The latest Windows 10 Insider Preview Build brings a change that sounds boring, but actually looks rather striking. File Explorer is getting new icons.

Rather than a set of yellow folders with small icons spilling out to let you know if you’re looking at downloads, documents, pictures, music, or videos, for example, Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 21343 features colorful folder icons with simple graphics to help tell them apart at a glance, with each icon having its own color.

The folders are also now horizontal rather than vertical, and while Microsoft isn’t giving up on skeuomorphism entirely (the recycle bin still looks like recycle bin), the new icons are a bit flatter (it’s not tilted at an angle anymore).

Microsoft says the new File Explorer icons are just the latest Windows 10 icons to be refreshed since the company began rolling out updated icon designs more than a year ago. And they won’t be the last.

While they’re rolling out to Windows Insiders first, they should eventually find their way to all users in a future Windows 10 stable update. But if you are a member of the Insider Preview program, Microsoft notes that installing 21343 will cause any custom folders pinned to your Quick Access area to disappear, so if you make use of that feature, you may want to make a note of your pinned folders so you can re-pin them after updating or delay updating until the issue is resolved.

Other changes in the latest preview build include:

  • Updates to Windows Sandbox and Microsoft Defender Application Guard
  • The Windows Administrative Tools folder is now called Windows Tools
  • News and Interests is rolling out to users in China

You can find more details in the Windows Insider Preview Build 21343 update post at the Windows Blog.

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10 replies on “Microsoft is bringing new icons to Windows 10 File Explorer”

  1. That’s nice, I hope I can revert it back as soon as it comes out, as I am not really a fan of iOS/Android icons on my desktop.
    BTW it’s 2021, and we still have no separate trash folders for music, text, pictures etc? Recycling man! Saving the planet and all the good stuff.

  2. And this is the pinnacle of the desktop experience? New icons. New terminal. New emoticons, and everybody ooohs and ahhhhs.
    Literally there has been nothing new since Windows 10 came out that helps me be more productive in any way.
    Personally, I think the desktop peaked in 2007-2009. What else can be added to the desktop that helps me be more productive and get work done faster?
    Tablet interfaces for desktops has always been a bad idea (think windows 8).
    What else is there?

      1. All I was trying to say was, there seems to be no real innovation to the desktop in the last several years. Certainly nothing that increases my productivity.

        Microsoft boasts about new emoticons, or the cool new terminal for windows they released. And all I think is, is that it? There is literally nothing new that actually adds value to the desktop experience in any way.

        I think the year of the desktop (in general) was 2007-2009. Literally nothing that has come since adds any value to me to the desktop experience.

        I don’t care about the newest “dark mode”, or emoticons or any of that crap.

        Churning out a new version of windows and deprecating the old, just for the sake of making new sales, but no new innovation in any way, and all we get is flashy new graphics.

  3. It actually reminds me of those icon packs I used back in Windows XP. It’s a retro-grade futuristic look, I love it. The best part of Windows, is it’s appreciation for legacy.

  4. Most of the new icons look alright, except that Photos folder icon – yuck.

    Why bother making a unique icon for photos if it isn’t visually obvious what the icon is supposed to mean? It’s awfully abstract, and elemental.

    Aside from that, I do like the colour-coding of the folders. It would be really nice if they followed MacOS’s example of allowing users to build their own colour-coded tags for folders.

  5. The new icons look good, but I think lots of people will be confused by them. Microsoft should make the new icons optional, giving people a choice to use them or not. Microsoft didn’t give people a choice when they tried to force Vista and Windows 8 on the world. How did that work out?

  6. That’s not an improvement.
    In fact that “photos” folder icon is objectively worse at communicating that it’s a folder containing photos.
    Would it really be that hard to let us use icon packs of our choice?

  7. “When renaming files using File Explorer, you can now use Ctrl + Left/Right arrows to move your cursor between words in a file name”

    I am pretty sure that’s how it works now.

    1. Hmm, yeah. I think this was awkwardly phrased:

      “We’re updating File Explorer when renaming files to now support using CTRL + Left / Right arrow to move your cursor between words in the file name, as well as CTRL + Delete and CTRL + Backspace to delete words at a time, like other places in Windows.”

      As far as I can tell, the only one of those that doesn’t work in earlier builds is Ctrl + Backspace.

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