Why am I not seeing the Icon Overlays in Shell Extensions TFS Power tools ?

This issue have been reported multiple times and I just wanted to get why it is happening out there:

  • Windows allows a maximum of 15 icon overlays in the system even Windows 7 (http://blogs.msdn.com/b/oldnewthing/archive/2009/12/09/9934348.aspx for more information on that and why)
  • So basically the shell respects the first 15 icon overlays in the system (sorted in alphabetical order)
  • To find the icon overlays in the system you can go to “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\explorer \ShellIconOverlayIdentifiers” on your machine and figure out how many overlays are installed
  • If you have dropbox, groove or tortoise SVN installed the number of overlays intalled in the system will exceed 15. But windows will only respect the fist 15 in alphabetical order. We name our overlays “TfsOverlayAdd”, “TfsOverlayEdit” etc. and Tortoise SVN name their overlays “1TortoiseNormal”, “2TortoiseModified” etc. So alphabetically they come as top as possible in the list. And we usually end up being bumped down the list and thus a subset or all of overlays might not work if Tortoise SVN or drop box are installed.

To fix the problem using a hacky solution you can (Note: This is really a hacky solution and the product was not designed for this):

  1. Open the registry
  2. Go to : HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\explorer \ShellIconOverlayIdentifiers
  3. Rename our icon overlays to “1TfsOverlayAdd” , “2TfsOverlayEdit” etc. to bump us up the list
  4. Restart the machine or kill explorer.exe and restart it
Comments (11)
  1. Papy Normand says:

    Amusing and useful your workaround even if I am considering that the modification of the registry is an not advisable method except for specialists

    Please, could you slightly modify your article to make clickable the the link towards the oldnewthing blog ? It is more pleasant than to have to copy/paste it.

    Anyway, simple,short but clear  ( i have succeeded to understand it plainly, i think)

    Please, could you tell us for which operating system it is working ? ( i am waiting for the release of SQL Server 2012 and Visual Studio 2011 to change my computer, i will jump from XP PRO SP3 to Windows 7 )

  2. yohasna says:

    Thanks for your feedback,

    – I agree that this is a hacky solution and it is not advisable to do unless you really understand what you are doing 🙂

    – I fixed the link

    – This should work on both WinXP and Win7

  3. It work absolutely perfectly. I am on Win 7 and TFS 2010. I have SVN and Groove installed which were taking the priority for overlays. Thanks!

  4. Itsmine says:

    Your solution works perfectly. However, neither I see these icons nor tfs menu item in OpenDialogue window.

    I am using windows7 64 bit. Thanks!

  5. BKewl says:

    After using Process Monitor to see the order in which Explorer enumerates the overlay identifiers, it looks like they are actually enumerated in ASCII order.  That also just happens to sort the numbers before the letters, but certain symbols (like '!') will get sorted even before those starting with a number.  This is a little misleading, because the Registry Editor shows things in a different order (maybe the order file names are sorted?).

  6. amissico says:

    This does not work. See "TFS Power Tools: Shell Extension : Not showing in Windows Explorer context" at stackoverflow.com/…/tfs-power-tools-shell-extension-not-showing-in-windows-explorer-context.

    I believe there is something wrong with the "December 2011" release. When I installed on a clean computer, the registry entries in CLSID were not created.

  7. Amit Kumar says:


    Please give me whole solution to icon overlay because i need it more to implement in my project


  8. Paul Coddington says:

    Wouldn't it be wonderful if Microsoft fixed this problem? Especially now that Office 2013 and Windows 8.1 are taking up extra overlays themselves, the problem has become much worse.

  9. Thorsten Albrecht says:

    Windows 7 allows only 11 active overlay icons (not 15). Just tested it intensively with all Dropbox overlay icons types.

  10. Josh M. says:

    Wow – this has to be one of the dumbest Windows "features" I've come across! Is there any way to change the arbitrary limit instead of shuffling the icons around?

  11. Larry R says:

    Thanks for the post. It seems that other overlay vendors caught on and have now started adding two blanks spaces in front of their names so you'll have to adjust for that as well.

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