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Windows Vista and Windows 7 have a Games Explorer that downloads additional details for some games, such as the ESRB rating, recommended WEI score, game description and cover art which is used as the icon. Some games don't have any additional information and use the regular icon included with the game.

Is there any way to download cover art for games that are missing it or just edit the icon more generally?

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I haven't tried it myself but you might want to check out "Vista Game Explorer Editor" here: http://sites.google.com/site/vgeeditor/

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I don't think it's possible to edit the icon for a game that is added by the game itself. You can try hiding the icon that was auto-added and replace it with your own. That should give you more control over the icon. You can add an icon just by dragging a shortcut, perhaps editing the shortcut's icon beforehand.

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