I seem to have lost desktop icons and if you go to START then PROGRAMS nothing shows up there as well. I can see that there is a lot of hard drive usage so I think the programs are still there. This is on my grand daughters laptop so I do not have it with me at this time. She said the she was using it and it shut down and when she restarted all icons were gone. Did she get some kind of virus?
It sounds like one of two situations that I can think of:
A) you are infected with malware. You run an antivirus program take a look at the post What should I do if I have a Virus.
B) The user profile is damaged(perhaps all users as well and other disk or file system damage). You may need to repair your install or restore from backup if it is available.