Fix Windows 7 Desktop Shortcuts Disappearing

Martin Brinkmann
Mar 30, 2010
Updated • Jul 27, 2016
Windows, Windows 7

If you run Windows 7 you may have noticed that desktop shortcuts disappear with no apparent reason whatsoever. Turns out that System Maintenance is responsible for that. It runs as a weekly maintenance service that affects desktop shortcuts in two ways.

It will first remove desktop shortcuts that have not been used for at least three months. System Maintenance will also remove broken shortcuts on the desktop if there are more than four of them. The problem with the latter is that Windows 7 will recognize shortcuts to disconnected network locations as broken and also shortcuts that link to shell folders.

Microsoft offers two solutions to the problem. The first advice is to keep the number of broken shortcuts below four. This is not always possible due to the problems with broken shortcuts mentioned above.

The second suggestion by Microsoft is to turn off Computer Maintenance:

  • Click Start, and then click Control Panel.
  • Under System and Security, click Find and fix problems.
  • On the left navigation pane, click Change settings.
  • Set Computer Maintenance to Off.

This does however turn off all other computer maintenance related tasks like checking the system time, disk volume errors or the disk space error reports.

All the maintenance tasks are powered by scripts that are located in c:\windows\Diagnostics\Scheduled\Maintenance\. Options are to edit the scripts directly in that directory. The permissions prohibit that the files are edited by the current user.

Fixing Windows 7 Desktop Shortcuts Disappearing

Please note: This is a hack which may impact other parts of the operating system. Everything worked fine afterwards on a test system but make sure to backup the files properly before editing them

First we need to take control of the files so that we can edit them. To do that you need to take ownership first, and then modify the access rights of the current user so that the files can be modified.

The first part can be automated. Just download the script at this forum and execute it. This should add a Take Ownership entry to the right-click menu in Windows Explorer.

Go to C:\Windows\diagnostics\scheduled\Maintenance in Windows Explorer after installing the script and right-click the file TS_BrokenShortcuts.ps1. Select the Take Ownership option which should transfer ownership to the logged in user.

The user still does not have permissions to save the file which means that we have to complete the next step as well before we can edit the broken shortcuts Powerscript file so that it will not delete broken shortcuts automatically.

Open an elevated command line prompt. You do that by clicking on the Start orb, All Programs, then Accessories. Right-click the Command Prompt link and select to Run As Administrator.

Now issue the following command to grant the active user full rights of the file. Make sure you replace USERNAME with the name of the active user.

icacls c:\windows\diagnostics\scheduled\maintenance\TS_BrokenShortcuts.ps1 /grant USERNAME:F

Now you can edit the file normally in a text editor like Notepad. Open it and locate the line (line 11)

[string]$list = ""

Delete everything below that is below that line up to (line 22)

return $list

The lines that are deleted are:

Get-ChildItem -Path $path -filter *.lnk | Foreach-Object {
$fullPath = ConvertTo-WQLPath $_.FullName
$wmiLinkFile = Get-WmiObject -query "SELECT Name,Target,AccessMask FROM Win32_ShortcutFile WHERE Name = '$fullPath'"

if(-not(Test-ValidLink $wmiLinkFile) -and (Test-Delete $wmiLinkFile))
$list = AttachTo-List $list $wmiLinkFile.Name

This basically returns a blank list to the script so that no shortcuts get deleted. I have tested it with five broken shortcuts and they have not been deleted after running system maintenance.

That fixed the broken shortcuts but we still have the issue that shortcuts that have not been used for some time are deleted by Windows 7 as well.

We have to (almost) perform the same operation here. Locate the file TS_UnusedDesktopIcons.ps1 in the same directory. Take ownership of it and grant the active user access rights.

Edit the file afterwards and locate the line (24)

[string]$list = ""

Delete everything up to line (35)

return $list

so that the following lines get deleted

Get-ChildItem -Path $path -filter *.lnk | Foreach-Object {
$fullPath = ConvertTo-WQLPath $_.FullName
$wmiLinkFile = Get-WmiObject -query "SELECT Name,Target,AccessMask FROM Win32_ShortcutFile WHERE Name = '$fullPath'"
$lastAccessTime = Get-LastAccessTime $_.FullName

if((Test-ValidLink $wmiLinkFile) -and (Test-Delete $wmiLinkFile) -and (Test-FileShortcut $wmiLinkFile) -and (Test-Unused $lastAccessTime $threshold))
$list = AttachTo-List $list $wmiLinkFile.Name

Please note that I did not test the second script but it should work just as fine.

This should resolve all issues that users have with removed shortcuts on the Windows 7 desktop.

Make sure you backup the files properly before you edit them. Please let me know if this worked for you or if you have a better idea on how to fix the deleted shortcut problem in Windows 7.

Fix Windows 7 Desktop Shortcuts Disappearing
Article Name
Fix Windows 7 Desktop Shortcuts Disappearing
If shortcuts on the desktop of your Windows operating system disappear without user action, try the following fixes to get them back.
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  1. Dan Donx said on January 15, 2023 at 10:29 am

    What mental age of reader are you targeting with the first sentence? 10?

    Why not write an article on how to *avoid* upgrading from W10 to W11. Analogous to those like me who avoided upgrading from 7 to 10 for as long as possible.

    If your paymaster Microsoft permits it, of course.

  2. Dexter said on January 15, 2023 at 11:14 am

    5. Rufus
    6. Ventoy

    PS. I hate reading these “SEO optimized” articles.

    1. cdr said on January 15, 2023 at 3:32 pm

      I used Rufus to create an installer for a 6th gen intel i5 that had MBR. It upgraded using Setup. No issues except for Win 11 always prompting me to replace my local account. Still using Win 10 Pro on all my other PCs to avoid the bullying.

  3. sv said on January 15, 2023 at 6:40 pm

    bit pointless to upgrade for the sake of upgrading as you never know when you’ll get locked out because ms might suddenly not provide updates to unsupported systems.

    ps…. time travelling?
    written. Jan 15, 2023
    Updated • Jan 13, 2023

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 16, 2023 at 5:49 am

      This happens when you schedule a post in WordPress and update it before setting the publication date.

  4. Anonymous said on January 16, 2023 at 8:24 am

    Anyone willing to downgrade to this awful OS must like inflicting themselves with harm.

  5. basingstoke said on January 16, 2023 at 11:18 am

    I have become convinced now that anybody who has no qualms with using Windows 11/10 must fit into one of the following brackets:

    1) Too young to remember a time before W10 and W11 (doesn’t know better)

    2) Wants to play the latest games on their PC above anything else (or deeply needs some software which already dropped W7 support)

    3) Doesn’t know too much about how computers work, worried that they’d be absolutely lost and in trouble without the “”latest security””

    4) Microsoft apologist that tries to justify that the latest “features” and “changes” are actually a good thing, that improve Windows

    5) Uses their computer to do a bare minimum of like 3 different things, browse web, check emails, etc, so really doesn’t fuss

    Obviously that doesn’t cover everyone, there’s also the category that:

    6) Actually liked W7 more than 10, and held out as long as possible before switching, begrudgingly uses 10 now

    Have I missed any group off this list?

    1. Heinz Strunk said on September 19, 2023 at 3:57 pm

      You have missed in this group just about any professional user that uses business software like CAD programs or ERP Programs which are 99% of all professional users from this list.

      Linux doesn’t help anyone who is not a linux kid and apple is just a fancy facebook machine.

  6. ilev said on August 24, 2023 at 7:34 pm

    Microsoft has removed KB5029351 update

    1. EP said on August 24, 2023 at 9:21 pm

      only from windows update though
      KB5029351 is still available from the ms update catalog site

  7. Anonymous said on August 24, 2023 at 11:05 pm

    1. This update is labaled as PREVIEW if it causes issues to unintelligent people, then they shouldn’t have allowed Preview updates ot install.

    2. I have installed it in a 11 years old computer, and no problems at all.

    3. Making a big drama over a bluescreen for an updated labeled as preview is ridiculous.

    This is probably another BS internet drama where people ran programs and scripts that modified the registry until they broke Windows, just for removing stuff that they weren’t even using just for the sake of it.
    Maybe people should stop playing geeks and actually either use Windows 10 or Windows 11, but don’t try to modify things just for the sake of it.

    Sometimes removing or stopping things (like defender is a perfect example) only need intelligence, not scripts or 3rd party programs that might mess with windows.

  8. john said on August 24, 2023 at 11:17 pm

    Windows 11 was a pointless release, it was just created because some of the Windows team wanted to boost sales with some sort of new and improved Windows 10. Instead, Microsoft cannot support one version well let alone two.

    1. John G. said on August 25, 2023 at 12:08 pm

      Windows 11 is the worst ugly shame by Microsoft ever. They should release with every new W11 version a complete free version of Starallback inside just to make this sh** OS functionally again.

  9. EP said on August 25, 2023 at 3:10 pm

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released a statement regarding the “unsupported processor” blue screen error for their boards using Intel 600/700 series chipsets & to avoid the KB5029351 Win11 update:–UNSUPPORTED-PROCESSOR–Error-Message-of-Windows-11-Update-KB5029351-Preview-142215

  10. EP said on August 29, 2023 at 7:32 pm

    check out the following recent articles:

    Neowin – Microsoft puts little blame on its Windows update after UNSUPPORTED PROCESSOR BSOD bug:

    BleepingComputer – Microsoft blames ‘unsupported processor’ blue screens on OEM vendors:

  11. Leonard Britvolli said on August 30, 2023 at 10:33 pm

    While there may be changes or updates to the Windows 10 Store for Business and Education in the future, it is premature to conclude that it will be discontinued based solely on rumors.

  12. sembrador said on September 5, 2023 at 9:32 pm

    My advice, I left win 15 years ago. Now I’m a happy linux user (linuxmint) but there is Centos, Fedora, Ubuntu depending on your needs.

  13. EP said on September 6, 2023 at 11:55 am

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released new BIOS/firmware updates for their Intel 600 & 700 series motherboards to fix the “UNSUPPORTED_PROCESSOR” problem (Sept. 6):–UNSUPPORTED-PROCESSOR–caused-BSOD-on-MSI-s-Intel-700-and-600-Series-Motherboards-142277

  14. Raphael Benzo said on September 24, 2023 at 9:52 pm

    I try to disable the Diagnostics Tracking Service (Connected Devices Platform User Services) but it wont let me disable it, any help will be greatly appreciated.
    Tank you for your help

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