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I'm aware about the inbuilt nightmate 'tool' of Microsofts which is making every network administrators job a nightmare (if left turned on).

In short it'll happily delete every desktop shortcut to a network resource. We have it disabled by default.

My question is related to recovering these shortcuts, Windows doesn't seem to dump them into the Recycle Bin and although you can 'restore previous versions' of the Desktop folder, you are unable to do it with the user logged in... Rather a problem if you only have the 1 user account.

We have a user who (although the 'Computer Maintenance' tool is turned off) had it come up in 'Action Centre' and chose to run it. I've been unable to reproduce it, but the tool has certainly run (and removed 24 shortcuts from her desktop) although it is still saying 'Windows is not checking your system for maintenance problems'. ?! Very fustrating!

Any ideas if these shortcuts are backed up/moved elsewhere so i can easily find and restore them?

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Will leave this up and start a bounty soon - would really love a resolution/recovery option! :) – HaydnWVN Nov 11 '11 at 10:11
up vote 3 down vote accepted

The icons may still be found in some system restore point, and can be extracted without restoring back to that point.

From How to Extract Files and Folders from System Restore Points in Windows 7 and Vista :

In System Restore Explorer, select a specific restore point that you would like to mount, and click on the Mount button.


This will now open the mounted restore point in a Windows Explorer window where you can now browse and copy any file and folder you like.

enter image description here

The shortcut of the mounted restore point will stay in the root directory of the Windows C: drive until you unmount it by in System Restore Explorer, selecting the mounted restore point and clicking on the Unmount button.

enter image description here

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Great post harrymc, i'll check the shortcuts are within a restore point later and will mark as answer if so! Thanks :) – HaydnWVN Nov 15 '11 at 9:25
Worked! Great work harrymc, thanks! – HaydnWVN Nov 21 '11 at 8:15

Edit 2 "I suck at googling":

Apparently I was googling for the wrong thing. I typed in "desktop shortcuts missing Windows 7" and I get this.

It looks you were right and they added it back into Windows 7. Ugh. . .

Odd that the documented method to disable this action is exactly what you did.

But the article also confirms that the shortcuts are deleted

Well, it isn't "Computer maintenance" or "Action Center" according to Wikipedia. They removed the "Desktop icon cleaner" in Vista. So if the icons have disappeared, I'd first check to see if they are hidden.

You can right click the desktop and under View, click "Show icons".

If System restore was turned off (God only knows why any admin would do that??), and it isn't a roaming profile, and you have no backups of their system, I'm afraid you are SOL. Edit:


Transitive: It is also not present in Windows 7

The issue can be caused by some scheduled tasks that helps you to clear the shortcuts. Desktop Cleanup Utility is not present in Windows 7. It can be caused by some third party programs. Please specially pay attention to any system optimizing programs.

Another method is enable object auditing for the Desktop folder.

  1. Click Start, enter GPedit.msc in the Start Search box.
  2. Open the following branch.

Computer Configuration\Windows Settings\Security Settings\Local Policies\Audit Security

  1. Enable the following policies:

Audit account logon events Audit object access

  1. Open Windows Explorer, open the folder C:\Users[username].
  2. Right click the folder “Desktop”, choose Properties->Security. Click the Advanced button.
  3. Click the Auditing tab. Click Continue.
  4. Click Add. Then click Advanced.
  5. Click the button Find Now.
  6. Wait for the process finishes. Then from the users list add the following users.


  1. After selecting each user, choose “Delete” and “Delete subfolders and files” as the auditing entries.

If you would like to check which account was trying to remove items in the folder, please open Event Viewer, check the Windows Logs\Security Log for detail information.

Since the issue occurs on every Monday, I suggest you enable this policy on Sunday evening. Otherwise there will be plenty of events. When you find that the shortcuts are vanished, please disable auditing at once and check Event Log.

Arthur Xie - MSFT

Other results:

By the way, you can disable the unused icons balloon from the Control Panel. Go to your Display properties, click the Desktop tab, then click on Customize Desktop. Uncheck Run Desktop Cleanup Wizard every 60 days. To disable it by policy, enable the Remove the Desktop Cleanup Wizard policy under the Desktop node. You’ll be relieved to know that the Desktop Cleanup Wizard is completely gone in Windows Vista and beyond.

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They may have removed it in Vista, but it's certainly back in 7! Icons are not hidden, the Computer Maintenance window reports they where 'Deleted', even though that feature is 'Off' in the maintenance window! At least it gives me a list what was removed so i can search our database drive for the names and remap the shortcuts manually... (groan!) – HaydnWVN Nov 10 '11 at 10:04
Oh and System Restore is on - else i wouldn't have the option to 'restore previous versions' of the desktop folder, care to link your Wikipedia article? We have our My Documents folders mapped to a network resource (which is backed up) but not our desktops :) – HaydnWVN Nov 10 '11 at 11:45
Thanks for the huge edit and time you must've spent on this surfasb, i'm inclined to admit defeat - it seems this feature is still able to run even when turned off as I just did it to my own! Microsoft, WHAT WHERE YOU THINKING?! lol :) – HaydnWVN Nov 11 '11 at 10:02
Yeah, I can't find any other way to turn it off, other than through the Computer Maintenance panel. – surfasb Nov 13 '11 at 8:39
May have found a related scheduled system service under - 'Computer Management'/'Task Scheduler'/'Task Scheduler Library'/'Microsoft'/'Windows'/'Diagnosis' – HaydnWVN Nov 14 '11 at 13:24

As far as I can tell they bypass the recycling bin, and just get deleted (unlike XP's cleanup that sticks it in the Unused Icons folder). Or perhaps they get recycled, and then the maintenance empties the Recycling Bin? Not sure. :)

I have avoided this problem since XP by using a GP login script (or several, based on OU, etc.) that programmatically destroys and recreates mandatory desktop shortcuts. Another option is to have a central store of the shortcuts, and copy them each time, but I've had less luck with this.

Added benefits to this method have been that it fixes shortcuts modified by the user on next login, and can be changed centrally, if target paths change (etc.).

This also allows us to leave those clean-up GPO settings alone so that we don't lose some of their potential benefit, like cleaning up the user's personal icon litter. ;)

For reference:

XP/2003: User Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> Desktop -> Remove the Desktop Cleanup Wizard

Win7/2008R2: Computer Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> System -> Troubleshooting and Diagnostics -> Scheduled Maintenance

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Thanks techie007, my question was more related to recovering them, prevention is straight forward enough (even though it can still run if clicked by an unsuspecting user!). I had already manually recreated them for the user but harrymc's reply above does display the icons in the restore point :) – HaydnWVN Nov 21 '11 at 8:16
@HaydnWVN Understood, I already upvoted harry's answer. :) I did realize that I wasn't really answering "where can I get them back from", but I figured I'd tag on a suggestion about preventing this problem in the future, as it's saved me much grief over the years. :) – Ƭᴇcʜιᴇ007 Nov 21 '11 at 13:27
Information is power! I +1'd you anyway as it's handy to have all information here if anyone needs it! Thanks :) – HaydnWVN Nov 22 '11 at 10:33

I would recommend downloading and getting Stardock Fences . It will back up and restore icon placement. ITs the best.

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