Are you wondering what those brown box icons in the bottom left corner of your files or folders are in Windows 11? If so, then this post will tell you what they are, what they indicate, and how to get rid of these icon overlays, should you wish to.
After upgrading to Windows 11, a few users have been noticing a small file cabinet box icon at the bottom left corner of several file thumbnails (Word, PDF, Jpeg, etc.) on their Windows PC. This icon overlay does not affect the ability to open the files.
What are these Brown Box Icons in left bottom corner of my files?
The brown-colored icon at the bottom left of the file thumbnails is a type of Overlay icon that Windows 11 sets to indicate the nature of that icon.
For example, a small arrow icon at the bottom left corner of the thumbnail indicates that this is an app shortcut. Similarly, 2 small blue arrows at the top-right corner of the thumbnail indicate that the file has been compressed to save disk space.
The brown box icon indicates that the thumbnail is a pointer (shortcut) to a file synchronized using a cloud service (OneDrive or Dropbox). It is used when the FILE_ATTRIBUTE_OFFLINE flag is set, which means the offline file is just a link to the online file and hence, has 0 bytes file size. The actual file has been archived in the cloud, so when you double-click on the thumbnail, your system will download the file locally and then open it. So it will take a little longer than usual to open the file.
If you can’t open the file, you don’t have access to its actual location. This happens when you’re not signed into the cloud service where the file is hosted or, if the file is not marked for offline access.
Having said that, the brown box icon doesn’t indicate an issue. Still, if you find that you cannot open files with such brown box icon overlay, follow these suggestions to fix the isue on your Windows 11 PC:
- Unlink and Relink OneDrive/Dropbox.
- Turn on Always keep on this device in OneDrive.
- Disable Files On-Demand in OneDrive.
- Disable Smart Sync – Online Only in Dropbox.
- Turn Off Archive Apps in Windows Settings.
- Turn Off Storage Sense.
- Uninstall OneDrive/Dropbox.
Let us see these in detail.
1] Unlink and Relink OneDrive/Dropbox
Many users have been able to resolve the issue by unlinking and then re-linking the Cloud service account from their device.
When you unlink a device, files marked as ‘online only’ will be erased while local OneDrive/Dropbox files remain available on the device. When you re-link the device, the files will be re-synce,d and ‘online only’ files will reappear on the device – this time, without the brown box icon.
A] Unlink and Relink OneDrive
- Sign into OneDrive on your Windows PC.
- Select the OneDrive cloud icon from the notification area in taskbar.
- Select the Help & Settings icon.
- Select Settings.
- Click on Accounts tab.
- Click on Unlink this PC.
- Click on Unlink account in the confirmation prompt.
- Sign into your OneDrive account. It will re-sync all your files.
B] Unlink and Relink Dropbox
- Sign out of the Dropbox desktop app.
- Sign into the Dropbox website.
- Click on your profile icon in the top right corner and select Settings.
- Click on the Security tab.
- Navigate to the Devices section.
- Click on the delete icon next to the device name that needs to be unlinked.
- Click on the General tab.
- To re-link the device, sign back into the Dropbox desktop app using your login credentials.
2] Turn on Always keep on this device in OneDrive
If the above solution didn’t work, you may ‘force’ OneDrive to download the file (not applicable to Dropbox).
Open File Explorer and navigate to the OneDrive file. Right-click on it and select ‘Always keep on this device‘. Now OneDrive should download the file from the cloud and keep a copy of it on your system. Once the file is available locally, the brown box icon should disappear on its own.
3] Disable Files On-Demand in OneDrive
Files On-Demand is a OneDrive feature that helps you access your synced files without having to keep a copy of them locally. You may still see the files but they won’t take any space on your hard drive.
The brown box icon appears when a synced file has ‘Files On-Demand’ feature enabled and is yet not downloaded. To fix this, you should disable this feature in OneDrive and see if it works for you.
- Click on the OneDrive cloud icon in the notification area.
- Click on the Help & Settings icon.
- Select Settings.
- Expand Advanced settings under Sync and backup.
- Click on the toggle button next to the Files On-Demand option to turn off the feature.
4] Disable Smart Sync – Online Only in Dropbox
Dropbox has a Smart Sync feature that enables keeping files only on the cloud to free up disk space. This works similar to the ‘Files On-Demand’ feature in OneDrive. You may access the files flagged as ‘Online Only’ as long as there’s a network connection.
To fix the brown box icon issue, disable ‘Online Only’ in Smart Sync and see if it helps.
- Open File Explorer and navigate to the Dropbox file.
- Right-click on the file and click on Smart Sync.
- Deslect the Online Only option.
5] Turn Off Archive Apps in Windows Settings
Another solution that may work is turning off the Archive Apps feature in System Settings. Archive Apps is a Windows feature that automatically uninstalls Microsoft Store apps that you rarely use on your PC. So if this feature is On, it may uninstall your OneDrive/Dropbox app. This means you’re no longer signed into the app and hence have no access to the files stored online.
6] Turn Off Storage Sense
A few users have also been able to resolve the issue by disabling Storage Sense in Windows 11.
Storage Sense is a built-in feature in Windows that helps free up disk space by automatically deleting unnecessary files. There’s a setting in Storage Sense using which you can remove unused cloud-backed content from your device if not opened for more than ‘N’ days. With Windows 11 version 22H2 update, this value has been set to 30 days by default. So if you won’t use locally available cloud content for more than 30 days, Storage Sense may remove it from your PC to free up disk space. The content will still be available online, so you won’t have to worry at all.
- To be able to see this setting, you should be signed into the Cloud service.
- This setting won’t affect files flagged as ‘Always keep on this device’.
7] Uninstall OneDrive/Dropbox
If you have more than one Cloud service installed on the same computer and both of them try to sync the same data, you may likely encounter issues.
So just in case you do not use either of these services, you may uninstall it from your PC and see if it helps in fixing the brown box icon issue. Uninstalling OneDrive/Dropbox will remove the files from your computer while they will still be available on the cloud.
To uninstall OneDrive/Dropbox, go to Settings > Apps > Installed apps. Search for OneDrive/Dropbox. Click on the three dots icon next to the app name and select Uninstall.
If none of the above solutions help, ignore or allow OneDrive/Dropbox in your security software’s settings.
What is the brown box icon on OneDrive files?
The brown box icon is a Windows overlay icon that indicates that the file you’re trying to open is not accessible at the moment and is taking time to open up. The icon usually appears on the files synced to a Cloud storage service. These files are basically links to the actual files which are available online.
How do I get rid of the box icon?
To get rid of the brown box icon in the bottom right corner of a file, make sure you’re signed into the Cloud service that hosts the actual file. If you’re using Dropbox, turn off the ‘Smart Sync – Online Only’ feature and if you’re using OneDrive, turn off the ‘Files On-Demand’ feature. Also, turn off Storage Sense and Archive Apps feature in Windows Settings.