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Fix the grey X on shortcut icons in Windows

February 7th, 2016

Evil Grey X'sThere you are, minding your own business, when suddenly you realize that all the shortcut icons on your desktop have changed somehow…

You look closely, and finally you realize that all the little “shortcut arrows” that indicate an icon is a shortcut have been replaced (magically, of course) by a grey “X”.

Sometimes, it’s not a grey X, but another weird symbol.

In any case, this problem is really annoying, and you’d like to fix it.

What to do?

Piece of cake!

I actually had this problem several times in Windows 7, and Windows 8, and Windows 10! The grey X’s look like this:

Grey X on shortcut icons

It seems to occur randomly, and there are several fixes out there. There is one fix though that is very quick, very easy, and it has worked for me every time.

Pick any file that has a grey X (or other wonky symbol) on it. Right-click on it and choose Open with…

You’ll see something like this:

Open with... Popup
Depending on the type of file, the default app/program will be different than what is shown above. That’s fine!

You don’t actually need to change the app you’re using to open this file type.

All you really need to do is click the OK button. Usually, I also click the Always use this app to open ___ files checkbox, just for good measure. You can always change it later using the same process!

That’s it.

When you click OK, Windows will redraw your desktop icons, and poof! Your grey X’s are gone, and you should once again see the proper shortcut symbol like so:

Fixed Shortcut Icons

Wasn’t that easy?

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  1. Dazza
    November 17th, 2016 at 06:31 | #1

    That would great and thanks for your help BUT there is no “open with” when I right click? Running Windows 10 – any suggestions please?

  2. November 17th, 2016 at 12:37 | #2

    In my Win 10, I get the Open With on files like I did in Win 8. You can’t right-click a shortcut or folder – it has to be a file. Then you’ll see the “Open with >” option. It can be any file on your desktop, not necessarily one with the grey X. Also, it can’t be “This PC” the Recycle Bin, or any other system icon on your desktop – gotta be a file.

  3. Robert
    November 20th, 2016 at 15:59 | #3

    All I needed to do was right click anywhere on the desktop and click on refresh. That fixed all the icons.

    • November 25th, 2016 at 11:44 | #4

      Interesting! I could swear I found this solution online and it didn’t work for me in Win 7. Haven’t had the chance to try it in Win 10. But then, maybe the grey X problem happens for different reasons, and different fixes work in certain cases? Who knows. Thanks for the tip!

  4. Doug Kulak
    November 25th, 2016 at 00:22 | #5

    @Robert Yup, that worked for me too! Running Windows 10. Thanks!

  5. Scott Brasseur
    November 25th, 2016 at 21:37 | #6

    Worked for me as well. Thanks.

  6. Dionisis Falireas
    December 3rd, 2016 at 10:20 | #7

    Robert! Well Done. So many “scientists” tried to put all their programming skills to give a well thought explanation and sort this out. You are lucky and smart and all we had to do is click refresh! Oh you made me laugh! I had the same problem. You sorted it out for me! Well done mate! 🙂 Thanks

  7. Dr. Robert
    December 15th, 2016 at 18:25 | #8


    worked GREAT! Thanks

  8. Rita Goldberg
    December 17th, 2016 at 22:05 | #9

    Sorry. It didn’t work for me. Any other ideas?

  9. Mel Driller
    December 25th, 2016 at 07:24 | #10

    @Rita Goldberg
    What I did is left click anywhere on the desktop and then tap the F5 key which will refresh and (hopefully)the little x’s or whatever the unwanted symbol is will disappear.

  10. Jeff Bradley
    January 8th, 2017 at 16:28 | #11

    Worked for me. Thanks.

  11. Susan Hilton
    January 13th, 2017 at 22:58 | #12

    @Dionisis Falireas
    none of these worked for me. I have windows 10??

  12. Mel Driller
    January 13th, 2017 at 23:33 | #13

    Well, I just left click on any empty space on the desktop and then press F5 which refreshes, and voila, all the little x’s are gone. I have Windows 10. Sometimes instead of x’s I checkmarks and it works for those too. Good luck.

  13. Steve Griggs
    January 15th, 2017 at 05:11 | #14

    Not one of these suggestions worked–NONE. Got any more brilliant ideas? Why do these little gray X’s appear in the first place?

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