How to extract icons from EXE, DLL and other files for free

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some windows iconComputer icons are popular way how to distinguish programs from each other with a nice small pictogram. Whilst in the past icons were usually saved as a separate file in the program folder, nowadays the icon library is usually saved inside executable (EXE) or dynamic library (DLL).

If you are computer beginner, you might have wondered how to get these icons out of these files. In this short tutorial we will show you how you can do that for free without buying expensive software.

For this we have chosen IconsExtract from Nirsoft, a free, simple and light-weight program that is able to search through selected folders and find all possible icons or cursors in various files, including the most common libraries in EXE or DLL files. Icons found through the program can be saved to ICO format, or CUR in case of cursors. It is a free program that you can download for free from the developers website (see related software at the bottom of the page for link).

There are of course much more powerful programs that can do the same job and even have a lot of extra features (like batch process etc.) like IcoFx. But these cost a lot of money, and if you are just after one or two icons not probably worth the investment.

Extracting icons from other files with IconsExtract

After you download the program simple launch its executable. When started, the program will automatically open the search window, in which you can specify the folder where it should look for the icon.

If you know exactly where the file is, just browse and select it. Otherwise you can also search whole computer, which can be pretty time consuming, or specified drives or folders. There is also option to check for icons in currently launched processes (programs).

Searching for icons in IconsExtract program

After the searching process is done, you will see list of icons found in the main program window. From here you can do several simple operations to either get ICO library, or save only individual images to clipboard.

Icon resources found in IconsExtract

Saving ICO format

To create an ICO library (*.ico file), simply right click on one of the resource found by the program and select the Save Selected Icons (Ctrl+S) option. 

Saving ICO library in IconsExtract

This will prompt a Save selected Icons window, in which you need to select the output folder where the icon library file will be saved. And that's it.

An ICO library, contains one or more icons, in various sizes (16x16, 48x48 etc.) so they can fit on different screens. These files have the ICO file extension.

Selecting saving folder for ICO library in IconsExtract

Saving individual icons as pictures

You can also choose to save only one size out of the icon library. To do this, once again right-click on the icon resource and selected the Properties option. To demonstrate this, we have done a search in LibreOffice folder to look for some large icons.

Saving individual icons as pictures in IconsExtract

In the properties window you will see the various sizes of icons that can be found inside the file. Select the one you want, and click on the Copy Selected Image option. This will copy the picture to Windows clipboard.

Properties details of icon resource library in IconsExtract

Now open your favorite image editor and simply paste it. You can now edit some details if you want and just save it to PNG if you want to keep transparency. We have done it in Paint.NET, but even the default Windows Paint works fine, if you do not need transparency.

Editing pasted icon in Paint.NET

Related software and links:

IconsExtract    Microsoft Windows platform
A small utility for extracting icons

 

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Related file extensions

cpl - CoreDRAW color palette file

dll - Dynamic Link Library

exe - Program executable

ico - Icon image

ocx - ActiveX control file

png - Portable Network Graphic

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