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Windows 7: Shortcut arrow changes by itself

04 Feb 2015   #1

Windows 7 Professional 64 bit
Shortcut arrow changes by itself


Weird stuff...the shortcut arrow on icons is changing to images resembling application icons. Notice in the pic that shortcuts to a Chrome web address, a PDF file, a Folder, and a Word document have an Excel icon where the white shortcut arrow should be.

I reboot and the shortcut arrow reappears, only to have the Excel (or some other icon) replace it. Sometimes the change happens within a few minutes, sometimes a couple of hours later.

The other day, the arrows were fine, then I opened/used/closed Camtasia Studio. The shortcut arrow was then replaced with the Camtasia icon. A few minutes later, the Camtasia icon was replaced with the Excel icon. By the way, I hadn't used Excel.

Lastly, I restored my pc with an Acronis image to a date prior to the first appearance of the changing shortcut icons, which cleared the problem for a couple of weeks. Then it came back. The only system changes following the image restore were Windows Updates and a Filezilla update.

Any suggestions as to the cause of the change?

Thanks for your help.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Feb 2015   #2

Windows 7 32 bit

Try a scan with MBAM free version. It sounds like something may be getting picked up off the web. You may have a Pup installed. Also try SuperAntiSpyware free
My System SpecsSystem Spec
06 Feb 2015   #3

Windows 7 Professional 64 bit

Thanks for the response MilesAhead. I ran both scans and only came up with one downloaded, but unused file from 3 years ago and a bunch of Adware tracking cookies. I cleaned them up.

I then did some additional research and rebuilt the icon cache, ran an MS System File Checker problems found. Ran a MS Fixit program for some maintenance checks, which included icon problems found. Seems I have a really clean system.

Some more testing/re-booting/testing/etc. and came up with far:

After reboot, all icons are normal, started applications like Word, Excel, Windows Explorer...icons remained fine. Started Google Chrome, desktop appeared to refresh and the icons changed...again with the Excel application icon taking the place of the shortcut arrow. It also gets placed on actual folder and document icons as if they were shortcuts...but they're not.

I tested the Google Chrome theory following 3 more reboots, and it happened every time. After one reboot, I tried IE instead of Chrome, wondering if accessing the Internet was somehow involved with the changes...icons remained fine. Then tried Chrome...icons changed.

Uninstalled Chrome, reboot, tried various applications including problem.

Thought I had traced the problem to Chrome. Then I opened Windows Explorer > Organize > Folder and Search Options. Then on the View tab, I checked the options to hide protected OS files and other hidden files, folders or drives...since I had made them visible for my earlier icon cache rebuilding effort. When I clicked Apply, the desktop refreshed and the icons changed!

So it appears that a reboot returns the desktop icons to normal...and any activity that refreshes the desktop, causes the change in the icons.

I've run out of ideas for tonight, so if you have any, I'd appreciate hearing them. I'm stumped.

Thanks again for the help.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

06 Feb 2015   #4

Windows 7 32 bit

That's a weird one. One suggestion is run the Registry Clean tool in CCleaner. Be sure to save the backup file when it gives the option. I only had one version of CCleaner cause a registry problem out of dozens I've used. But it's best to be cautious. Then if you like chrome I recommend using a chromium snapshot

It is open source and doesn't have some of the intrusive characteristics of Google chrome. I used them for a couple of years. The best technique is to download the win32 zip files rather than the installer. Every time you try a newer snapshot, back up the old folders that have the profile and exe and add the version and build numbers to the folder name of the backup. That way you can back off to older versions that may work better if you find a bug.

The reason you need backup is new snapshots may have new variables. When you back off to an older version it won't recognize the new variable and kicks out an error on load up.

Once you clean the Registry see if the icon change thing still happens.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
09 Feb 2015   #5

Windows 7 Professional 64 bit

Thanks for the tips.

I cleaned the registry...problem still exists. It is weird, but I can reboot, which clears the problem, then work for hours without the icons changing. But the first time I do something that refreshes the desktop, the icons change.

Now I say "refreshes the desktop", but I'm not sure if that's technically what's occurring. The screen does a quick flash, like it's being updated or refreshed...but someone more geeky than me may refer to what's happening differently.

Is there any kind of log that can be run to capture the steps taking place when the change occurs? I can get the change to occur, for instance, by opening Chrome...but I don't know exactly what's happening behind the scenes at that moment. Some form of logging might capture it. Just a thought.

I'll keep looking into it and post a resolution if/when I come up with it.

Thanks again.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
10 Feb 2015   #6

Windows 7 Pro 32bit

In case this will help you: WinAero: Downloads / Software / Windows Shortcut Arrow Editor you can give it a try.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
10 Feb 2015   #7

Windows 7 32 bit

You could try ProcessExplorer

It should show DLLs used by a process, system resources, opened files etc..
Something there may give a clue.
Perhaps it sets a Registry key for the arrow image or similar.

When Chrome is running see what is uses/changes.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 Shortcut arrow changes by itself

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