Why bookmark logo icons disappear in Safari

safari icon osx

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TK Oates writes in with a commonly seen problem:

When I logged in at the CPH [Copenhagen, Denmark] airport for their free Wi-Fi, many of my Safari icons were changed to the airport logo. How do I change them back?

This is the heartbreak of portal pages, something you’d think would be solved after about 15 years of publicly available Wi-Fi networks that use interception technology to require you to accept terms of service, watch an ad, log in, or make a payment to use the network.

That interception page breaks the domain naming system (DNS) process that turns human-readable names (like macworld.com) into the underlying IP addresses that are the lifeblood of the Internet. Any domain that’s typed in gets intercepted and effectively redirected to the locked-down portal page until you make the right choice. (Choose wisely!)

So if Safari chooses this moment to refresh and check that any or all of its bookmarked site icons (called favicons) are up to date, all of these requests are redirected, and the tiny icons are replaced with whatever the portal favicon is.

Apple used to make it easier to reset favicons in desktop Safari, but recent versions no longer have a specific item designed for this purpose. You’ve got two options.

You can delete the icon database that Safari keeps:

  1. Quit Safari.
  2. In the Finder, press Command-Shift-G and enter ~/Library/Safari
  3. Delete the WebpageIcons.db file and empty the Trash.
  4. Launch Safari.

You can also wipe out everything in Safari, but you’ll lose all your history, stored cookies, and local database storage:

  1. Select Safari > Clear History.
  2. Select All History from Clear.
  3. Click Clear History.
mac911 clear desktop safari

Clearing all history in desktop Safari deletes stored favicon.

You can perform the same option in mobile Safari:

  1. Go to Settings > Safari.
  2. Swipe down to Clear History and Website Data and tap that button.
  3. Confirm by tapping Clear History and Data.
mac911 reset mobile safari data

In iOS, you can use the nuclear option, which dumps website icons, too.

You can also wait: these icons are regularly, but not continuously refreshed, which means your problematic favicons will resume their normal status eventually.

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