After using Windows 7 for a while (say, a few hours), Explorer always stops refreshing my desktop, and I have to close it and re-open it. E.g.: When I delete a file, it doesn't seem to go away even though it does; I have to press F5 to refresh the desktop.

Is there a fix for this?

  • No, its a windows bug, hitting F5 will refresh whatever window is open, sometimes you have to hit F5 several times, welcome to Windows.
    – Moab
    Jan 2, 2011 at 22:33
  • Yeah I suspected it was probably a bug. And haha I'm not exactly new to Windows (I just thought someone might have a solution for this bug... I've used Windows ever since I was born..) but thank you for the welcome! :)
    – user541686
    Jan 2, 2011 at 22:37

6 Answers 6


If you are having this problem specifically on Windows 7 (and by extension, Vista), then one of the most likely reasons is that the Windows Management Instrumentation service is not running. I have experienced this issue on 7 and after some testing, determined that Explorer does not automatically update on file-operations if the service is not running, and that starting it will resolve the issue.

  1. Open the Services MMC snap-in (services.msc)
  2. Make sure that Windows Management Instrumentation is running (start it if it is not)
  3. Make sure it is also set to Automatic start-up

(Don’t mix it up with Windows Management Instrumentation Driver Extensions which has no impact on this problem.)

Sadly, this does not fix the same problem of Explorer not refreshing on Windows XP. That is a mystery I am still investigating…

  • Wow, I'll test this as soon as I can -- I feel you're 100% correct, because I usually set WMI to Manual start... I hope I don't forget about your answer by the time the problem comes up again (I've learned to ignore it...) but I'll test it as soon as it comes up! Thanks a lot!
    – user541686
    Nov 25, 2012 at 0:58
  • Yes, the WMI service is one of the ones I stop when trying to strip Windows down to the minimum (in XP, I could get it down to just four services, but in Vista+, it bottoms out at six or seven). Unfortunately it turns out that this is not quite as unnecessary as I thought (though it is still expendable when I am trying to stop everything).
    – Synetech
    Nov 25, 2012 at 2:27
  • LOL that's just like what I do! I stop it because I I hate extra processes and I figure if it needs to run then something will start it.
    – user541686
    Nov 25, 2012 at 2:51
  • 1
    > I figure if it needs to run then something will start it. Or something will crash and I’ll know it actually is required. ☺
    – Synetech
    Nov 25, 2012 at 2:56
  • 1
    Just thought I'd mention, on Windows 8 right now, my desktop stopped refreshing but WMI was running. :\
    – user541686
    Oct 10, 2013 at 8:35

I've solved this problem deleting iconcache.db file.

  1. Open your task manager and kill the explorer process
  2. Then choose File->New Task (Run), type cmd and press Enter.

In Command Prompt, use the following commands:

CD /d %userprofile%\AppData\Local
DEL IconCache.db /a

And then use Task Manager to open application explorer.exe

I you feel lazy / not comfortable with this I've written a simple application that takes care of the problem for my friends.

You can download it here

If you don't trust it here's its source code too.

  • I haven't encountered the problem for a long time to test this, but +1 thanks!
    – user541686
    Apr 15, 2016 at 11:38

I found that the problem corrects itself if I close all instances of Windows Explorer. Upon reopening Explorer, everything refreshes correctly.


This problem dates back to Vista, according to Microsoft.com webpages. And over the years, MS just responds the same way: try safe mode, SFC, etc, to identify a non-Microsoft culprit. Well, I used XP Pro for many years, only upgrading in July 2012, to Win7. And this problem never ever occurred on XP Pro. It's very clearly a Microsoft Windows problem. And if it's triggered by a variety of other software, then it's still a Windows problem, since the purpose of Windows to provide a system where other software and hardware can operate.

I tried many of the proposed solutions from various forum threads -- some going for 40+ pages. Nothing has worked. I've not edited my registry because that doesn't appear successful from what I've read, and it would probably require a restart to implement, and then my problem might disappear for a while.

Anyway, I have xplorer2 pro, which cost me $30 for a lifetime of version upgrades. I used it on XP Pro (after I suffered explorer & drwatson crashes in XP :( -- but the good news is that xplorer2 pro is a superb product w/ an unbelievably detailed manual. In my own use, I've barely scratched the surface of what it can do, but it serves me well, and I presume it will solve this problem. (My only gripe w/ xplorer2 is the lack of an undo. It does have a menu command to go to the last drop target, for drag-n-drop errors, but an undo would be better, esp since the recycle bin misses things sometimes ..and the old norton protected bin is no longer an option -- though I used it as long as I could, disabling/deleting everything else in the utilities suite.)

Sorry, I do digress. Anyhow, I've no vested interest, but I do encourage people to try xplorer2 -- the free version or the Pro version. A no-registry portable edition is available too. And for the other end, if you look, you'll find a instructions for editing the registry so xplorer2 replaces explorer in nearly every instance where explorer would otherwise appear (save as dialogs & the like excepted).


There are several reasons for this behavior.

One case is that of a badly-written (de)installation program which creates or deletes icons but doesn't refresh the desktop. As the desktop doesn't always auto-refresh, nicely-written installers do the F5 for you.

A second case is that of an installed product that interferes with the desktop refresh, for example TeraCopy in this thread. You might try to remember which product you have called for the first time just before this happened.

A third and more remote possibility is a bug in the video driver. Ensure that you have the latest version from the manufacturer's website.


If the problem is Explorer rather than only the desktop, this is a problem that is reported in Windows since XP and until today. Many remedies have been suggested, which worked for some people. Here are some of them:

  1. Ensure that the antivirus isn't the cause
  2. Regedit to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Update, UpdateMode entry, and change the value of the last digit from 1 to either 2 or 7.
  3. Regedit to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Control Panel\Desktop, right-click, New Binary Value, rename to ExplorerRefreshOnRename, double-click and change the value to "0001", press OK.
  4. At the end of this thread, a registry update is suggested (create first a system restore point).
  5. Another suggestion from the same thread is to regedit to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID\{BDEADE7F-C265-11D0-BCED-00A0C90AB50F}\Instance and set DontRefresh to 0.
  • 1
    Huh... unfortunately I don't think any of these are the cause, but thank you for your reply!
    – user541686
    Jan 3, 2011 at 15:12
  • Could you then describe which desktop changes are done by which products?
    – harrymc
    Jan 3, 2011 at 15:56
  • 1
    It's Explorer: I rename a file, but it doesn't refresh (the old name stays). It's obviously renamed, though, since if I try moving it, it says it can't find the item anymore.
    – user541686
    Jan 7, 2011 at 19:58
  • I added some more stuff for Explorer on this well-known problem.
    – harrymc
    Jan 8, 2011 at 12:02
  • 1
    > Regedit to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Update, UpdateMode entry, and change the value of the last digit from 1 to either 2 or 7. Not only does that not fix it, but it also creates an Event Log error entry on every boot—for obvious reasons. Also, 7 is not even a valid value for it. Unfortunately, ExplorerRefreshOnRename and DontRefresh don’t fix it either. :-(
    – Synetech
    Nov 24, 2012 at 18:14

I love all the posts suggesting DontRefresh in the Registry. Don Quixote would be proud!

Forgot where I found this but it does work for Explorer refresh and Desktop Icons issues:

@ ECHO off
Echo Run this if your Taskbar Icons look like blank rectangles
or your Explorer folders / Desktop does not auto-refresh.
Echo Tested for Win XP, Win7 and Server 2003/2010
Echo *****  Use at your own risk. *****
Echo Hit the  key to continue
Echo or the  and  keys to stop
REM  stop windows explorer desktop
taskkill /im explorer.exe /f"
REM  Change to your profile's application data folder
REM change the permissions of the icon cache so we can see it
attrib -h IconCache.db
REM delete the corrupt icon cache
del IconCache.db
REM restart explorer which will rebuild the icon cache correctly
Echo If this did not work you may have bigger problems like a bad hard drive, corrupt registry or a virus.
Echo All Done!
Echo You may need to manually close this window now
call explorer.exe

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .