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Why do my shortcut icons get broken on Windows 7?

I am fortnightly (or an approximation thereof) visited by the ghosts of icons, long departed. These apparitions only reveal themselves momentarily after I've logged in then vanish. Returning from whence they came.

I've investigated their history and found no clues as to why they continue to haunt me. I sought out an exorcist but those I found were only qualified to expel spirits of humans and demons. Not one had any experience with digital poltergeists.

Perhaps praying to Saint William of Redmond will improve the Vista before me.

Dost thou agree?

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    I usually prefer calling on Linus, the patron saint of penguins but these ghost are haunting my work computer. – Kenneth Cochran Jun 18 '10 at 21:02
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    The style is interesting, but hardly clear. I would recommend you to summarize your need at the end, to make it clear. Because so far, it is indeed hard to tell what is being asked, on a glance. – Gnoupi Jun 19 '10 at 8:20
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    I considered a limerick but it didn't convey enough information. :D – Kenneth Cochran Jul 1 '10 at 13:24
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    I want to forestall the ghost of icons from haunting my desktop, hence I stationed this delicious bounty. – Tamara Wijsman Aug 17 '10 at 14:30
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    Great post is great. – Shinrai Aug 19 '10 at 18:54

It's said that icons which die by violent deletions cannot pass on to the afterlife because they are not at peace. So instead they roam the desktop, haunting the living...

The only way to get rid of digital poltergeists is to appease your 32-bit apparitions by executing a sacrificial Perl script whilst reciting the last 24 digits of pi. Should you be unable to perform the aforementioned ritual, then I suggest you to smite User Profile Hive Cleanup Service (UPHClean).

I don't know if that's your problem, but without further details (what exactly are the icons of? documents? programs? temporary files? system files? did you search for them on your hard drive? check the All Users or Default desktop directory? etc.), it's hard to tell what the problem might be. But I hope you can resolve this issue so that those icons may finally pass on to that great recycling bin in the sky.

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    Weakening the locomotive of this mighty computer by appausing it to execute a sacrifical Perl script whilst reciting the last 24 digits of pi might only do stimulate the digital poltergeist ghost icons to remain domicile on the desktop for a prolonged time. Cleaning up the dusty space where they reside will only make them migrate to another part of his mighty computer. I should downvote thee for bewitching Kenneth Cochran with this non-sense advice... – Tamara Wijsman Aug 17 '10 at 14:23
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    You have to add the word smite in there somewhere – bobobobo Aug 20 '10 at 16:39
  • @bobobobo: Done. :) – Tamara Wijsman Jan 25 '11 at 2:03

Some applications update themselves automatically. Each time they update, they may end up adding back icons to your desktop. Apple applications are notorious for this, but there are many others as well.

What Icons specifically keep reappearing?


So, you have Windows Vista, and these are probably icons on the desktop that appear momentarily after login and then disappear. And it only happens every 2 weeks or so. Is there anything in your start menu or some task that starts that might be causing this? I would think something that is trying and failing to completely start might be at fault, but that should happen on every startup. So, perhaps something that is starting, and trying to do a periodic update is at fault. Perhaps a registry cleanup will help.

As for praying to Saint William -- that will only work if you pay him well. If you don't pay the exorcist, your computer is likely to be repossessed!

  • "appaer"? I don't think that's an Old English pun... – Hello71 Aug 17 '10 at 14:44
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    ugh. I hate typos. Sorry, I'll have to fix that. – thursdaysgeek Aug 17 '10 at 23:57

I want to forestall the ghost of icons from haunting my desktop, hence I prevent any icons from showing...

Utilize your hairy mouse and close any windows except for Windows, then get a menu on your desktop. From there you can use the astonishing "view" menu to finally un-"show desktop icons"!

May this purple arrow guide you there...

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  • Thou may think of me as a village idiot, but this purple arrow answers my bounty. – Tamara Wijsman Aug 21 '10 at 0:17

Delete your icon cache file, generally located at: C:\Users\MyUserName\AppData\Local\iconcache.db

Then switch your display to 16-bit color and then back to 32-bit. This rebuilds your your icon cache. That is, for each file type, the OS will extract the associated icon data from the appropriate program or library, rather than just using the icon it used last time.


Yes, I certainly agree, praying to Saint William of Redmond will help you learn to keep the ghosts away!

You can tempt to accomplish this astonishing action in this accomodating hall of chat chambers...

Appear liberate to pull up the stakes and leave us a pleasant report to read.

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