What Are the Little White Boxes With Blue Arrows on My Desktop Icons?

By Clare Edwards

Small arrows may appear on top of some icons.
i Ethan Miller/Getty Images News/Getty Images

In the lower left corner of some of the icons on your Windows desktop, you may see a small white box with a blue arrow. An arrow pointing up and to the right indicates that the icon is a shortcut. Some editions of Norton security software also use icon overlays to indicate file status.

Shortcut Arrows

Windows uses icon overlays to tell you more about the status of the file that the icon represents. A small white box containing a blue left-to-right diagonal arrow with a slight curve tells you that the icon is a shortcut -- the program or file is not located on your desktop but is somewhere else on the computer. For example, programs typically have a shortcut arrow as they are usually located in the Program Files folder.

Norton Backup Status Overlays

Norton uses icon overlays to indicate the backup status of your files. Files that are fully backed up have a green box with a check mark. Files excluded from backups have a gray overlay. Files which have not yet been backed up have a small white box with a downward-pointing blue arrow.

Removing Windows Shortcut Icon Overlays Manually

You can get rid of the blue arrow from your shortcut icons by manually deleting the registry key associated with shortcut overlays. The Windows registry is a very important database of settings and options; deleting or changing the wrong entry can stop your computer from working properly, or at all. For this reason, you should only attempt manual removal if you are very experienced in working with the Windows registry.

Removing Windows Shortcut Icon Overlays with a Utility

A safer option than editing the Windows registry is to download and run a utility that removes or alters the icon overlays. A utility such as Vista Shortcut Overlay Remover has the added advantage of allowing you to remove icon overlays completely, or to have a smaller overlay. Vista Shortcut Overlay Remover works with Windows 7 32-bit as well; there is a separate version for Windows XP and for Windows 7 64-bit.