Desktop Icons Disappeared on Windows 10. How to restore them?

Desktop icons use to disappear rather often without any reason. You work on your machine and in a moment you discover that all icons are gone and all you can see is your wallpaper on bare desktop. This used to happen on Windows 7 and unfortunately this still happens on Windows 10 as well. Many users have been plagued by this recurring problem for months since switching to Windows 10. By the way, very often desktop icons disappear when a second display is used because of a rare glitch. So, let’s find out how to fix the problem and restore desktop icons on your screen. 

Attention! We consider a situation when all icons disappeared but not a part of them. If you see that a part of your desktop icons are missing try turning off the maintenance task.

How to add icons to desktop in Windows 10

First of all let us see how to add icons to your desktop in Windows 10.

  1. Right-click on the empty area of your desktop.
  2. Select Personalize: desktop personalize
  3. Head to “Themes” in the left pane.
  4. Click on the “Desktop icon settings” link: themes desktop icon settings
  5. Select desktop icons that you would like to add to your desktop.
  6. Click “OK” to save changes: desktop icons

If this method does not work and you don’t see icons on your desktop continue reading about how to fix the disappeared icons issue on Windows 10.

Desktop icons disappeared! How to restore them?

Here are various solutions that may help you restore missing desktop icons in different situations. If the solution doesn’t work for you, try the next one.

1. Disable and Enable “Show Desktop Icons”

Try to do the following:

  1. Right-click on the desktop.
  2. Select “View”.
  3. Even if the option “Show Desktop icons” is already checked they may be hidden. Uncheck “Show Desktop icons”.
  4. Repeat the same and Check the flag again: seletc "Show desktop icons" in "View"

In many cases it helps to fix the issue on Windows after you just toggle them off and then on again.

2. File creation method to restore missing desktop icons

  1. Right-click on the empty desktop.
  2. Create a random file: create a file on the desktop

In many cases icons appear after you create a file on the desktop. You can delete the file when you solve the problem. Weird but helps rather often.

3. Switch to Tablet Mode to restore disappeared desktop icons

Folks say this method helps if desktop icons disappear after they upgraded to windows 10.

  1. Go to “Settings” > “System” > “Tablet Mode”.
  2. Set both buttons to “ON” position: 
  3. Then slide them both back to “OFF” setting.
  4. Return to your homescreen and check the result.

4. “Sort by” method to get icons back

This worked for many people who were using multiple displays and faced the issue of disappeared desktop icons.

  1. Right-click on the desktop.
  2. Select “sort by” then “name”: icons sort by name

5. Rebuild icon cache if your desktop icons still do not appear

  1. Run command prompt as administrator.
  2. Copy and paste the following commands hitting “Enter” after each one:
taskkill /F /IM explorer.exe
cd /d %userprofile%\AppData\Local
attrib –h IconCache.db
del IconCache.db
start explorer.exe

rebuild icon cache

It will hopefully restore your desktop icons back to the primary screen.

16 thoughts on “Desktop Icons Disappeared on Windows 10. How to restore them?”

  1. Didn’t work. The ONLY way I can restore them is open Windows explorer and navigate to user/desktop, copy all entries and past them on to the desktop. But then they disappear on the next reboot. 🙁

  2. Thanks, followed the steps and the second one worked. That’s a relief. Appreciate your help.

  3. Thanks, #5 worked for me, also I have had the taskbar crash like when you taskkill explorer and i never knew that you can just run that again.

  4. I only lost the second line icons on the mainscreen and did not get them back with the displayed items above. When I change the icons from small to normal, I do see a part of the icons, but they are partly covered by a black quare as big as a small icon.

  5. I tried various methods but no luck. when I right click, nothing happens. Also when I close any window, I can see flicker of the desktop icons and then they disappear. its has been super frustrating and wasted so much time on it without any results. Can you please tell me what else can be done??


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