Fix Missing Desktop Icons

Martin Brinkmann
Jan 12, 2010
Updated • Jun 3, 2016
Windows, Windows 7

A strange thing happened the other day on a Windows 7 Professional test system. All of the desktop icons that had been placed on the computer desktop were not visible anymore.

I did not do anything before the last shut down of the system, and no application was installed that could change the visibility of the desktop icons either. Also, I did not right-click on the desktop to hide the desktop icons using the show menu.

The missing icons on the desktop can however be displayed again easily. Some users might think that they have lost all of their desktop icons but that is usually not the case.

Fix Missing Desktop Icons

One easy way to find out is to open the directory of the Desktop in Windows Explorer. You can either open Windows Explorer and click on Desktop if it is displayed on the left side of the Explorer window, or load the following address to find out if the icons are still listed in the folder or not: %userprofile%\desktop

If you see the icons and files there, the following tip will help you restore them. If you do not see them, something else happened and the shortcuts and files have either been moved or deleted. If the latter is the case, there is little that can be done about it.

You can consult the list of additional options at the end of the guide which may help you resolve the issue on your end.

The missing desktop icons can be displayed again by right-clicking the computer desktop and selecting View > Show Desktop Icons. They should appear immediately after making the change in the menu. A checkmark should be visible after selecting the entry.

The same menu lists additional options like displaying or hiding gadgets, aligning icons or changing the size of desktop icons. It would be nice to hear if someone else has noticed that problem in Windows 7.

As some users have pointed out below in the comment section, there are other solutions that you may want to try out if the fix did not work out in your case:

  1. Select the desktop with a left-click and hit the F5 key on the keyboard. This refreshes the contents of it. If Windows has troubles loading the icons, this may bring them back.
  2. If nothing else helps, try System Restore or use it to restore individual files.

Last but not least, you may use programs to save the desktop icon layout so that you can restore it at a later point in time.

Fix Missing Desktop Icons [Windows 7]
Article Name
Fix Missing Desktop Icons [Windows 7]
The guide walks you through the steps of recovering desktop icons that are not displayed anymore on a Windows system.
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  1. Maria said on August 26, 2016 at 11:02 am

    Hi guys,

    In my case the laptop remembers the “docekd” profile (since normally I have another monitor connected via the docking station and which is set up as my primary display). Therefore, when I start my laptop when it is undocked then the desktop icons don’t show up (as the profile stores the info that my laptop screen is not a primary one).

    The following did the trick to bring my icons back to the laptop screen when undocked:

    – Right-click anywhere on the desktop and select “View”
    – uncheck and then check again “Align to Grid” option

    Hope it will help some other folks out there too.

  2. tracey adams said on April 10, 2016 at 2:08 am

    I have window 7 and the icons have been gone forever and I can’t seem to get them back no matter what I try

  3. Anonymous said on January 6, 2016 at 10:41 am


  4. Paul said on November 2, 2015 at 5:21 pm

    Thanks but doesn’t work for me. Some icons and folders are still missing. They can be viewed in Explorer but don’t show up when using a docking station for my laptop with external monitor. The missing icons are nowhere to be seen on the 2 screen with or without this fix, only if open a separate window and navigate to the desktop can I see them.

  5. King Kano said on September 27, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    Icons do not just disappear, it is a Windows bug…Windows knows of it, but as long as people keep coming up with these quirk fixes, which do not fix the real problem, we will be controlled my MS windows 7’s bug, deciding for us what we are allowed to have on our desktop

  6. Gregoriy234 said on November 6, 2014 at 1:59 am

    That is why I love more Windows XP because you can easy bring back icons on your desktop. Here is small explanation about how to bring back your basic Windows icons like My Documents, My Computer, My Network and so on in couple of clicks :

  7. Abdullah said on March 25, 2014 at 7:59 pm

    Thank u Very Much….

  8. Sylvio Haas said on February 24, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    I keep my Chrome icon fixed in the taskbar. ALL icons from Chrome’s jumplist disappeared from night to day. This in the area to where you pin sites. Site’s names remain there but without the icon. Would appreciate help for that. Thank you.

  9. edi said on December 9, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    thx…works to me

  10. duke said on July 8, 2013 at 8:18 am

    omg cant believe i was so dumb!thanks a lot man.

  11. Luke said on March 21, 2013 at 9:19 am

    You are amazing. That is exactly what i needed thank you : D

  12. ossie dunstan said on October 31, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    i have same peoblem but taskbar dissappers as well but this only happens when i start up any game ,explorer stop try`s to restart i can most times get game working through task manager 2 times was fixed bye a ati update and microsoft up datre but upon reboot and restart anygame same thing i have run malware programs virus scanner and nothing has fixed this problem ,the problem for me only started after an update from microsoft aboyt week ago getting very pissed of, as nothing is fixing it i have been on the phone with microsoft Australia(india) and got absolutely no help at all ,my next move if microsoft dont fix it is to get a lawyer

  13. Richie said on October 3, 2012 at 1:57 am

    Wow, this has worked like a hot cake. I was stuck on what to after my desktop icons completly disappeared. Thanx alot man for sharing

  14. gaston said on September 12, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    oh my god !!!!!!!!!!!! thankkkkk youuuuuuuuu so muuch !!!ilove you maaan !!!!!!!!!

  15. digvijay said on August 23, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    ohh!! it works for me!!

  16. sunil said on August 23, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    my icons was disappeared but when i right clicked on desktop
    1. then press view
    2.there will be option show desktop icons on it
    4. icons comes again

    its works for me u should also try!!!
    maybe it works for u also!!!

    1. unknown said on August 23, 2012 at 6:28 pm

      best solution after a long search!!!

    2. devesh said on August 23, 2012 at 6:24 pm

      thanks sunil it works for me!!!!

  17. WRXGuy02 said on June 29, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    The disappearing icons issue is a known microsoft “bug” and there is a fix for it as the “Show Desktop Icons” is not usually the case for most.
    This has been fixed by a Microsoft “Fix It” utility or a simple Registry modification if you are comfortable getting in there & adding a couple new values. Here’s the KB article info:

    Broken shortcuts are deleted from the desktop in Windows 7

  18. someone said on January 23, 2012 at 9:59 pm


  19. brandon said on January 7, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    Okay, so i have a serious problem. I was useing internet explorer to get on my email. I was n the middle of an email and it kicked me off, tryed again and was kicked off again. I decided that i should back my files i had on cpu to the external. In the process of trying to do so, my desktop background turned black and all of my icons and files disappeared. And the files on one of my externals disappeared. I ran malware bytes, first time it found 14 problems ans fixed and removed them, but still no icons. I ran it a total of 2 more times, and it found nothing else. I also ran it on external, is scanned and showed the files, but even if i plug external into another computer it shows that it has no files. I also ran noeton and it on found one tracking cookie. My biggest concern is between cpu and external, i have lost the last 6 years worth of my kids photos and my photography and video work. I did the f9 dianostic at the beginning of start up, it says the hd drive has issue and to back up files and restore. But all of my restore points are gone. I am not able to open in program through the start menu, if i click on one it says empty. My control panel is also not showing up in start menu. I am completely lost and dont know what to do.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 7, 2012 at 11:38 pm

      You need a new drive, and maybe need to re-install Windows as well on the new drive. I’d not use the damaged drive for now, do a clean install of Windows on a new drive, and run a backup software from that drive to get the data back. Check out this guide for suggestions:

  20. Anonymous said on January 4, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    that was it thanks

  21. dole said on December 17, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    Thanks! Why can’t MS’s own site have an answer this easy…

  22. Mike K said on November 23, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    Just happened to me on Win7 x64 after a microsoft update occurred. It might be that if people have microsoft updater to update automatically, it defaults the setting to not show desktop icons.

  23. Elly said on October 3, 2011 at 10:23 am

    Figured it out!!!
    I had this problem a while ago and found only 1 online post that fixed it!!!
    It happened to me again this week and i remembered it was REALLY REALLY SIMPLE! But I forgot how…
    I spent ages trawling through hundreds of posts, all saying crap like reinstall windows, run a virus scan, blah blah blah. None of which worked. But i think i have got it!
    Go to :
    control panel > system and security > Power options >
    Under select a power plan heading :
    Is the setting Power 4 Gear Quiet Office (or equivalent) checked ?
    If so: change it to Power 4 gear entertainment (or equivalent)
    and VOILA!!! ICONS ARE BACK! Restart computer. The icons are still there!!!
    Its fixed!
    Let me know if this was the same problem you had, and if it worked 4 u?!!!

  24. percy said on August 26, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    thank u so much, i thought all my desktop icons gopt deleted, my daughter messed with it. I got it back

  25. TorQueMoD said on August 23, 2011 at 8:02 am

    I just had this problem occur for the first time after installing InfraRecorder so the problem is still NOT fixed. Show Desktop Icons in the view menu fixed the problem but it really sucks that this is still happening with the program cause its a really nice app.

  26. Gull said on August 16, 2011 at 5:48 am

    This was perfect. Thanks for the help

  27. Random greek said on July 13, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    Thanks, this just happened for no (I think so) reason.
    For anyone having the same issue, try not to panic!
    Check first C:\Users\*yourusername*\Desktop folder to check if all contents are intact!

  28. Anonymous said on May 14, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    thank u thanku very much

  29. Doug said on May 4, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    Thanks, it worked great; no need for all that BS software people are attempting to sell.

  30. srihari said on February 10, 2011 at 6:49 am

    Very good Fix

  31. zoro78 said on January 25, 2011 at 10:13 am

    Thank you alot.
    I thought i must format my PC :-)

  32. Greyhound said on January 7, 2011 at 3:37 am

    Thanks, Plaza. Running W7 Pro/64 for about 8 months and never had this problem. Installed Infrarecorder about 10 days ago and just had the problem. Infrarecorder is now gone!

  33. Domain Portfolio said on December 21, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    Thanks a-lot! This worked perfectly. I’ve been without my desktop icons for over a month now – glad to see them back …

  34. Tooo said on December 3, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    The real fix is here!!!! For missing Windows 7 icons … all over the place.

  35. Dawnder said on November 28, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    I dont have Infrarecorder istalled…this has happened to me three times now…but not all of my icons disappear…about half do. And today my swagbucks toolbar in IE also disappeared. Basically it is just annoying….because the programs are all still there I just have to keep adding the icons to my desktop. Any ideas what could be causing that.

    When I right click on desktop; view; show icons is on…even if i click it off then back on…I still don’t have the missing icons reappear.

  36. Ryuu said on November 24, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    this worked, now i feel like an idiot for not knowing how to fix it. doomo arigato gozimasu

  37. Smurf said on November 12, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    Looks like Infrarecorder is fixed now :-)

  38. Bill said on November 8, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Win 7 Pro 64-bit, 5 months old, clean install

    Just had this today for the first time and a re-boot didn’t fix it. The right click and show icons did the trick. THANK YOU.

  39. anu said on July 26, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    thnx a lot !!!!

  40. kyle said on May 27, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    wow thanks it worked i thought im going to reformat my laptop

  41. jay said on May 24, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    Same thing happened to me. Thanks for the solution.

  42. Calia said on May 2, 2010 at 12:59 am

    Just installed Infrarecorder the other day – turned on the laptop this afternoon and no icons. So apparently no fix yet, disappointing.

  43. youiswho said on April 24, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    Thank you sooo Much. saved me lot of work lol. it happened to me, “Windows 7 Ultimate 32 bit” :>}

  44. Alora said on March 23, 2010 at 4:58 am

    I don’t have Infrarecorder installed, but every tie I start up my laptop, the desktop icons are missing. I foud the ‘Show desktop icons’ option the first time it happened, and it was stillt icked even though I couldn’t see any of them. So I unchecked it and rechecked and they came beck. But then the next time I strated my computer, they were gone again.
    This has happened every single time and I’m getting so annoyed with having to uncheck and recheck the ‘Show’ option every time I need to use my laptop.

  45. confuused steeve said on March 13, 2010 at 11:42 am

    I think I have a similar problem which baffled me for a while. Running W7 on an acer latop.

    Occasionally on startup a dialog balloon would randomly pop up and claim that ‘changes will require a restart – choose now/later’. Either way I would eventually shutdown the laptop. On a restart I would seemingly lose all desktop icons, taskbar AND taskmanager! But the laptop seemed to work perfectly – the background picture would still change and right click mouse still worked. Right click ‘show desktop icons’ was also on but to no effect.

    Since I couldn’t get taskmanager up, the first few times this happened I forced shutdown (held power button for a few seconds) and restarted in safe mode. I simply did a system restore – annoying but I thought no other way around. This did fix it but didn’t stop the same issue arising again later.

    However, this morning I had the same issue but found out why I couldn’t acccess taskmanager etc. W7 decided to switch to second monitor in extend mode! Don’t know why this keeps on happening but to bring everything back was simple: right-click –> screen resolution –> choose monitor 1 —> change ‘extend these displays’ to ‘show desktop only on 1’ –> apply. Done.

    Why this happens I’m not sure. No shortcuts that I know of and no hotkeys on my laptop. But at least I don’t have to do a system restore in safe mode every time it happens.

    Not sure if my issue is relevent but felt I should share my frustrating experience in case someone else has the same issue.

  46. Newman said on March 10, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    Wow exactly what I needed!! Thanx a lot!!

  47. Jati said on March 5, 2010 at 4:48 am

    I have Win764 and Infrarecorder installed, icons and files lost as well, “Show desktop icons” menu worked fine but not F5.

  48. tom said on February 26, 2010 at 6:36 am

    win 7 newcomer.
    i opened a new folder on desktop, plugged in a 500 mb thumb and dragged it to the new folder and cliked,move here.
    it took a few minutes and i was looking at other stuff.,actually deleting the files on the other comp.that i had put in the thumb.

    when it finished i found only three of hundreds of the files and apx 20k size,,not 500mb.

    i had deleted the data on the other comp.

    now its gone. when i moved a folder and lost it i found help here and found the recent folder,,but not the missing 500 mb.

    i wonder where it went.
    i guess i should have copied it first instead of moving it.
    any help?



    1. Martin said on February 26, 2010 at 9:05 am

      Try data recovery to recover the files

  49. Plaza said on February 23, 2010 at 9:37 am

    Thanks for your replies, I sent an email to the creator of infrarecorder and got a reply back he will fix this :-)

  50. steve said on February 22, 2010 at 11:54 am

    me too – so bye bye infra ! – shame as well, it’s good.

  51. Plaza said on February 21, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Hi guys,

    I found the cause of the misteriously disappearing Windows 7 desktop icons and the reaon why Show desktop icons now and then gets unchecked.

    It’s INFRARECORDER !! Try for yourselves, when you start Infrarecorder and close it again, go have a look at “Show desktop icons”, it is unchecked (but the icons are still there). Check it on again and start Infrarecorder…. it is unchecked again.

    This Windows 7 “bug” is irritating me since the beginning and now I found the cause: It’s Infrarecorder which is causing this problem.

    Test it and please let me know and spread the news :-)

    1. dena said on February 22, 2011 at 4:17 pm

      Happened to me too. But not until after I installed infrarecorder! I promptly removed it and manually restored my icons. We’ll see if they stay put since I removed infrarecorder.

      thanks a million this was really bothering me.

    2. michael said on May 11, 2010 at 3:56 am

      cheers, infrarecorder was the culprit!

    3. AndyColla said on May 1, 2010 at 3:47 pm

      @Plaza You are the man! Thanks for the tip. I’ve just uninstalled Infrarecorder. I’ll look for another small and nice cd/dvd software. Thanks again.

    4. yesMan said on February 22, 2010 at 5:05 am

      I lost my desktop icons and I have Infrarecord installed. Just tested and it is like you said =)

      thanks… ;)

  52. SUOrangeman said on January 14, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    Anyone else want a real IE icon back on the desk? Taskbar icon is good, but you cannot right-click to get to properties. Only Control Panel or opening IE itself gives you that access. :(

  53. Brent said on January 14, 2010 at 3:09 am

    Happens to me, too, with WIN7 64. New files saved to the desktop do not show up on the desktop (all of my old icons still show up on the desktop_. Clicking the desktop and then pressing F5 made the new ones appear. I have dual monitors.

  54. Hartza said on January 13, 2010 at 9:30 am

    This usually happens after hibernation or sleep, and with multiple monitors.

    1. Tobey said on January 13, 2010 at 10:06 am

      Interesting. Didn’t know a multi-monitor setup had anything to do with it.

  55. Tobey said on January 13, 2010 at 12:00 am

    Running W7 x64, icons disappear temporarily on desktop whenever renamed. Another solution to this trivial yet unpleasant problem is clicking the desktop first (give it focus) and pressing F5.
    Works fine for me.

    1. jason gregory bouskill said on October 28, 2013 at 3:36 pm

      my windows icons are poping up as photo gallery icons WTF how do i fix this

      1. steven said on April 14, 2014 at 12:39 pm

        system restore wil do the trick…!

  56. Womble said on January 12, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    I am embarressed to say this happened to me the other day with Win7 x64 took me ages to figure out where the bin was.

  57. John said on January 12, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    I run W7 64bit and have had that problem as well. The fix in the article does fix it, for a time, until it happens again.

  58. John in SF said on January 12, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    We have two computers running W7. The disappearing desktop icons occurs occasionally on both of them.

    1. Anonymous said on February 24, 2014 at 1:51 pm

      thank u

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