67

Is there a way to force Windows to save desktop icon positions?

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    Welcome to SuperUser, and thanks for contributing! Note that, while answering your own questions is perfectly OK, you should format your post as such - a question and an answer. So please rewrite your post so that it poses a question or describes a problem, then post the solution as an answer. Also don't forget to accept the answer (by clicking on the checkmark outline next to it), so that others who find this know that the solution worked for you.
    – Indrek
    Aug 26, 2012 at 20:22
  • There's also a small shell extension that adds "Save Desktop Icon Layout" and "Restore Desktop Icon Layout" options to the context menu of the "My Computer" icon. You can get it here, for example.
    – zb226
    Aug 26, 2012 at 21:34
  • The fact that these hacks work is a sad comment on the basic UI here. Anyway, just in-case, you can also take a peek at this little Desktop Restore tool I found in a forum some-place. You can save the settings to a file -- Which you can then take with you to a new PC, etc, etc. Great idea!
    – will
    Mar 29, 2016 at 22:42
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    Not possible to answer, but a comment will do. I created a very lightweight service that automatically saves/restores the positions after a resolution change. Check it out: github.com/TomONeill/persistentdesktopicons
    – Tom
    Nov 17, 2016 at 22:37

7 Answers 7

75

You can simply right-click the Desktop & click Refresh. This saves the icon positions (at least it does on XP, also confirmed on Windows 7).

Here's a simple way to confirm that this method works:

  • Move an icon
  • Kill explorer.exe (& restart it, if it doesn't auto-restart)
  • Notice icon moves back (because it wasn't saved)
  • Move icon again
  • Right-click on the Desktop -> click Refresh
  • Kill explorer.exe (& restart)
  • Notice icon doesn't move back (since this time it was saved before killing explorer)
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  • how to restart explorer.exe after it is killed from taskmanager.. I see no way to restart.. as start menu disappears.. (windows 7)
    – ihightower
    May 21, 2015 at 3:35
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    In "Task Manager" click "File" menu option and select "Run new task". And then type "explorer" and hit enter.
    – Hakan
    Jul 3, 2015 at 9:41
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    Great on Windows 10 too...
    – Macmade
    Aug 19, 2015 at 15:42
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    all my life, are you even kidding me? it works, why must I have suffered these many years?
    – RozzA
    Feb 8, 2016 at 22:04
  • You are god among mens
    – Mariano L
    Feb 20, 2018 at 15:16
29

There is a nice, tiny standalone DesktopOK app, which can SAVE the config-file (in same folder), and then Restore it whenever you want..

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    This works great for my case, where I often dock and undock my work laptop. Switching between the native laptop display and two larger monitors screws up Win7's placement of icons and they end up all over the place (pretty pathetic, if you ask me). Using DesktopOK, you can save several "sessions" for various monitor configurations and resolutions, and restore them as and when needed. Doesn't need installation, just run when you want to save or restore. May 14, 2015 at 1:43
  • Sadly I've found DesktopOK to crash win10 at version 4.41 Sep 23, 2016 at 7:05
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    DesktopOK version 4.71 seems to work OK in Windows 10. There's also Iconoid, which can save & restore Relative icon positions, which I found handy when switching from single laptop screen to laptop screen + large monitor.
    – RolfBly
    Jun 19, 2017 at 13:35
  • I've tested DesktopOK 4.73 on W10 and it does NOT work. The restore function doesn't do anything.
    – teecee
    Jan 23, 2018 at 12:11
  • DesktopOK 9.11 working great on Windows 11. I especially love the transparency of saved .dok files. A typical line: music videos=348,821
    – Bob Stein
    Aug 4, 2021 at 16:14
13

Just installed DesktopRestore from midiox, which works fine on Windows 7 and 10. Just right click on the Desktop to see the menu -

screenshot

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    Don't know why this was downvoted. This is a great answer and an awesome solution. I have been using Jamie O'Connell's Desktop icon Save and Restore for over a DECADE now, and still using on Win7 x64. It's invaluable especially for when you are switching between a multi-monitor setup at work and a single-monitor (laptop) at home. You can set up different layouts that are super easy to restore contextually based on the monitor setup. The link to the (free) application is on Jamie's website: midiox.com/html/desktop.htm
    – Tom Auger
    Jun 20, 2015 at 1:29
  • I did not downvote, but this solution no longer works in Win10
    – Serj Sagan
    Sep 8, 2015 at 3:56
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    That's not true. I use it on Windows 10 and it seems to work perfectly fine.
    – Gal Talmor
    Jan 25, 2017 at 23:47
  • On Win10 menus seem to behave weirdly (won't drop down; double clicking any of them instead changes language) while keeping the program window open during screen changes.
    – user66001
    May 9, 2017 at 21:46
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    Downvotes may come from the fact that currently 26 of 64 engines in https://www.virustotal.com/ report the chip.de installer as malicious, probably due to adware injected by download site. I've edited the answer and changed the link to the official site. Sep 9, 2017 at 7:49
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A way to force Windows to save desktop icon positions without using third-party utilities:

  1. Open Notepad and enter some text, so that if you were to close it, it would show a confirmation dialog.
  2. Attempt to log off.
  3. Notepad (and possibly other applications) will ask you whether you want to save changes.
  4. Click Cancel. This will prevent Windows from logging off.

The desktop icon positions are now saved. It happens because it's one of the things that Windows does when logging off, and it happens before actually logging off.

This may be helpful when you have just tidied up your desktop, because if Windows Explorer crashes, modifications to the desktop icon positions are lost.

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    I think the solution of Anonymous is much simpler, and it actually works, I just tried that. :) Btw., interesting one.
    – Sk8erPeter
    Nov 20, 2012 at 16:12
  • That one is indeed simpler ;) . This one could still be useful though, in the off case the simpler one stops working in a future version of Windows. Nov 27, 2012 at 16:54
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    I like the way you think, I've always logged out & back in (or restarted) - yet the refresh trick also works - all this time!
    – RozzA
    Feb 8, 2016 at 22:06
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An issue affecting Windows 10 was connected to ESET Antivirus (and their similar products). Once the AV removes a trojan/virus, the icon and folder (registry) settings become corrupted and there is no going back.

Fortunately, ESET has succeded reproducing the issue and provided a fix today (through pre-release update servers): https://forum.eset.com/topic/6033-windows-10-forget-folder-view-setting-when-ess-is-installed/page-5#entry33407

Update:

If the Cleaner module doesn't fix the system after a reboot and a startup scan (as it happens on some systems), these are the steps (taken from here) to manually get it fixed:


  1. Open Regedit:

In regedit go to these 2 destinations:

HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Wow6432Node\CLSID\{42a­edc87-2188-41fd-b9a3-0c966feabec1}\InPro­cServer32\

and

HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID\{42aedc87-2188-4­1fd-b9a3-0c966feabec1}\InProcServer32\

  1. Start by right-clicking on the last sub-key (which in this case is InProcServer32) and click on "Permissions...", then click on "Advanced...", then click on "Change" for the "Owner". Again choose "Advanced...", click "Find Now" and select "Administrators". "OK", "OK". Select the "Replace owner on subcontainers and objects" and also "Replace all child object permission entries...", then click OK. Then select "Administrators" in the Permissions window you first opened and tick "Full Control" then hit "OK". Do that to the InProcServer32 folder in both HKEY paths.

  2. Double click on (Default) and replace %SystemRoot%\SysWow64\shell32.dll with %SystemRoot%\system32\windows.stor­age.dll in both file destinations, then restart your PC and everything should work fine!!

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To save your desktop icons just right click on your Windows' Desktop and select Refresh.

An easy way to restore your desktop icons is to make a batch file with the code below - I called my file RestoreIcons.bat and stored it in a folder on my Windows' path so I could easily run it.

@echo off
title Restore Desktop Icons
color 0E
taskkill /IM explorer.exe /F
cls
echo This will restore desktop icons to position saved since either
echo * last reboot
echo * or last time you right-clicked on desktop and selected Refresh
echo whichever was the most recent.
echo.
echo The main reason for this pause is that a delay was needed between commands 
echo for this batch file to actually work.
echo.
pause  
start explorer.exe
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    one may simply use PING command to ping 'home' for specified time period, thus allowing for an automated pause
    – RozzA
    Feb 8, 2016 at 22:09
1

There seems to be some difference of opinion on what "works" and what doesn't. It seems that different versions of Windows 10 and various updates to software solutions suggested here work at various times - and not at others. Which is to say, YMMV. Here is what worked and didn't work for me as of Feb 25, 2018 using Windows 10 version 1709, Home edition, fully updated. I have a dual monitor setup, both at 1920 x 1080, the laptop screen scaled at 150%, the desktop screen scaled at 100% (Windows recommended settings).

  • The right-click Desktop and click Refresh option: Didn't work at all for me. Clicked refresh, moved an icon as a test, killed Explorer, when Explorer came back, the icon was not restored. Fail.

  • Desktop Restore version 1.7.0 from Midi-Ox: Worked, but not perfectly. Saved the icon layout, changed my primary display to be the desktop monitor (which moves all the icons from the laptop to the external desktop monitor but totally destroys the layout), then did an icon restore. Was mostly good, but two icons wound up on top of each other and one icon was left back on the desktop monitor.

  • DesktopOK version 5.01 from SoftwareOK.com: Did the same change-the-primary-display test as described above. DesktopOK performed flawlessly.

Needless to say, DesktopOK is the solution I'm using. Based on other responses here, YMMV. Good luck!

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  • Dear Bruce, if what you are describing above is what you tried, the refresh didn't work for you because you clicked refresh BEFORE you moved the icon. you need to click refresh AFTER moving the icon. the refresh operation is what stores the location into the registry
    – Lockszmith
    Apr 7, 2018 at 15:43
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    @Lockszmith, you are misinterpreting the test I described. I expected the refresh to have saved the icon position BEFORE it was moved. The test was to move the icon, kill Explorer, restart it, and then see if the icon was restored to the old location at the time of the refresh. That didn't work for me. Apr 8, 2018 at 18:33
  • I see and stand corrected. Though I presume everyone getting here were looking for a way to preserve something from being lost - at least that was what brought me here. Sounds like something works better on your env than on mine :)
    – Lockszmith
    Apr 12, 2018 at 13:51

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