Can't change icons on folders on imported disk in Windows 7

John Strong

New Member
I had a catastrophic failure, just created a new Windows 7 Ultimate system with very little installed. I attached a disk drive from the previous system that has data on it (it wasn't damaged). All files are accessible but I CANNOT CHANGE THE ICONS ON ANY OF THE FOLDERS.

I've done all of the following recursively throughout the folder tree:

(1) In folder and search options I checked "Always show icons, never thumbnails"

(2) changed owner of all files to myself (I'm an Administrator)

(3) changed permissions to give myself full control

(4) changed effective permissions to give myself full control

(5) ran attrib -r /d /s d:\work in a cmd.exe shell with administrative privilege

I still cannot change any of the folder icons.


Fantastic Member
Premium Supporter
Hi and welcome to the Forum:

It would be most helpful if you could provide us with the Make/Model of the computer you're having this problem with. This type of problem usually has to do with improper installation of Windows. You say you created a Win7 Ultimate disk for your computer. What version of Windows originally came on that computer? And what version does the Microsoft COA license sticker say on the rear or bottom of the computer?

Next, go into Windows System Information, and check to see if your Win7 Ultimate is Activated. If not, you may have created a pirated copy of Win7 Ultimate, and therefore things in Windows won't work correctly, such as Icon changing (along with many other things such as security updates). Where did you get the ISO file you used to create the Win7 Ultimate install DVD or USB stick from? Exactly. Which website? Microsoft has scrubbed most of the Win7 & Win8/8.1 ISO images clean from the Internet, and most do not work (98%). Also, Win7 Ultimate ISO files abound on the Internet as there were lots of copies of the Academic Trial Version of this program back in 2008-2009; however, most were not made correctly and many were pirated copies made in Asia. Most of these do NOT work even if your computer came with Win7 Ultimate and you have a legit product license key or purchased one.

If you had a different version of Win7 (such as Home Edition or Professional) pre-loaded onto your Computer, and after the crash you are attempting to install the Win7 Ultimate, chances are it will not work unless you purchase the actual Microsoft retail box cd+product license key combo from the Internet (as they haven't been available in stores since 2010). Of course, you probably don't have this, otherwise you wouldn't be having this particular problem. Also, that retail boxed product runs from $90-$150 US on ebay or amazon.

So, the real issue here is we can help you with this problem once we can determine if you are running a legit Win7 Ultimate license. Based on the information you provided, you appear not to be. I'm explaining this to you, since many people got a hold of one of these old pirated copies of the Win7 Ultimate software, and when things don't work they get frustrated and don't understand. If the Win7 Utlimate you have indeed does NOT show Activated, then you have a pirated copy-period. You will be required to purchase a legit copy to fix that--even if you take it to your local Computer repair shop.

If you have an OEM computer (Dell, HP, Acer/Gateway, etc.) you can contact the manufacturer and see whether that version of Windows is even available to run on your particular computer (again, that's why I asked what you have). If not, it can be loaded on over the original version of Windows that came on your computer from the factory, but it's not going to be free. The old saw here, "you get what you pay for" definitely applies to just about any Win7 Ultimate upgrade.

Post back what you have and what you did, and we can advise you further.

Good luck,

John Strong

New Member
The copy is legitimate. The problem comes from importing a disk drive whose files have access control lists created on a different system. I discovered that copying folder A to folder "A (copy)" then deleting the original and renaming "A (copy)" to A completely fixes the problem, presumably because Windows assigns a new set of folder and file permissions based on my user on the new system.

John Strong

New Member
Here's my system information:
Processor: Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-2400 CPU @3.10GHz 3.30 Ghz
Installed memory (RAM): 8.00 GB
System type: 64-bit Operating System

I'm attaching a screenshot showing that my installation of Windows is legitimate and activated. I do have a custom-built system that my sons put together for me, but we purchased a copy of Windows for it, and I have done all the Windows updates scrupulously.

Doesn't Windows hand external (USB) drives differently from internal drives? This was an internal drive on my previous system.

I'm finding that the remedy I proposed above does not work consistently and does not work at all at the top level of the folder hierarchy (i.e. for folders immediately under the root folder (or drive letter). I could really use some help with this.



Fantastic Member
Premium Supporter
Hi John,

Thanks for getting back to me on my questions and your computing environment. :)

The answer here may not be easy as there are several possible solutions to your problem.

Windows does handle internal drives a little differently than USB external drives, you're right. But usually, only so far as the boot drive goes. Drives attached as secondary drives in Windows7 are natively formatted as NTFS format, whether or not they are inside the case and attached directly to the Storage controller on the Motherboard or through a USB or even Firewire port.

You'll need to determine whether or not that external drive was formatted with NTFS or FAT32; those are the most common 2 formats for secondary drives. Once we know that, we can give you some more things to try. You dan use the command DISKMGMT.MSC in the start-->run on Win7 desktop to look at that information on your drives.

Is your Internet working ok on this computer? This is important, since you mentioned updates. I'm guessing you'll need to do some sort of data recovery on this external drive. It would be helpful to know the Make/Model of that drive. Then I can tell you what tools to use on it. Is it a standard mechanical drive, or an SSD drive is also important to know. Data Recovery is handled differently on each of those.

Also, we need to know the exact capacity of that drive. If it's over a 2TB drive, you could have problems with something called GPT; if the Motherboard your sons used for that computer has AHCI BIOS and GPT support, it's capable of supporting hard drives up to 4TB or larger in a single partition. If this is the case, then Windows7 could have problems reading the file indexes on the drive if it was originally formatted as the old MBR-NTFS drive format, and moving that to the USB port is causing your computer's BIOS to not properly read all the file indexes and properties. So, again, we'll need answers to exactly what you are using as the Motherboard on that computer. Make/Model of the Motherboard and type of BIOS (Phoenix, Award, Insyde, etc.) and version number. Since this is a custom-built PC, and you're not familiar with many of these terms you'll have to ask your sons this information. Alternatively, you can download the free SPECCY program from and post the resulting output text file back here to this thread so we can try and figure out what storage hardware you have. This is very important.

Once we know the Make/Model/Size/Type information on your hard drive, we can try to figure out what you have, and once we know that we can tell you what steps to take in terms of recovering your data from that drive. Then, you can install a new drive on that system; USB external would be the easiest and copy over the recovered data onto it.

If this sounds like too much work, you can take it to your local computer repair shop and you can pay them to do for you. If you go this way, I urge you to take the whole machine in so they can figure out if you have a GPT vs. MBR formatting type of problem, and help you to get it resolved.

This problem happens when people move an internal drive formatted using the internal Storage Controller chip on the Motherboard, and then move it out to a USB external port and expect it to work exactly the same way. And if you didn't reformat that drive from your old PC, it's probably got BIOS translation issues and if formatted by an older version of Windows, you have index formating issues as XP and older Windows versions typically formatted internal secondary drives as FAT32 or even FAT16 if you go back to Win98. So, your intuition is at least partly correct.

By the way, what version of Windows exactly was on the old PC that this USB external hard drive running??

Get back to us when you can if you decide to pursue fixing this yourself, and we'll try to advise you further.