S h o r t S t o r i e s

// Tales from software development

My TortoiseSVN icon overlays have disappeared

with 16 comments

For no obvious reason, the file icon overlays used by TortoiseSVN have disappeared from Windows Explorer on my PC today. This is very odd as I’ve never had this problem before and, as far as I’m aware, nothing has changed in the past few days.

A quick search of the internet suggested that the problem might be due to the fact that only 15 icon overlays can be used and Windows reserves at least 4 for its own use. The overlays are defined in the registry at:


The registry editor showed the following keys:


With Windows needing 4 of the available 15 overlays, only the first 11 in this list (sorted alphabetically) will be used.

It’s interesting to speculate that different vendors are trying to force their overlays to the top of the list. The first three keys belong, I think, to Adobe and have a space character prepended to the name. The DropBox overlays start with a double quote which, by a happy coincidence (or perhaps not), bumps them up the list. Even TortoiseSVN may be guilty of doing this as their keys are prefixed with numbers.

As I’m not particularly interested in the Adobe and DropBox overlays, I renamed them using a “z_” prefix to force them to the end of the list:


I then used Task Manager to end the explorer.exe process and re-started it using Task Managers File | New Task (Run…) menu item.

And the TortoiseSVN overlays are now back:






Written by Sea Monkey

July 30, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Posted in Environments

Tagged with

16 Responses

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  1. Thank you! This is exactly what I needed 🙂


    January 12, 2015 at 3:18 pm

  2. I tried this but after a while the “Dropbox##” came back on top 😦


    January 15, 2015 at 2:03 pm

  3. Yes, I had the same problem some months after writing this blog article. I decided that if DropBox is going to keep repopulating its entries then I needed to change the TortoiseSVN entries instead to force them to appear before the DropBox ones. I simply renamed the TortoiseSVN entries by removing the leading digit from the name, e.g. 1TortoiseNormal becomes TortoiseNormal, 2TortoiseModified becomes TortoiseModified, etc. Because these Tortoise… entries appear in the list of entries before the “DropBoxExt…” entries, the Tortoise icons work as expected.

    Sea Monkey

    January 15, 2015 at 4:26 pm

  4. Unfortunately in Windows 10 Microsoft does not allow you to delete or rename the OneDrive overlays, which are at the top, so there appears to be now way for SVN and Dropbox to co-exist.

    Constantine Goulimis

    March 4, 2015 at 8:38 pm

    • It does. It’s just that you first need to take ownership of these registry keys from TrustedInstaller to e.g. Administrators, and then add the desired permissions.


      August 4, 2015 at 7:55 pm

    • Rename 1TortoiseNormal like a1TortoiseNormal (with first a) )

      Albert Tolokonnikov

      August 4, 2015 at 8:56 pm

  5. This made my day…! I’ve been having this issue for so many days…!

    Hemant Bhatye

    May 21, 2015 at 3:55 pm

  6. Does anyone know where the icon overlays are located on Windows 10? I can’t find the ShellIconOverlayIdentifiers directory in the registry editor


    June 5, 2015 at 8:22 pm

  7. Thank you SO much for this article. I lost my icons when updating to Windows 10, and they were intermittent before that (prob because of dropbox). Adding the two spaces before the tortoiseSVN icon overlays brought them to the top of the list on refresh. I had to restart for it to take effect (tried force stop/restart, didn’t work). I had to google how to open the registry editor tho – maybe add that in? For those who don’t know like me, just go to the start menu and type in “regedit” no quotes.

    Hannah Drake

    August 18, 2015 at 4:39 pm

  8. Oh also, in Windows 10, the filepath is: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > SOFTWARE > MICROSOFT > Windows > CurrentVersion > Explorer >ShellIconOverlayIdentifiers

    Hannah Drake

    August 18, 2015 at 4:41 pm

  9. great , its worked for me

    Rohit Antony

    April 15, 2016 at 10:05 am

  10. This sucks so hard. Great job Microsoft.


    January 17, 2017 at 1:56 pm

  11. Really useful. I found sticking in extra spaces in front worked the best. Is there any way to increase the number of available overlays from 15 to something more useful, like 64?

    Jolyon Tidmarsh

    February 16, 2017 at 1:47 pm

  12. For me, it showed 17 entries, still none of the TSVN icons showed. I just renamed all TSVN to add space at the beginning, It resolved my issue. Thank you!

    Raghavendra G Hegde

    March 5, 2018 at 4:03 am

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