I normally work on Windows with a 1600x1200 or similar large desktop screen and have my icons laid out just perfectly so.

Every now and then I need to hook up to a projector or do a WebEx at 1024x768 or the ungodly 800x600 to do a demo/presentation/online meeting only to find after the meeting when my desktop size is restored that all my icons are scrunched up into a big mess in the top left corner.

Is there a way I can "save" the layout before I start something that will resize my desktop?

If not, I noted (from the Related Questions when I composed this) that Stardock has a tool called Fences, that does a swell job of grouping icons etc. Before I install it, does anyone know if it is "protected" from these screen resizes? or would it still squish the desktop, just not as badly due to the grouping?

  • I tried Fences but I just uninstalled it. As of Sep 2009, Fences started bundling a content distributed app called Impulse (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impulse_%28content_delivery%29). I find it unconscionable that any legitimate software company would install such a piece of software without your knowledge or permission. Sep 4, 2009 at 15:08
  • Hmm, I installed Fences and it worked just fine. I didn't get any other software installed. Best of all it does handle the resizing of the desktop which is exactly what I need.
    – scunliffe
    Sep 19, 2009 at 17:44
  • @Robert - for information, as of july 2010 (and probably already earlier), the installer for Fences doesn't include Impulse anymore. In general, this is their content program, which will check for updates. A bit like Google update, but less sneaky.
    – Gnoupi
    Jul 6, 2010 at 7:53

7 Answers 7


Windows actually has this ability built-in, but it's not in the UI anywhere by default.


Save the following snippet as layout.reg and double click it to add its contents to the registry. Then you'll be able to save/restore icon layout by right-clicking on the desktop.

Adds ability to save and restore desktop icon layout from the desktop context menu.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

@="Desktop Icon Layout"



[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Shell Extensions\Approved]
"{19F500E0-9964-11cf-B63D-08002B317C03}"="Desktop Icon Layout"
  • 1
    This didn't work for me.
    – raven
    Jul 30, 2009 at 18:42
  • 1
    This will only work if you have the layout.dll file: howtogeek.com/howto/windows-vista/… Jul 30, 2009 at 21:13
  • I actually ended up using Fences (thanks to the SU related answers that popped up when I asked the question). This answer seems to be the "correct" answer although as a fan of Fences now, I think I'll stick with it.
    – scunliffe
    Jul 31, 2009 at 3:04
  • @raven. My thoughts on the helpfulness of "didn't work for me" aside, this could be caused by configuration differences between people's Windows installs. Could any more information be supplied about the Windows version, Service Pack level, etc, that the above didn't work in?
    – user66001
    Feb 22, 2016 at 16:55

At work we have UltraMon installed which has a "Save/Restore Destop Icon Positions" feature.

I know, if you don't have multiple monitors, it's a bit silly to install a multi-monitor tool, especially if you have to pay for it. But I thought to share my experience, as the only time I use that feature is indeed after my laptop has been hooked up to a projector.

I would advice you to try Fences first as that one is free (for personal use) ;-)

  • Fences for the win!
    – Ivo Flipse
    Jul 30, 2009 at 15:26

I use Desktop Restore. It lets you save different layouts depending on screen resolution. I have separate layouts for my laptop on its own and when it's dual screen with an external monitor. Probably the best utility I've ever found.


Keep in mind, I've not tried this myself, but I'll put this out there in the hope it may come to some use to you.

Create a new user. You should get a clean desktop. I don't think XP might remember the resolutions of the each user separately (though you may want to try it anyways), but if you log out of your default account and into this user account for your presentations, and then log back into the default one afterward you should have everything just as you left it.

btw, if you don't see the log off option in your start menu just right click properties and set it to display it as an option OR you could just ctl+alt+del and log out from there.


"Fences" can get resized as well, so it wouldn't be a perfect solution if the Fence doesn't fit on the new screen size. However it does a great job of keeping them clustered, which already saves a bunch of time.

A real super-user would screenshot his screen at the large resolution and use that picture as your background.

Just put everything back at the right spot, sort of like Memory!

Though this only works if you have a very strict way of desktop management and don't hog it up with random files... Plus you have to do all the work, which is probably the reason you're looking for this solution ;-)

  • I actually tried Fences, and it has an option to restore the desktop when a resize occurs ;-) best of all, it has a snapshot setting that will let you restore any arrangement!
    – scunliffe
    Jul 31, 2009 at 2:59

Iconoid lets you save your icon layout and do some other cool stuff as well. From their website:

  • Save and Restore Icon positions for each (or every) screen resolution
  • Transparent icon backgrounds or use any color
  • Select any color for icon text
  • Automatically hide icons when you don't need them and show them when you do
  • Automatically or manually select the best color for the text background
  • Quickly minimize all windows so that you can see your desktop wallpaper.

I have installed a free utility that an individual had written and put on their web page a few years ago. I can't seem to find it on the Internet right now. I like it, though. :-)

I'm pretty sure this is it (Desktop Restore): http://www.midiox.com/desktoprestore.htm

  • I am downvoting because you don't even give the name of the product in question. Which, by your description could be anything. Oct 13, 2010 at 2:11

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