Archive for May, 2016

Solution: The icon of an EXE compiled with Microsoft Visual C++ won’t show up in Windows 95.

Saturday, May 28th, 2016

The early versions of Windows 95, that is, the very first release, and subsequent ‘A’ and ‘B’ releases (but NOT the ‘C’ with IE 4.0 bundled!) have a peculiar behavior when it comes to an executable. The operating system refuses to detect an executable’s icon in explorer if you compiled it for /console mode, that is, as a command-line app. In order to work around this, you must compile the executable in /windows GUI mode, define a WinMain() [and not main()] and use AllocConsole() to immediately arrange a console window for the process.

Such is the workaround in case someone else was having trouble with this issue and thought it was a bug. It appears to be intentional behavior that was changed after Windows 95C. The rule is basically this: If the EXE is compiled for /windows GUI mode, then it will be scanned for icon resources and the first one will be used, as is normal… However, if it was compiled for /console mode, then it won’t bother, in fact, it will state the EXE has no icon resources if you try, for example, to create a shortcut and ask it to check for icons in said EXE. It simply defaults to fetching a generic command-line console icon from the system for every EXE that’s compiled as a console/command-line EXE regardless of what icons are or are not contained within…

I spent a few days trying to figure this out actually, I blamed the compiler, the linker, Microsoft VC++ 2005, other settings in the PE header of the executable… I tried PE editors to see if I could get different results… It really frustrated me not being able to figure it out… Finally, I compiled a blank project with VC++ 2005 which I had set to /windows GUI mode and after all my other tests failed, the EXE actually had its icon show up in Windows 95… Yeah, took quite a while…

Anyway, since I googled several times to see if somebody else encountered this problem with no luck, I made this entry in case this info might be useful to somebody else. I will in fact use the work around I mentioned. My EXE will be compiled with subsystem set to /windows GUI mode, a WinMainCRTStartup() function will be defined (the pre-WinMain function), with a subsequent call to AllocConsole() instead of creating a window. This shouldn’t be much of a big deal to all Windows operating systems thereafter, but I’ll have to test how this change behaves elsewhere.