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Is there a way to force Windows to save desktop icon positions?

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Welcome to SuperUser, and thanks for contributing! Note that, while answering your own questions is perfectly OK, you should format your post as such - a question and an answer. So please rewrite your post so that it poses a question or describes a problem, then post the solution as an answer. Also don't forget to accept the answer (by clicking on the checkmark outline next to it), so that others who find this know that the solution worked for you. – Indrek Aug 26 '12 at 20:22
There's also a small shell extension that adds "Save Desktop Icon Layout" and "Restore Desktop Icon Layout" options to the context menu of the "My Computer" icon. You can get it here, for example. – zb226 Aug 26 '12 at 21:34

6 Answers 6

up vote 29 down vote accepted

You can simply right-click the Desktop & click Refresh. This saves the icon positions (at least it does on XP, also confirmed on Windows 7).

Here's a simple way to confirm that this method works:

  • Move an icon
  • Kill explorer.exe (& restart it, if it doesn't auto-restart)
  • Notice icon moves back (because it wasn't saved)
  • Move icon again
  • Right-click on the Desktop -> click Refresh
  • Kill explorer.exe (& restart)
  • Notice icon doesn't move back (since this time it was saved before killing explorer)
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Good to see that there's a much simpler way. Thanks! – Jelle Geerts Aug 31 '12 at 15:07
Brilliant! If only I'd known this years ago. Thanks! :) – Chiramisu May 7 '13 at 1:29
how to restart explorer.exe after it is killed from taskmanager.. I see no way to restart.. as start menu disappears.. (windows 7) – ihightower May 21 at 3:35
In "Task Manager" click "File" menu option and select "Run new task". And then type "explorer" and hit enter. – Hakan Jul 3 at 9:41
Great on Windows 10 too... – Macmade Aug 19 at 15:42

A way to force Windows to save desktop icon positions without using third-party utilities:

  1. Open Notepad and enter some text, so that if you were to close it, it would show a confirmation dialog.
  2. Attempt to log off.
  3. Notepad (and possibly other applications) will ask you whether you want to save changes.
  4. Click Cancel. This will prevent Windows from logging off.

The desktop icon positions are now saved. It happens because it's one of the things that Windows does when logging off, and it happens before actually logging off.

This may be helpful when you have just tidied up your desktop, because if Windows Explorer crashes, modifications to the desktop icon positions are lost.

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Nice one! ..... – Shiki Aug 27 '12 at 21:24
I think the solution of Anonymous is much simpler, and it actually works, I just tried that. :) Btw., interesting one. – Sk8erPeter Nov 20 '12 at 16:12
That one is indeed simpler ;) . This one could still be useful though, in the off case the simpler one stops working in a future version of Windows. – Jelle Geerts Nov 27 '12 at 16:54

There is a good program, called DesktopOK, which has an opportunity to EXPORT (save as) the file, and then restore whenever you want..

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This works great for my case, where I often dock and undock my work laptop. Switching between the native laptop display and two larger monitors screws up Win7's placement of icons and they end up all over the place (pretty pathetic, if you ask me). Using DesktopOK, you can save several "sessions" for various monitor configurations and resolutions, and restore them as and when needed. Doesn't need installation, just run when you want to save or restore. – Amos M. Carpenter May 14 at 1:43

Just installed DesktopRestore from midiox, which works fine on Windows 7.

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Don't know why this was downvoted. This is a great answer and an awesome solution. I have been using Jamie O'Connell's Desktop icon Save and Restore for over a DECADE now, and still using on Win7 x64. It's invaluable especially for when you are switching between a multi-monitor setup at work and a single-monitor (laptop) at home. You can set up different layouts that are super easy to restore contextually based on the monitor setup. The link to the (free) application is on Jamie's website: – Tom Auger Jun 20 at 1:29
I did not downvote, but this solution no longer works in Win10 – Serj Sagan Sep 8 at 3:56

An issue affecting Windows 10 was connected to ESET Antivirus (and their similar products). Once the AV removes a trojan/virus, the icon and folder (registry) settings become corrupted and there is no going back.

Fortunately, ESET has succeded reproducing the issue and provided a fix today (through pre-release update servers):


If the Cleaner module doesn't fix the system after a reboot and a startup scan (as it happens on some systems), these are the steps (taken from here) to manually get it fixed:

  1. Open Regedit:

In regedit go to these 2 destinations:




  1. Start by right-clicking on the last sub-key (which in this case is InProcServer32) and click on "Permissions...", then click on "Advanced...", then click on "Change" for the "Owner". Again choose "Advanced...", click "Find Now" and select "Administrators". "OK", "OK". Select the "Replace owner on subcontainers and objects" and also "Replace all child object permission entries...", then click OK. Then select "Administrators" in the Permissions window you first opened and tick "Full Control" then hit "OK". Do that to the InProcServer32 folder in both HKEY paths.

  2. Double click on (Default) and replace %SystemRoot%\SysWow64\shell32.dll with %SystemRoot%\system32\windows.stor­age.dll in both file destinations, then restart your PC and everything should work fine!!

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To save your desktop icons just right click on your Windows' Desktop and select Refresh.

An easy way to restore your desktop icons is to make a batch file with the code below - I called my file RestoreIcons.bat and stored it in a folder on my Windows' path so I could easily run it.

@echo off
title Restore Desktop Icons
color 0E
taskkill /IM explorer.exe /F
echo This will restore desktop icons to position saved since either
echo * last reboot
echo * or last time you right-clicked on desktop and selected Refresh
echo whichever was the most recent.
echo The main reason for this pause is that a delay was needed between commands 
echo for this batch file to actually work.
start explorer.exe
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protected by slhck Aug 21 '13 at 10:08

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