New Windows Insider Dev Build Brings New Explorer Icons, More

Posted on March 24, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 55 Comments

Microsoft is finally starting to show us some hints about the visual changes coming to the next major version of Windows 10. Today, we see new icons and colors coming to File Explorer plus some improvements to Windows Sandbox and Microsoft Defender Application Guard (MDAG).

The changes can be seen in Windows 10 Insider Preview build 21343, which is available now in the Dev channel. They are:

File Explorer improvements. Microsoft’s venerable File Explorer—which literally dates back to 1995 and Windows 95—is getting new and more colorful icons throughout its UI. And in a nod to the type of thing I was hoping to see in Windows 10 version 21H2, these new icons “have been made for greater consistency across Microsoft products that show files.” The icons for top-level user folders such as Desktop, Documents, Downloads, and Pictures all have new designs and even the Recycle Bin icon has been updated.

Windows Sandbox and Microsoft Defender Application Guard (MDAG) improvements. Windows Sandbox and Microsoft Defender Application Guard both take advantage of container technology that’s built-in to Windows 10 and, to date, the container runtime matched that of the host OS. starting with build 21343, Microsoft is introducing lightweight and faster new runtime designed and optimized for container scenarios. This will offer better performance but shouldn’t impact compatibility, Microsoft says.

Join the discussion!


Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Comments (55)

55 responses to “New Windows Insider Dev Build Brings New Explorer Icons, More”

  1. codymesh

    those folder icons are gorgeous! But that drive icon.........what's going on there?

    but at least, this time, it looks like Microsoft has found some inspiration for their design ambitions.

    • jbinaz

      In reply to codymesh:
      But that drive icon.........what's going on there?

      I see what they're trying to do: I'm assuming the padlock indicates if it's BitLocker encrypted. And perhaps the Windows icon is showing it's got Windows on it? Maybe the file format? But yeah, you're right: it's way too busy.

  2. StevenLayton

    Sure, new icons are nice, but why haven't they fixed [insert your own pet peeve here]


  3. Shel Dyck

    I'll be impressed when the common dialogs, alerts, etc. become aware of dark theme. they need to finish what they started.

  4. hrlngrv

    One step forward, two steps back.

    This new version shows more @#$%&*! useless whitespace between entries in Details view. You'd think someone, just one person, working in the Windows unit would have been able to realize that anyone using Details view wants to see a lot of details in the Explorer window at the same time.

    Good thing I prefer 2-pane file managers, which are all 3rd party, so immune from MSFT's zeal for making Windows new & improved.

    • longhorn

      In reply to hrlngrv:

      But... you will be pleasantly surprised when you navigate Explorer with your fingers.

      "Convergence" was an Ubuntu idea that failed. Now Windows, macOS, (Chrome OS), Gnome and KDE are all working hard trying to implement this idea: One application - many form factors.

      I don't believe in this idea either. Third party to the rescue.

      • hrlngrv

        In reply to longhorn:

        you will be pleasantly surprised when you navigate Explorer with your fingers.

        My cold, dead fingers because I have no plans to buy touchscreen desktop monitors, no plans to buy my own laptop since I have a work-provided one (nontouch), and no plans to buy a Chromebook with a touch screen.

    • navarac

      In reply to hrlngrv:

      Go to options and invoke "compact mode" to go back to "normal".

  5. Scott Shingleton

    Hundreds of engineers working on the product, and big accomplishment is new icons in file explorer? How about finishing the product so control panel isn’t needed, make the interface consistent, fix the performance issues etc.? It feels like Microsoft only builds 75% software at best anymore.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to Scott_Shingleton:

      To the extent Control Panel uses Windows Explorer windows, and the likelihood MSFT is going to do exactly NOTHING with (Windows 7) Backup and Restore, BitLocker, Credential Manager, File History, Storage Spaces, Sync Center and a few others which have some connection to the file system, I expect Control Panel to remain part of Windows through the 2020s. I'm pretty sure it'll outlive me, and I figure there's a fair chance it's outlive anyone here who's a subscriber.

    • Paul Thurrott

      There's no reason to be cynical. This is one build, not a feature release. It's one change.
  6. sherlockholmes

    Its nice that Microsoft focuses on the important things in Windows ;-)

  7. madthinus

    We are refreshing icons again and we are not even finished with the previous round of refreshes. Love this line in the blog post: "As you can imagine, there are a lot of icons in Windows 10 and more icons will continue to get updated over time."

    No kidding.

  8. ghostrider

    It's clear the File Explorer team sat down to discuss and prioritize all the important changes and fixes they desperately needed to implement, and decided on.... icons as the most important. Holy cow - Windows is truly scr**ed! When everything now seems to be about about how a product looks and not how it works, the writing is clearly on the wall.

  9. crp0908

    In reply to SvenJ:

    I believe they're referring to the error "The network folder specified is currently mapped using a different user name and password."

    I work around this by referring to the same resource using up to three different methods: 1) FQDN 2) abbreviated name 3) IP Address

  10. hrlngrv

    In reply to SvenJ:

    What have you done with Paul?

    He got new icons.

  11. sandy

    Have they finally set the correct icon for the Network Connections folder?

    Microsoft made new icons, put the new Network Connections icon in Shell32.dll but didn't replace the old icons in NetShell.dll, so (still correct at least up to version 1909, but I think 2004 too) go to Control Panel > Network and Sharing Centre > Change adapter settings and we still see the old Windows 7 icons all over the place, instead of the new icon.

    There are plenty of others, but this minor mistake shows the not-finishing-the-job problem; even when the work was done, nobody checked it.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to Sandy:

      . . . even when the work was done, nobody checked it.

      Isn't that what the Insider Program is for, free user checking, and worth every penny?

  12. ezzy

    It's kind of humorous to me. I joined the insider program long before Windows 10 was ever released. Even back then I was saying, "why the hell is everyone so worried about WTF an icon looks like when there's so much more to do?"

    Annnnnd things haven't changed much.

  13. mr brandon

    As a consumer I am welcome to this refresh. As my work locations go to "tech guy" the slightest change is catastrophic. We are still dealing with "The Great Vertical Tabs Catastrophe of 2021"

  14. winner

    This adds to the already rich ecosystem of many generations of iconography in Windows 10. It's like a museum!

  15. Pulagatha

    I haven't had to time to look closely at it, but just initial impressions. The inset icons on the folders don't match enough. The gradient is too strong. The top and bottom outline for the folder detracts from the overall icon. It looks like someone put a lot of time into it, but it looks like the definition of trying too hard. The fact that the folders are color coded too seems like a nice touch. It's definitely better than the accent color being the color of every folder. The icons seem difficult to read at small sizes because of the gradient.

  16. PhilipVasta

    I know that people have wildly different opinions on this sort of thing, but it's amazing to me how much a few icons that you see frequently can really modernize the feel of the File Explorer. Of course, this needs to be the case for all of the rest of the OS...

    • navarac

      In reply to PhilipVasta:

      It only seems more modern if you sit and look at it. I'm too busy to drool over silly little pictures!

      • PhilipVasta

        In reply to navarac:

        I get what you're saying, and I do think there can be an overemphasis on style. But I also think updated styling can help the OS feel fresh, and more importantly, it can improve usability.

      • t-b.c

        In reply to navarac: No, you're not. Visual cues can hamper or heighten productivity. Done correctly, they can help you locate what you are looking for more quickly and anyone "too busy" would likely appreciate these improvements.

  17. crunchyfrog

    More colorful icons? How about fixing Windows Update first.

    • vernonlvincent

      In reply to crunchyfrog:

      Yes, because the art department is also the team working on Windows Update.

      • Username

        In reply to vernonlvincent: Yes, because the art department is also the team working on Windows Update.

        Yes, because art in Explorer is as important to users as stability and functionality of OS and key underlying features. Especially so given that most users now interact with services via their browser whose content art is not determined by Windows.

      • winner

        In reply to vernonlvincent:

        Yes, because the art department is also the team working on Windows Update.

        Yes, because the same management that decides the art department should be bigger than the department responsible for Windows Update has decided icons are more important than Windows Update.

    • Paul Thurrott

      I'm pretty sure that the people working on icon designs are no more qualified than you or me to work on Windows Update.
      • veermaharaj

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        Get the UI to look visually cohesive, then start smacking bugs.

        Once the UI no longer feels like a visual cesspool, if they can maintain the new look going forward, and they can focus on functionality improvements.

        Its a legacy product, treat it as such. Maintain and refine.

  18. vernonlvincent

    Are these visual improvements part of 21H1 or 21H2? Just curious as I like what I'm seeing so far.

  19. zhackwyatt

    And the most important 3D objects folder taking up space. YAY!

  20. javial

    And what about Windows borders or different colors (or degrades or amount of grey) for diferent areas in order to make some contrast between areas?

  21. scovious

    At last OneDrive's icon doesn't seem so out of place.

    I hope Microsoft is also adding functionality to Explorer: for example I would like the ability to make multiple connections to a server using more than one user name/account. I also would love new explorer view layouts for content like folders, photos and videos which could use some better visual representations as an option. The preview pane is so limited. Dark mode is also not great.

  22. Sir_Timbit

    Multiple tabs in Explorer.... One day, Microsoft!

  23. samp

    Is nobody going to mention the drives icon? I mean, the others are nice, but a long time in coming, whilst that gobstopping drive mess detracts from this whole upgrade (the other changes allow it to use that title)

  24. echo64

    Man honestly it's about time but worth the wait they look amazing, can't wait to see how they look with the dark explorer theme I'm downloading the new build now!

  25. fourbadcats

    I like the icon updates but yowza, that's a lot of space between all the items. Maybe this is a tablet/touch spacing instead of compact for mouse use.

    • lezmaka

      In reply to fourbadcats:

      I think this was mentioned in an earlier news post where Microsoft said they were adding a new compact view mode. So really the "new" compact view mode is just what we have now, and they are updating the default view mode to have lots of wasted area.

    • Paul Thurrott

      It clearly is. Look at the address bar. It's huge.
    • vernonlvincent

      In reply to fourbadcats:

      Perhaps they just have a resized File Explorer window instead of a full-screen one. Just like the one I just created and was able to duplicate the spacing layout on a machine running 1903.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to fourbadcats:

      Indeed, too much whitespace. Even worse in Details view.

      Apparently MSFT believes one can never have too many unused pixels between lines of text.

  26. hrlngrv

    Minor gripe: icon #127 in %SystemRoot%\System32\imageres.dll changed from


    (at 64x64). IOW, the new version is indistinguishable from #3 or #4 in that file. Perhaps an oversight, but I've already changed to using my own icon file to replace it.

    ADDED: this is something Linux does much more intelligently with icon themes. They can be a PITA in their own way, but it's easy to keep multiple themes and pick and choose between them. Far more difficult with Windows unless one becomes very familiar with Window Blinds.