I’m running Windows XP, and I’d like to get a decent-sized (e.g. 256x256) image file of the icon of an app I’m running.

On the Mac, I can right-click (take that, Jobs) on an app, select ‘View Package Contents’, then find the app icon files in the ‘Resources’ folder.

Can I hunt down icon files for Windows XP apps in a similar manner?

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    Application icons in Windows are typically 32x32, occasionally with 16x16 "thumbnails" used in the Windows Explorer's List and Details views. I don't think you're going to find 256x256 pixel icons in Windows apps. – JMD Dec 8 '09 at 21:18
  • JMD you are so wrong. App icons are packaged in Windows in various sizes similar to Mac. Most modern apps have icon sizes going as high as 512x512. – Joshua Dec 8 '09 at 21:21
  • JMD is right in that Windows XP only used 32x32 icons. Vista introduced default 64x64 icons on the desktop with support for larger icons in explorer. – Will Eddins Dec 8 '09 at 21:23
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    @Josh, I said "typically". As in, "throughout the last 15 years that I've been programming I've typically only seen Windows apps use 32x32 (with occasional 16x16 thumbnail icons) even though other sizes may have been supported." Note, I'm no graphic artist myself and my icons always come from whatever freely-licensed icons I find in Google. :) – JMD Dec 8 '09 at 21:27

NirSoft's Icon Extractor will do this, though you'll only get a 256x256 if there's one there. Prior to Vista, OS icons were 48x48, and many developers followed that guidance. If it's popular software, somebody may have manually constructed a larger version, try sites like DeviantArt.

  • Again, even XP supported icon packaging with multiple sizes. This was little-used back in the day, but today most modern apps have different sizes. – Joshua Dec 8 '09 at 21:23
  • Oh, it's certainly SUPPORTED! It's just that there was little incentive to use it before Vista. You might get lucky, and have an app with one, but who knows! – Phoshi Dec 8 '09 at 21:28
  • @Josh, no one said that multiple icon sizes were unsupported. In my first comment I even mentioned multiple icon sizes. – JMD Dec 8 '09 at 21:28
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    Excellent, bonus points for it doing one thing and doing it well. Worked like a charm. – Paul D. Waite Dec 8 '09 at 21:36
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    Oh, and yeah, one is of course limited by the icons included in the app. It was actually Internet Explorer 8 I was looking at, which happens to have a 256x256 icon. – Paul D. Waite Dec 8 '09 at 21:39

I have just tested opening an .exe with Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition, and I was presented with a list of resources in the executable. Double-clicking allowed me to view and extract the icons. You may be able to accomplish the same using the Express (free) edition.


Editing icons

  • Wow I didn't know that Visual Studio would do that. Thanks for the tip! – Joshua Dec 8 '09 at 21:27
  • 'Twas nothing. I was just glad VS could do it. I was worried I would have to break out the ancient Borland Resource Workshop. ;) – JMD Dec 8 '09 at 21:31
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    A little heavy just to extract icons, but brilliant find! – Phoshi Dec 8 '09 at 21:31
  • Yeah, great spot there, your average Windows developer is sorted already. – Paul D. Waite Dec 8 '09 at 21:37
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    Oh, I definitely agree. I wouldn't install VS Express just to extract some icons, but it was worth posting because it's not uncommon that SuperUsers are also programmers who may have VS installed already. :) – JMD Dec 8 '09 at 21:38

Download IcoFX. It's tiny, free, and very easy to use. It's great for extracting icons, creating new icons, and editing existing icons.

It will extract all the icons embedded in an executable. It can also open icons and show you the images contained within, arranged by size and color format. From there it can export any icon image in various formats e.g. PNG, bitmap, jpeg. Can also work in batch mode to extract a whole bunch of icons from multiple files, though I haven't tried that.

Note to the answerer who suggested Visual Studio: VS does not handle 32-bit color icons well; it can only create icons up to 24-bit color. As an icon editor and extractor, it is pretty poor.


my tool of choice: Icons from File allows you to extract icons from files (EXE, DLL, OCX, etc.) and save them as individual ICO, BMP, JPEG, EMF files or as a single contact sheet. You can also copy icons to the clipboard or print the icons. The program includes a small file browser that allows you to easily find file that contain at least an X number of icons.

Icons from File is freeware (easily made portable with Universal Extractor).


Perhaps someone else has already done the extraction - go to http://images.google.com and search your application name. I have done this for a few apps I use and found 16x16, 32x32, all the way up full size images.

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