I got a dell laptop and recently it got a lot of viruses, so I had to reformat the hard drive. I talked to the Indian dell tech support guy and he said that I shouldn't download things directly to the desktop.

he mentioned something about the desktop being like temporary storage or something, he was not really clear about it.

anyway, I do have a few questions

  1. is it okay to save downloaded files and documents directly to the desktop?
  2. if not, where should I put those kinds of files and stand alone programs that I copy to my computer?
  3. how is storing files on the desktop different from storing them to your documents folder or directly to the hard drive (C:) ?
  • 6
    Your desktop is just another folder. Keep it tidy, but it doesn't matter where it's downloaded (within reason). Just do not download/run programs from untrusted sources (including things which may be malware), keep windows/software updated, use the firewall and default security settings, and avoid shady sites or services -- if it's "too good to be true".... No viruses/worms/trojans in years here, although using a virus/malware scanner on a regular basis (doesn't need to be all the time) is a prudent measure. – pst Apr 7 '11 at 19:09

Unfortunately, this is the kind of urban legend nonsense that's all too typical from level 1 support folks. The desktop is nothing more than a shortcut to a location on your hard drive and is no different than any other folder.

  • 7
    Unfortunately this sort of nonsense is rife amongst people handling even escalated support queries... – Matthieu Cartier Apr 7 '11 at 21:35
  • there is a bugs in windows dealing with file storage that is discussed on the latest episode of Windows Weekly. Thurrott talks about saving files to his desktop and issues related to that. Not sure if the problem is specific to the desktop or if it's any folder – Patrick Apr 8 '11 at 21:24
  • For those of us uninterested in listening to a >1hr long podcast, mind giving some details on this so-called bug? – Aaron Miller Apr 22 '13 at 17:56
  • When I heard about storing files on desktop degrades performance... I thought it was rubbish. Interestingly enough, I came across the following advice on Microsoft's website: "To improve your computer's performance and find files more easily, it's best to store files in the Documents folder rather than on the desktop." SOURCE: windows.microsoft.com/en-ca/windows-vista/… – Pressacco Jul 22 '15 at 18:35

Some valid reasons not to store important files on your desktop

Files on your desktop are not very secure. These files are in plain view to any person that sits down at your computer if you remain logged on. Not only can they read them, they may inadvertently delete them.

If you have to use the System Restore feature of Windows, some files that are stored on your desktop may not be preserved. In other words, they will be gone after the restore process is complete.

Files saved to the desktop are stored in your user profile. This increases the size of your profile. If you are using roaming profiles, the files follow you around regardless of which computer you log on to.

If your user profile becomes corrupt, you may lose all your desktop files.

Source of Information


  • The System Restore bit seems to show up in a bunch of older opinions/warnings about keeping things on your desktop. Anyone know if System Restore still nukes recent additions to the Desktop? (Or did in 7, since that's what this article's about?) – Mathieu K. Dec 4 '15 at 1:24

This is entirely a personal preference.

I personally find files on my desktop distracting. I want to see pretty pictures on my desktop, not file icons. So I hide all files on my desktop. But then I use a toolbar in the taskbar to give me access to those files without having to go very far or minimize windows.

As the others have said though, it is not a security issue except in the sense that shoulder watchers may be able to more easily see your file names.


As far as I know, storing it on the desktop doesn't matter. You'll be infected even if you save the file to a different location and execute.

But... 1. yes


As everyone has suggested, this is entirely a personal preference. If you get a virus, it will harm your PC, not just what's on your desktop. Personally, I like to use Windows 7's libraries (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/products/features/libraries). They're pretty handy.


From what I recall with previous versions of Windows, storing files on your desktop will at the very least slow down your boot time. Reason being is that as Windows loads the desktop at boot, it has to load all the files contained there as well. Less files = less load time. I would assume this is true for Windows 7 also.

Correct me if I'm mistaken


Actually - there is a valid reason for not storing files on your desktop. Here's the answer you'll see from Microsoft if you ask them directly (or search for 'storing files on the desktop' at answers.microsoft.com):

"The desktop is not designed to store personal data files - it is intended for shortcuts and gadgets only. The best way to store your personal data files is in the Windows 7 Libraries and any sub-folders thereof. You can then simply create desktop shortcuts to these libraries/folders."

When you log into your computer - even if you don't require a password - you are logging into a 'user profile'. The User profile is largely made up, not surprisingly, your desktop! The desktop is where all those roads lead back to. The larger your desktop is - the larger your user profile is - the longer it can take you to boot, shut down, search indexed files, etc. Change an item on your desktop and Windows needs to re-index it. If your desktop is relatively small - that's not a problem, but if it's so large that it can't index your files before another change occurs it can create a cascade of errors, slowing or even crashing your computer.

I've had several people come to me with a computer crashing repeatedly for no apparent reason - until I boot up the computer and see gigabytes of data on the desktop. Simply copy and paste to the 'My Documents' folder, then send shortcuts to the still highlighted items on the desktop has remedied this every single time.

As I also work on domains and often have people coming to me saying, 'I booted my computer and it said it's logging me into a temporary profile'. Sure enough - the users' profile became corrupt, though thankfully the registry normally does its job and backs up the profile. Rename the backed up profile, delete the temporary profile and reboot - a messy desktop every time! Clean up the desktop and the user has no further issues.

P.S. This is also true on Mac's.

  • How is the Desktop any different then anyplace else on the C:drive? – James Jenkins Apr 22 '13 at 18:32
  • The answer you give in quotes is, as far as I can ascertain, the opinion of Microsoft Community forum user Jetta48, in which answer he/she also writes "Disclaimer: You use my posts entirely at your own risk. I do not work for or represent Microsoft." Thus, this is not an official Microsoft position, unless it is an unattributed quote on Jetta48's part, which I have no reason to suspect. – Mathieu K. Dec 4 '15 at 1:20
  1. Yes it is, the only bad thing about it is that every time you login on this PC Windows will have to load all the icons and things you put on the desktop. If it's really full of shortcuts and files you may get some lags at the opening of your session.
  2. I personally use RocketDock, but Windows taskbar can also hold a shortcut for a folder, eg made in your documents, in which you'll put everything you usually would have put on the desktop. That's cleaner.
  3. It's not, in fact your Desktop is on your main hard drive ! Something like C:\Users[Your name]\Desktop probably.

In many corporate environments the users desktops are backed up to a network location, during shutdown and restored during startup. If your desktop contains GiBytes of data then this takes ages. Placing short cuts rather than the actual folders avoids this.

The other issue is that your folders on your hard drive and/or network can be organised in a structured manner to reflect your work - the best that you can do on your desktop is to have things in different corners and windows may well decide to shuffle those about.

Think of your real office - if someone you worked with had all their documents for the last few years, including maybe your payroll records, on their physical desk and another had a set of well organised filing cabinets, with sensitive once kept locked, who would you think more likely to get the job done well.

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