the article properly! A lot of homework to do! 10min to 12am here I'm gonna get killed by the English teacher tomorrow :P
  • Wish me luck anyone... I'm leaving my work incomplete!
  • Pssh. I always do that. Sit in the library in the mornings before school finishing off any work
  • Yeah we've come along way I remember having to use login studio to skin vista whereas 7 had the option to do that
  • Hi Daniel, Thanks for amazing tip it was working great but right after 8 hour now my shortcut icon are invisible. Please help and I will be waiting for your kind reply. Thanks!!!
  • the same here.
  • Same thing happened to me. It was ok after the first or second restart, but then i just got black squares on all shortcuts in the desktop. I can't post a picture here... Any solution to that?
  • I have this problem too. Please can anybody advice on how to fix this
  • To remove BlackBox squares from icons. i did this. Go back to the shell icons 29 that you just made. Double click to bring up value data. DELETE VALUE DATA! Just leave that box empty. Okay. Restart. No boxes, no arrows. Just clean icons!
  • Wow you can do anything to Windows through the registry.
  • and that's not always a good thing, it's very dangerous to mess with the registry, I only do it for important things, and this arrows thing is not one of them, if there isn't an option in the settings, then I consider it's not meant to be. what this article teaches is a shameless hack.
  • Lol, get wreckt
  • If you want a dumb-system all locked down, go to OSX. Windows has always been about the freedom to mess with whatever your heart desires. If Microsoft didn't want people to be able to do these things, they wouldn't make registry so easily accessible. It is, therefore, NOT a hack. A hack implies that you broke some defence/barrier that was preventing you from doing something. This doesn't break anything. Just changes a behaviour.
  • Incorrect. A hack is way around the intended process of the program. This action does not necessarily involve security. A good example is the afoementioned registry procedure. A crack is meant to bypass security. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • ok, I agree it's nice to have the freedom to tweak the system as you desire, and I did a lot of it back in the 98/XP, but since the smartphone boom most new users are too "user" to do this safely. It's an age where options are being removed for the sake of simplicity, and that is bad in my view. By having to change the registry just to make some cosmetic changes to the OS, I feel that Microsoft don't want people to be able to do that, even though they are not explicitly denying the possibility.
  • Apologies, folks, for the joke. Clearly it was perceived as mean, even though it was more a jab at humor.
  • Make sure you watch what you say. Everything can be taken wrongly if it's through text. But it sure didn't sound like a joke...
  • no hard feelings, I know I can be harsh sometimes, I was just emphasising (maybe too much) how I think this kind of cosmetic changes, like the settings' dark theme, shouldn't need an registry editing.
  • I always here that it's dangerous I believe it but I also think you should learn how to use it. Clear instructions are presented in this article so I don't think the danger is that great, as long as you are able to follow instructions. Guns are dangerous but you can learn to use them so you don't shoot yourself or someone by accident. I always knew you could edit things in the registry and have done so many times before. I've never killed a PC that way, even when first starting out. I just never knew you could change something so miniscule as the arrow on an icon. It's like the registry has no limit to it's reach throughout the OS.
  • the registry is like a huge list where the OS stores all it's constants' values, so if you change anything the system will assume that new value as true and trust it, even if it ends up being rubbish, so you can do a good mess if you want.
  • Yeah I can agree. But was one of the best ways to force my dad to let me clean install 7(his previous install was full of registry problems he created trying to move software to other drives , not uninstalling properly) for the w10 upgrade
  • Don't need to log out. Just Task manager and restart exploler.exe
  • All MS needs to do is allow pinning small livetiles (at the minimum) to the desktop and we can get rid off all of these hotchpotch, ancient app icons and shortcuts altogether.
  • That will be nice... I also thought that.. And this will please Windows 7 gadgets lovers a bit.
  • Drag Modern apps from the app list to the desktop for a surprise. You can do this.
  • What does it do? Create a live tile or just an icon? [don't have W10 yet]
  • They had this... It's called windows 8.
  • That 'Yuck' picture is funny :D
  • A lot of effort for somehing I see only 3-4 times a month for a minute or two, I can't even remember the last time I actually clicked a desktop icon.
  • Define "a lot of effort". This literally takes a few minutes. I just explained it in detail for those new to the registry. I think doing a system backup is more effort.
  • Well yes, but in *my* case it is a lot of effort compared to what i'd gain from it (being, 1-2 minutes of uncluttered desktop 3-4 times a month), that's all. Someone who sees his desktop regularly and hates the little arrows would obviously be making a different calculation. I'm actually a little surprised that people still seem to be using those icons so much, with pinned apps on the taskbar and the recently used lists from office etc, I simply never need those icons.
  • Daniel, Everything worked just fine but after a second shut down it just shows a blank black space instead. I only have skype on my desktop so i uninstalled it and then reinstalled it and it worked but then when i shut down and restart the black blank space returns. Any idea what i can do. Or how do i go back to just having the arrow.   thx
  • This stumped me for a while, go to step 4 and simply delete the 29 file leaving the default one. Back to arrows though, i'm gonna try a third party program like they mention at the beginning that way it's just an uninstall, i hope, job if theres a problem rather than wondering how to go back and fix what I didn't undersand in the first place as i just followed instructions lol. Oh, and restart for the change to take effect. Peace :)
  • Aaaaaaaaand completely ignore that, won't let me delete the comment. Wish i hadn't done it because someone below said to just remove the 29 value, that way you don't have to go back to arrows. Peace :)
  • A lot of effort is pulling a tree stump out of the ground without the use of any tools.
  • Hey this is a nice tip, I don't have problem with those arrows actually but it's kinda neat to see shortcuts without them, thanks Dan!
  • Only windows 10??
  • No, works on any version of Windows. Windows 10 is just the most obvious version to demo on and for.
  • and is everything ok on your side? no black square after rebooting? when you make the icons bigger or smaller, is everything perfectly fine?
  • Mine said something about 'Access violation reading memory address 0xF433D785. Your license key has been corrupted'. #JustSaying
  • OK, not really :-)
  • I got a big ugly black square now too. Didnt at 1st but after a couple automatic restarts its there now. Looking for a way to fix it. Or at least put the damn arrow back into the icon  
  • The All Apps list looks messy with folders for programs. An example, iTunes. Is there a way to just link the iTunes icon rather than the folder?
  • Right click program, select open file location, copy shortcut, paste it one up to start menu, delete previous folder
  • Go one step further and don't have desktop icons at all!  They can be completley hidden from the desktop's context menu.   The desktop is for housing running applications. 
  • omg thank you , really needed this . Now ,perfect and clean my pc desktop 
  • I was perfectly fine with those shortcut arrows until I read this article.  Now they're an eyesore thanks to you Daniel hahaha.  90% of the icons on my desktop are shortcut icons, and now I want to get rid of those arrows.  Time to use this technique to remedy that!
  • I am irritated since I started using PC (Win 98) for these arrows... Many many thanks for the article
  • I never even die noticed these arrows until this article... I hope its not like death pixels ones you notice them its Impossible not to see them ;-) and they bug you to death!
  • If you really want a clean desktop, just hide the icons! Right click on the Desktop, Choose View then uncheck Show desktop icons. If you need the Recycle Bin, you can always pin it to the start menu.
  • Now I have a black box in place of arrows. What now?
  • Oops! Me too...
  • I had that initally and then it turned transparent, incuding part of the icon.  Now it looks like some robot took a square bite out of my icon :/ My icon sizes are larger if that makes any differences
  • Hi, yes it makes the difference. I had larger icons too and had same problem, a bite square on icon :D You need to scale up or d​own the icons on the desktop with CTRL + mouse wheel up or down. Please update the article with this information!    
  • Thanks for that!!
  • Actually this didn't work CTRL+mouse wheel worked at first but after reboot the black squares returned and after doing the same, it just changed the size of the black squares.
  • if you get the black box of death, just go back to registry and leave the value data blank of the string. you don't need the shell32.dll line thing, it's not necessary, only create and name it 29 seems to be fine and enough and better to remove the arrows. because leaving it blank removes it completely, not just replaces it with a transparecy icon that seems to get crappy black square after some time.
  • Thank you!
  • Did it work? I want to make my icons bigger but not sure if I should do this thing..
  • thanks, I had the stupid black box after little bit and using your advice its gone! Life is good again
  • Hi Emi, I have tried what you advise, however it just makes the wwhole icon disapear. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks
  • This works! Thank you. OP should revise his post so that people stop running into this problem. I'm glad I thought to go back and check the comments... Should've checked before messing with my registry. No harm done though everything is perfect now.
  • I don't have anything on my desktop except the recycle bin. First of all it was because of those annoying little shortcut arrows, now it just looks messy with anything on it. Could you also do a tutorial on rearranging/reorganising the All Apps in the start menu. :)
  • Took two minutes, tops.  Thanks for the tip, Daniel.  Now, if they could just fix that annoying "Unspecified Error" in Explorer.exe - I'd be extremely happy!  :-)
  • Last time when i changed the registry for dark theme, Apps were not accepting data from hard drives*.so i wont change it this time again and there is no defaults for registry as well. i had to clean install windws 8, now i am using windows 8.  * like for example groove Music or VLC fom store wont play any song and in error i clearly stated something wrong with registry.  This "how to" is not a PRO stuff but without stating BACKUP warning you show that you arent any pro either. 
  • Didn't you read the article? He clearly says "make sure you have backed up your PC"
  • i'm sure he must have received complaints thats why this time it is there now. 
  • We had no complaints, actually. First I'm hearing of that issue. Having said that, yeah, on all types of these articles we should have a warning.
  • All the fear of the registry seems kind of funny. Back in the old days that's how you set just about everything. Most apps that rely on the registry are designed to ignore bad values or use defaults.
  • That's a cool trick, although I'm not sure what the point of the desktop icons are when you can pin apps to start, taskbar, or search for them by name without having to minimize all your windows. It feels like storing stuff you use a lot under your bed instead of on your desk or shelf or cabinet.
  • It's mostly just a legacy from the days when Windows had a useful desktop metaphor, where real-world objects represented computer functions.
  • ya those little arrows are my main reason why i don't put any app on desktop i don't like them i keep everything in startscreen
  • That's what I do too, but this is a nice tutorial.
  • To much effort for something so trivial.
  • Depends. Like I said, everyone has their thing that bugs them. Honestly, it's not any work either, I just put a lot of detail so no one makes a mistake ;)
  • Cool trick. Needed something a while back while I was still on Windows 7. Had shortcuts everywhere (in an organized way, mind you). Now I'm on Windows 10 and the only things I have on the desktop is the Recycle Bin and GodMode. Neither have arrows! Definitely keeping this in mind just in case...  
  • "We just do not install apps to the desktop, so I am unsure why I need to be reminded 'hey, this is a shortcut, not the real app'". I'd say it's because most users probably don't understand that. They'd see that Google Chrome shortcut on your desktop and think they've uninstalled it by dragging it in the Recycle Bin (which is what everyone should do with their Chrome shortcuts).
  • yeah, I agree, although that just means that Microsoft should re-think about how they represent apps and deletion. At least you can now uninstall from the new Start Menu directly.
  • That's why Windows actually warns you that simply deleting a shortcut won't delete the program. It's a small detail, but a very thoughtful one.
  • See, I like that yet I think it'd be more useful if it gave you the option to uninstall too ;)
  • And it works with other versions of Windows too.  I just did this on Windows server 2008 R2.  And I'm happy
  • Cool! I never cared about arrows, but I might do this :)
  • I keep my desktop empty except recycle bin. No arrows that way :D
  • You can get rid of the Recycle Bin as well. (Don't really need it on the desktop.) You can show/hide the assorted system icons on the desktop from the Control Panel. Control Panel (or Settings) -> type "icons desktop" in the search box -> click/tap Show or hide command icons on the desktop
  • one made any arrow to the knee joke..
  • lol, that's too old...although, in hindsight, it would have worked well here.
  • I still don't get why people put crap on the desktop.  You have a taskbar and a start menu.  For stuff I use frequently I put on the taskbar and for stuff I use less (or has live tiles) goes in the start menu.  The taskbar is always visible, the desktop isn't. Is this just something left over from the Win 95/98 days that people just can't seem to adapt from?
  • Sure, lots of it is habit. I mean, the whole reason for the start menu to return is habit. Although I like to keep docs/images or things I'm working on on the desktop, so even I'm guilty of it too. It's just one more option/place for people to put "stuff".
  • Move everything to you documents folder and hide desktop icons. After a short adjustment period you'll be happy you did. The desktop folder will still be accessible in Explorer.
  • I'm with you here.  I don't treat my desktop as if it is a folder to store things.  That's what my library folders are for... documents, music, pictures, etc.  And any programs go on the taskbar or are accessed in the start menu.
  • it is obviously easier to access a shortcut from the desktop rather than searching through menus. That is what the desktop should be used for not just for a pretty picture.
  • I leave them the way they are. I want to be able to tell if they are shortcuts or files on my desktop by glancing through them.
  • Yay! Thank you. I was looking for how to do this.
  • I use the arrows to differentiate a shortcut from an actual file. So I leave em. If I see the arrow I know I can toast it and not lose an app. I run some apps that do not install and just run from a .exe. Anyway to eacht their own.
  • I wish I could keep my desktop clean. I clean it off once a week or so but I work on so many projects that I just start slapping files on the desktop left and right. Anyway, OCD person's nightmare. ;)
  • “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”
    ― Albert Einstein
  • It should be noted that those little arrows actually have a purpose; they differentiate shortcuts (which can safely be deleted) with the app itself (which will make you sad if deleted). Yes, most apps won't appear on the desktop, but some of the smaller all-in-one apps like file archivers and tag editors can. Proceed with caution.
  • @Dan Very cool to know ur well versed with Regedit...
  • I have no problem with the arrow, but I dont like too many icons on my desktop. I want a clean desktop so i can see the background photo clear and clean. I removed all the icons on my desktop and put some of my favorite apps on the taskbar.
  • Thanks Daniel. The concept and implementation works for me. I appreciate you sharing. -- jim
  • You are the man. Thanks a lot Dan for this great hack.
  • I hate desktop icons so much that I just remove them completely. I have a desktop menu on the task bar.
  • Hey Rubi Rubino. Why don't you give a .reg file? you know add in red "at your own risk" think, but that should also make it better for the users if they must use registry editor for some tip you give. I don't mind using registry since I use Regmagik which is really good. but other users have difficulties, you know haha ​ And you don't need to restart computer, by only going to task manager right click on windows Explorer.exe and restarting it there, it will apply the changes. just saying ;)  Also​ This doesn't seem to work on Big icons, so if you are changing icon size, it might not look good on some sizes.
    And on restart it looks black, squares. not the first one, but the second time you restart after aplying or the first time if you restart explorer.exe So this is not just the best way of removing them. now I remember why I never did it haha
  • I hate how when I plug in a Bitlocker-protected external drive, the W10 notification category says "Calculator". WTF??
  • I go even deeper with my irrational nitpick and remove all icons from my desktop. The desktop has to be free of icons or it will bug the crap out of me. I used to have the Recycle Bin on there, but I now turn that off as well. I'd love to be able to put the Recycle Bin on the Task Bar instead, but I haven't figured out a way to do that.
  • I do that in a roundabout way... install CCleaner and pin that to your taskbar.
  • CCleaner seems to be having troubles with Edge.
  • I can totally see where you're coming from! Haha.
  • This is why the term 'FIRST WORLD PROBLEM' was created.
  • After sucessful registry no shortcut lnk but blank black boxes in that places after sometime...So everytime i had to restart explorer.exe
  • I found a way to do it without black box or anything crappy shell32.dll crap that doesn't work after a restart or two. Just create the string value name it 29 and leave the value data blank. I restarted explorer.exe and computer to check and everything was alright zoom it and zoom out icons. there is no icon so nothing wrong with it like with the way shown on the article.
  • Oh that's much better. Thank you very much. I store all of my apps and such in the Start Menu but I have a backup of my music on my desktop and computer guff like Command Prompt and Notepad on the Desktop. Command Prompt looks more impressive without the stupid arrow haha.
  • well, it didn't work for me.  Not sure what I did wrong...
  • Oh thank lord. This always annoyed me.
  • It's great until I reboot and the place where the arrow used to be is just a black square.
  • read my comment above. don't add \system32\shell32.dll,50. but leave it blank. with no value data.
  • It went blank after a day. Now there's just the name and no icon on my desktop
  • Thank you I hate those damn things
  • Afterwards, you should have a nice, clean desktop with no arrow shortcuts. Of course, you could go more advanced and define your own shortcut arrows or even change your system icons, but that is for another day.
      I want to know how to define my own shortcut arrow or change the system icon, having no short-cut icon can cause confusion.  
  • I don't like the arrows either. However with Windows 10 instead of having shortcut icons on the Desktop I just add then to the Start Screen where there are no arrows. :) I don't use the desktop anymore for app shortcuts. Keeps it nice and clean.
  • Thanks
  • Daniel, So going back to the Windows 95 days, I've always used the method of renaming the 'IsShortcut' string value under HKCR\lnkfile. I've heard, but have never seen for myself issue from doing this. Is there a reason the method you described would be preferred?
  • Nevermind, I found a great reason for not using this method anymore. Right click on the Windows 10 Start Menu goes away. Use the method Daniel describes, not an old classic.
  • Thanks a million Daniel. East or West Daniel is the best. Once again thanks for the tip
  • I hate those arrows too; but I'm also one of those persons that prefers not having icons on the desktop, even the recycle bin is absent on my clean desktop... It looks like a real Window that shows just beautiful landscapes (soo peaceful).
  • If you don't like using the registry just use Windows Shortcut Arrow Editor - , No install required
  • But then how do you know what's a shortcut and what isn't at a glance? Lol jk
  • I tried this and while the initial results were good, after a short amount of time I started getting black blocks on my desktop icons, and icons in my Start menu weren't appearing or only partially appearing - had to remove the reg key to fix it.
  • Same thing happened to me.  So, to go back, I just need to delete that reg key?
  • U can delete the key to go back. But try deleting the value that you put in step 7 and everything should be fine.
  • Rare footage of Blazblue actually getting a shoutout =)   It's several revisions old, but still fun.
  • Seeing program shortcuts with or without the error is "YUCK". Have to admit...lost a bit of respect for DRubino seeing him use desktop shortcuts for launching apps. ;)
  • I did everything detailed in this post.  It worked, but after the first day completed, I now have big black boxes where the arrows usually would reside. Did anyone experience this?  And does anyone know how to fix it?  Thanks.
  • I hide all my icons I like a clean desktop Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • This is what I've got ...
  • Does this apply to Win 7, too?
  • Yetserday I tried this and the icons on my desktop looked so good, but today they look like this. Any workaround?
  • I am not the only one then.
    Did you get arround a permanent fix for it??
    Please let me know if you did.
  • Nope, can't find anywhere. The tiny black squares remain. I had to undo everything and cope with the tiny "arrows" for now.
  • I got the same 
  • To get this to work on my machine, I had to undo step 7. With the value entered in the step, there was a blank square in the lower left hand corner of the icons.
  • Are they the black squares I'm also experiencing right now?
  • all what i got after following these steps were black empty boxes instead of the arrow shortcuts. please send us a fix
  • Skip step 7. Donot define the string value. It worked for me
  • Thanks it works for me!
  • You genius! Thanks. 
  • Whoops my fix needs a fix!
  • Hot tip: You can also restart explorer.exe / end task then run explorer via run to have the changes to take effect. Saves the convienence of logging in and out or restarting your computer.  Steps: Ctrl+shift+right click the windows taskbar and click on exit explorer If needed right click on task bar again and open task manager, then click on File > run. Another window will open. Type in explorer or explorer.exe and hit enter.
  • It got rid of the arrows, but now I've got little square "holes" in all my shortcuts where the arrows used to be...  Only on anything bigger than a "medium icon". This also happened with previous versions of Windows when I tried to use a 3rd-party tool to do the same thing.
  • Yea,actually this tweak is not like in other builds of Win7 and Xp. This changed my icons to black squares and i had to delete that registry modification bo bring back icons to normal...
  • I've just used this method yesterday and it worked out fine. Today when I powered up my laptop, the arrow thingy was replaced by a black square. I'm asuuming that if I delete the Shell Icon file from registry the problem is gonna go away but the arrow will be back. How do I fix this?
  • This did absolutely nothing to get rid of my shortcut arrows. I followed directions to the tee.
  • i used this method.but after some times my shortcut geting black in squre shape.plz give me suggestion how to solve.
  • It worked - briefly.  But now I have black squares hiding all shortcut icons altogether.  Solution?????  
  • Does anyone else have a problem with a giant black box on each of their icons? It takes up more than 75% of the icon, It has this giant black box when I first start up my computer, Then after an hour or so the mysterious black box shows up again, but it stays there this time. If anyone knows a fix to this or has another way I can get rid of this black box and the shortcut arrow please tell me because I'm at a loss.
  • I had the same issue, I'm going to attempt to change the black squares to transparent ones.
  • This registry change caused a problem in that it turned all my desktop shortcut icons into little black squares. Had to reverse this.  RECOMMEND THAT YOU DO NOT DO THIS REGISTRY CHANGE.
  • Does it creates any problem? I mean after editing the registry setting will it create a problem such as i need to restore my pc,,Cuzz i installed windows 10 on my pc 2 times. I changed the registry settings for a DVD problem and i had to face the Windows 10 Black Screen Problem. So i want to be sure that, will it work for me?   Thx again to post this..
  • This is not working for me, may it be I am on 64-bit OS?
  • It worked fine for me on Windows 7-64 and Windows 10-64.
  • Somehow no one seems to know this, but any time a change requires you to "log out and in again," you can actually just restart exploer.exe to achieve the same result. In Windows 10, just load up Task Manager (Run > taskmgr, via Ctrl+Alt+Del, or by right-clicking on Start button), scroll down to find "Windows Explorer" under the "WIndows processes" grouping, select it, and click the Restart button. To do the same in older versions of Windows, load up Task Manager, find "explorer.exe," select "End Process," and then restart it manually by choosing Create New Task, typing "explorer" and striking return.
  • Nice article but step 8 is incorrect. You don't need to Restart. Just sign out and sign back in.
  • This caused my destop icons to start showing up all black!!! Not a good hack!
  • That was so easy and it definitely worked, thanks so much for sharing your knowledge.
  • Wow, so easy to do, Wouldn't have had a clue if not for you, Howdy do and a big THANK YOU!
  • It no longer works after the Windows 10 Anniversary Update.  Does anyone here know what happened or how to remove those annoying arrows NOW?
  • this reg edit does not work in win 10, well it does until you reboot, then you have big black spaces that hide half your icon, looks worse than the shortcut arrows !
  • So interestingly enough, i got this to work on my desktop, but my laptops icons have the black square issue. Both systems have windows 10 and are fully up to date. Very strange, especially because both systems have near identical settings.
  • Windows 10 Anniversary Edition:  I used 1018 instead of 50.  I guess it changed.
  • Use 1018 instead of 50 and it should work.  It did for me. :)
  • The registry tree you provided it's true. But when I tried your string for the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Shell Icons... 29 REG_SZ >>>> \System32\shell32.dll,-50 I've just simply after a system reboot, I met no arrows, BUT all desktop icons turned into black squares! It seems like your suggestion doesn't works on Windows 10 (no mutter 32 or 64 bit). So the true String Value according (the since pre-AVG's ownership of TuneUp Utilities application, in it's sub TuneUp Styler application), is the follow and works to every windows version surely: C:\ProgramData\AVG\AWL\WinStyler\empty.ico The reg lines: Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00 [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Shell Icons]
  • This is not a solution, since it introduces apparent randomness into the display of desktop icons. Sometimes a black box, sometimes ticks are placed over the icons. The black box is far worse than the shortcut arrow. Sometimes the icons display properly. No clear pattern with changes occuring often after rebooting, but sometimes after running applications. Better to leave it or delete the key and wait for something that works. Nice idea, though.
  • After some time you might loose your icons or get black boxes. Don't worry - just open up regedit again. If you've not done any registry edits since, it should open immediately to the Shell Icons file. Double click on 29, make sure the value is empty (it should still be, even if you're having a bug), and hit 'Okay'. Your icons should update immediately.
  • Perfect!!! Thanks =)
  • Just to update, the solution with the folder AVG only works if you have AVG on your computer.
    So you need to find the file empty.ico in the web (for instance I found it here: which is a real empty (i.e transparent) icon
    You have to save it anywhere but remember the location.
    Now use this one with its full path instead of \system32\shell32.dll,50 (or any other number mentioned)
  • Tried this - on my machines the shortcuts disappeared - but were replaced by a square black box ! Cheers anyway (-: