When you change the screen resolution you change the size that objects appear on the screen. This can cause Windows to shift your desktop icons if the new resolution is lesser than your previous one and they wouldn't be visible in their original arrangement under the new resolution.

What is being employed in Windows operating systems is that the desktop icons and available screen space change size in accordance with the resolution as opposed to icons keeping their size at every resolution in order to always maintain their desktop arrangement.

My question: Is there a technical reason that makes it advantageous to change icon display size when changing screen resolution, rather than preserving the same icon display size at all resolutions to ensure your icons are never moved as a consequence of smaller resolutions?

  • It would be a major burden for Microsoft designers to explain each design decision. Some are explained on various blogs but they are often just guesses. I suspect this was tried in usability testing but people didn't like it. The loss in icon quality was probably a reason. This is bad enough on a CRT monitor but probably worse on a modern monitor when using a non native resolution.
    – LMiller7
    Apr 3 '17 at 23:15
  • @fixer1234, oh, I thought there would be an objective technical reason behind it.
    – User9123
    Apr 4 '17 at 7:05
  • @fixer1234, I see your point. If you don't mind I will steal that question as my title. :)
    – User9123
    Apr 4 '17 at 8:03
  • I think you’re confused about resolution “because DPI” vs resolution “because display size”. (Or physical resolution vs logical resolution.) In the latter case, keeping the pixel size is logical because it’s the same with everything else: More content fits on the screen.
    – Daniel B
    Apr 4 '17 at 8:12
  • I took a stab at focusing the question more clearly as a strictly technical issue. Feel free to play with it if it doesn't capture exactly what you were trying to ask. I think this addresses the opinion-based concern and am going to vote to reopen it.
    – fixer1234
    Apr 4 '17 at 15:02

Windows has standard icon sizes, from the 16x16, 20x20, 32x32, 64x64, 128x128 and 256x256.

Whenever you use an icon, one of this sizes is used. There is a size defined for each case, being it the Explorer Window, the Start Menu, the desktop in normal, small or big size.

It is recommended to use one of the native sizes because they have been rendered to look beautiful at exactly that size. So, if you want an odd icon size, it won't have a perfect look, as expected.

icon sizes

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