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

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  • 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 '12 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 '16 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 '16 at 22:37

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)
  • 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 '15 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 '15 at 9:41
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    Great on Windows 10 too... – Macmade Aug 19 '15 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 '16 at 22:04
  • You are god among mens – Mariano L Feb 20 '18 at 15:16

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. – Amos M. Carpenter May 14 '15 at 1:43
  • Sadly I've found DesktopOK to crash win10 at version 4.41 – Hellonearthis Sep 23 '16 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 '17 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 '18 at 12:11

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


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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 '15 at 1:29
  • I did not downvote, but this solution no longer works in Win10 – Serj Sagan Sep 8 '15 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 '17 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 '17 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. – Álvaro González Sep 9 '17 at 7:49

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 '12 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. – Jelle Geerts Nov 27 '12 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 '16 at 22:06

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
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 The main reason for this pause is that a delay was needed between commands 
echo for this batch file to actually work.
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 '16 at 22:09

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


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:




  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!!


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!

  • 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 '18 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. – Bruce Morris Apr 8 '18 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 '18 at 13:51

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