Quick Tip: restore system desktop icons on Windows 10 and 11 PCs

Martin Brinkmann
Jul 5, 2022
Windows 11 Help

Vanilla Windows 10 and 11 PCs display desktop icons by default on the first run after installation. Manufacturers may place custom icons on the desktop, but if you install one of the operating system's from scratch, you will end up with a set of default system icons.

windows 10 add remove system desktop icons

The Recycle Bin icon is displayed on the desktop, giving users access to its functionality. You may also see other icons on the desktop, such as This PC.  Windows 10 and 11 include functionality to place other system icons on the desktop, but the functionality is a bit hidden and a leftover from older versions of the operating system. There is a chance that Microsoft is going to remove the Desktop Icon Settings preference window in future versions of the Windows operating system.

In short: you may use a system menu to add icons for "Computer", the user directory, the Control Panel and Network to the desktop.

The options may be handy in some cases, for instance, when the Recycle Bin icon is suddenly not displayed anymore, or when you'd like access to the user folder, the classic Control Panel, or the network management app from the desktop.

Here is how that is done on Windows 10 and 11

  1. Select Start and then Settings, or use the keyboard shortcut Windows-I.
  2. Go to Personalization > Themes.
    1. Windows 10: Activate "Desktop icon settings" on the right sidebar under "Related Settings.
    2. Windows 11: Activate "Desktop icon settings" on the page under "Related Settings".

The window that pops up displays options to add ore remove icons from the desktop. It has identical options on Windows 10 and 11.

You may also change the icon style with a click on the "change icon" option. An option to restore the defaults and to block themes from changing the desktop icons is provided as well.

Some of the icon links are accessible elsewhere. Network and This PC, for example, are found in File Explorer's sidebar.

Closing Words

Placing or restoring these on the desktop is another option that Windows users have. Some prefer to have a clean desktop with no icons at all or only a handful, others place icons on the desktop until they run out of space.

Now You: how many icons are on your desktop? (via WinFuture)

Quick Tip: restore system desktop icons on Windows 10 and 11 PCs
Article Name
Quick Tip: restore system desktop icons on Windows 10 and 11 PCs
Find out how to restore icons on the Windows 10 and 11 desktop using a built-in system tools.
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  1. chesscanoe said on July 7, 2022 at 4:24 pm

    On my home laptop Version 21H2 (OS Build 19044.1806) I checked 4 items and then clicking View -Sort -Size followed by View -Sort -Name places all the checked items previously made to the top left row, which is good in my opinion. –

    1. chesscanoe said on July 7, 2022 at 4:29 pm

      Correction: should say left column.

  2. Jojo said on July 6, 2022 at 9:24 am

    I just counted 105 icons on my desktop. Still plenty of room for hundreds more!

    I use an app named DESKSAVE to save icon state in case they get hosed and I lose their positions. This used to happen a lot in past versions of Windows but not so much in Win10.

    Tip: If you don’t like desktop icons, just right-click on the desktop, select View and then toggle Show Desktop Icons off/on.

  3. Paul(us) said on July 5, 2022 at 11:42 pm

    Only my vpn – and recycle bin icon.
    Sometimes a document or text file where I am working on but I am really trying, to avoid this.
    I am a firm believer of a clean desktop policy because of clarity through minimalism.
    A kind of Feng Shui. less is more in my opinion.

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