13 Easy Fixes: Desktop Icons Disappeared On Windows

If you can’t see your desktop icons on your Windows computer, their visibility may be disabled, or there may be some other issue. Find 13 methods in this guide to bring back your desktop icons if desktop icons disappeared on Windows.

Causes For Desktop Icons Disappeared on Windows 10/11

  • Desktop icon visibility is disabled.
  • System desktop icons are not enabled to be visible on the desktop
  • Tablet mode is on
  • Windows system files are corrupted
  • Desktop icons are moved to your OneDrive folder
  • Windows Explorer is not working correctly
  • The desktop icons cache is corrupted

Solutions To Fix Disappeared Icons from the Desktop on Windows

  1. Make Sure the Icons Visibility is Enabled
  2. Check Your Desktop Icon Settings
  3. Relaunch the Windows Explorer Process
  4. Rebuild Icon Cache Using the Command Prompt
  5. Delete the Icon Cache File from the File Explorer
  6. Turn Off/Turn On Tablet Mode from Settings
  7. Check Your OneDrive for a Desktop Folder
  8. Update Graphics Drivers
  9. Run DISM and SFC Scans
  10. Update Windows
  11. Check your Desktop Folder in File Explorer
  12. Perform System Restore
  13. Reset Windows

1. Make Sure the Icons Visibility is Enabled

Windows provides you the option to decide if you want to see desktop icons or not. If your desktop icons are missing, check if the ‘Show desktop icons’ option is enabled. Because it’s possible that this option was disabled, which is why you can’t see any icons on the desktop. Use these steps to check it:

  • Right-click on your desktop and hover your mouse cursor to ‘View.’
  • Another menu will open next to it. Make sure you can see a tick before ‘Show desktop icons.’ If there is no tick mark, this means that it’s disabled. Click on it to enable it.
Right click menu on Windows 10 PC
  • After enabling the visibility of desktop icons, check if your desktop icons appear or not.

2. Check Your Desktop Icon Settings

If you only can’t see system icons like Recycle Bin and This PC, they may be disabled from the desktop icon settings. Follow the steps below to check if your system icons are enabled:

2.1 For Windows 10

  • Right-click on your desktop and choose ‘Personalize.’
Right click menu on Windows 10
  • From the left pane, go to ‘Themes.’
  • On the right side, select ‘Desktop icon settings’ under’ Related settings.’
Themes Settings on Windows 10
  • This will open the icon settings window. See if the icons you think are missing are check-marked. If not, checkmark the icons you want to see on the desktop.
Desktop icon settings
  • Click ‘Apply’ and ‘OK.’

2.2 For Windows 11

  • Right-click on the desktop and choose ‘Personalize.’
  • It’ll open Settings. Click ‘Themes.’
Personalization Settings on Windows 11
  • Scroll down and choose ‘Desktop settings.’
  • Checkmark the system icons you want to see on the desktop.
Desktop icon settings
  • Click ‘Apply’ and ‘OK.’

3. Relaunch the Windows Explorer Process

The Windows Explorer process (explorer.exe) is responsible for opening anything in file explorer, including the desktop icons. So, if your icons are missing on the desktop, restart the Windows Explorer process using Task Manager. 

  • Right-click on the taskbar or Start button and choose ‘Task Manager.’
  • When the Task Manager opens, scroll down to the ‘Windows process’ section, and click ‘Windows Explorer.
  • Now, click the ‘Restart’ button at the bottom right of the Task Manager.
Task Manager opened. Windows Explorer selected.
  • Upon pressing it, all the opened file explorer windows and the icons on the taskbar will disappear. They will appear after a few seconds, indicating that Windows Explorer has restarted. Check your desktop for icons.

You can also reboot your computer to restart all the processes. But remember to choose the ‘Restart’ option instead of ‘Shutdown.’

4. Rebuild Icon Cache Using the Command Prompt

Another reason for desktop icons missing is a corrupted icon cache. This keeps the temporary data of icons. If it’s corrupted, the icons may not appear at all, and if they appear, their small picture will be missing, and there will only be text under the icon. 

You can rebuild the icon cache using the command prompt to fix this. Follow below:

  • Open the Start menu, type.’cmd‘ and click ‘Run as administrator.’
  • When the command prompt window opens, copy-paste each command at a time and press the enter key after pasting each one.

taskkill /F /IM explorer.exe

cd /d %userprofile%\AppData\Local

attrib –h IconCache.db

del IconCache.db

start explorer.exe

  • Restart your computer.
  • After the reboot, check your desktop for icons.

5. Delete the Icon Cache File from the File Explorer

As mentioned in the previous section, a possible cause of disappeared desktop icons is a corrupted icon cache. We also showed how to rebuild the icon cache using the command prompt. But if the command prompt method didn’t work or you don’t like using the command prompt, delete the icon cache file from File Explorer.

  • Open the Start menu, type.’folder options‘ and launch the app.
  • Go to the ‘View’ tab.
  • Under ‘Hidden file and folder,’ select ‘Show hidden files, folders, and drives.’
File Explorer options View tab
  • Click ‘Apply’ and ‘OK.’
  • Now, open File Explorer.
  • Go to Local Drive C > Users > your username > AppData > Local
  • Right-click ‘IconCache’ or ‘IconCache.db’ and select ‘Delete’.
Local AppData folder on Windows 10
  • After deletion, make sure to delete it from the Recycle Bin.
  • Restart your computer.
  • On startup, Windows will automatically create a new icon cache file. Check your desktop icons.

6. Turn Off/Turn On Tablet Mode from Settings

Tablet Mode on Windows is for people who want to use their 2-in1 devices with their touch screens. But some users reported that switching tablet mode caused unusual system changes, including disappearing desktop icons.

On the other hand, some users who couldn’t see their desktop icons enabled tablet mode and liked the tablet mode interface that expands the Start menu and shows it as your desktop.

So, we recommend trying both options. Try disabling the tablet mode if it’s on. But if it’s off, enable it to check if you like the new style.

  • Open the Start menu by clicking the Windows icon on the taskbar and choosing Settings (cogwheel icon).
  • Choose ‘System.’
  • Select ‘Tablet’.
  • To switch to tablet mode, perform these settings: Under ‘When I sign in,’ choose ‘Always use tablet mode.’ And under ‘When I use this device as a tablet,’ choose ‘Always switch to tablet mode.’
Tablet settings on Windows 10
  • To disable tablet mode, use these settings: under ‘When I sign in,’ select ‘Never use tablet mode.’ And under ‘When I use this device as a tablet,’ select ‘Ask me before switching modes.’

If you’re trying to find Tablet Mode on Windows 11, it’s not available. Microsoft has made switching to tablet mode an automatic process on Windows 11. You’re switched to tablet mode whenever you use your 2-in-1 laptop with its touch screen. The same is true for regular desktop mode.

So, to switch to tablet mode, use your laptop with the touch screen. And for switching off tablet mode, attach a keyboard and mouse to your laptop and use it with them.

7. Check Your OneDrive for a Desktop Folder

In some cases, Windows moves your desktop icons to OneDrive to keep your desktop clean. But this is rather frustrating for most users because they would search for their desktop icons and won’t find them. If your desktop icons disappeared, look for them in your OneDrive folder.

  • Open the OneDrive folder.
  • Look for a folder named ‘Desktop.’
  • If you find the folder and icons in it, copy all the icons and paste them to your desktop.

8. Update Graphics Drivers

For some users, outdated graphics drivers were the cause of missing icons on the desktop. Update your GPU drivers, restart your computer, and check if this fixes the problem.

  • Right-click the Windows logo on the taskbar and select ‘Device Manager from the menu.
  • Double-click Display adapters.
  • Right-click your GPU and choose ‘Update drivers.’
  • On the new wizard, select ‘Search automatically for drivers.’
  • It’ll search for new updates and install them.
  • Restart your computer.

9. Run DISM and SFC Scans

In the section above, we suspected that the icon cache was corrupted and provided fixes. But it’s also possible that some other system files are corrupted, causing the missing desktop icons problem. Windows provides two useful tools for checking and repairing system files. DISM scan and SFC scan.

The DISM scan uses the internet to get a copy of the corrupted file and replaces it. On the other hand, SFC (System File Checker) scans and repairs system files by replacing them with a cached file saved on the hard drive by Windows. Duplicate these steps to check your Windows for system file errors:

  • Open the Start menu and type.'cmd‘ and select ‘Run as administrator.’ On Windows 11, type cmd on the Start menu and press Ctrl + Shift + Enter keys at once to open it with administrator rights.
  • On the command prompt, copy-paste this command and press enter: DISM.exe /Online /Cleanup-image /Restorehealth
  • Once it’s completed, copy-paste the SFC scan command and hit enter: sfc /scannow
  • It will scan and repair corrupt files.
  • When the scan completes, restart your computer.

10. Update Windows

A minor system bug may be behind the disappeared desktop icons issue. Run Windows Update and download and install all the available updates to try fixing the desktop icons visibility problem:

10.1 Update Windows 10

  • Open the Start menu and go to Settings.
  • Select ‘Update & Security’.
  • Click the ‘Check for updates’ button.
  • Windows will check for updates and install them. This may take time and require you to restart your computer multiple times.

10.2 Update Windows 11

  • Click the Start menu and go to Settings.
  • Choose ‘Windows Update.’
  • Click ‘Check for updates.’

11. Check your Desktop Folder in File Explorer

It’s possible that you don’t see the icons on your desktop due to an unknown reason even though they are in the Desktop folder. So, open the desktop folder through File Explorer. You might find the desktop icons there.

  • Open File Explorer.
  • On the left pane, click ‘Desktop’ under ‘Quick Access.
Desktop folder on File Explorer
  • It’ll open the desktop folder. If you find the desktop icons, copy-paste them to the desktop.

12. Perform System Restore

If your Windows has system restore points saved, you can use them to take your computer settings to a previous date. This is useful for reversing various issues. With this, you don’t lose your data or files.

But any program installed after the time and date of the system restore point is removed. So, if you tried the above methods and the desktop icons are not appearing, check your system restore for any saved system restore points.

  • Open the Start menu, type.’control panel‘, and launch the Control Panel app.
  • Type’ recovery’ on the search bar at the top right corner.
  • Select ‘Recovery’ from the search results.
  • On the next screen, click ‘Open System Restore.’
Recovery option in Control Panel
  • It’ll open the System Restore window. Click ‘Next.’
  • Select the system restore point you want to return to and click the ‘Scan for affected apps’ button to confirm which apps will be deleted if you use this restore point. Now, close the window.
  • As you know what changes will be made, click ‘Next.’
  • Select ‘Finish.’
  • Your Windows will be restored to the selected state.

13. Reset Windows

If your Windows doesn’t have any system restore point saved or the system restore didn’t bring back the desktop icons, the last option is resetting your Windows.

A reset removes all the saved settings and preferences and takes your Windows settings to the state when you installed Windows keeping your installed applications and personal files (if you choose the keep my files option).

13.1 Reset Windows 10

  • Click the Start menu and open Settings.
  • Go to ‘Update & Security’.
  • Select ‘Recovery’ from the left pane.
  • Under ‘Reset this PC,’ click the ‘Get Started button.
Recovery option on Windows 10 Settings
  • If Windows asks for permission, choose ‘Yes.’
  • On the Reset this PC window, select ‘Keep my files.’
Reset this PC options on Windows 10
  • The next window will show two options: Cloud download and Local reinstall. Choose ‘Cloud reinstall’ if you want Windows to reset by downloading settings online and select ‘Local reinstall’ for Windows to reset using the system files on your drive. Cloud download is better but may take more time. Local reinstall is faster.
  • After selecting, it’ll show more options; click ‘Next.’
  • Select ‘Reset’.

13.2 Reset Windows 11

  • Open the Start menu and go to Settings.
  • Once the settings window opens, scroll down and choose ‘Recovery.’
  • Click the ‘Reset PC’ button.
Recovery Settings on Windows 11
  • Select ‘Keep my files.’
Reset this PC options on Windows 11
  • Choose ‘Cloud download’ or ‘Local reinstall’ as you desire.
  • Keep following the on-screen instructions to reset Windows.

Workaround: Create New Shortcuts

If you don’t want to reset your Windows, you have another option to create new shortcuts for the apps you want to access on the desktop quickly. But this is applicable if you can create icons on the desktop that appear normally.

It’s time-consuming because you have to create desktop shortcuts for all the apps, but it may be the only solution for many users.

  • Open File Explorer.
  • Navigate to Local Drive C > Program Files.
  • Open the folder of the app you want to create a desktop shortcut.
  • Find its exe file. Right-click the file, hover the mouse cursor over ‘Send to,’ and then select ‘Desktop (create shortcut).’
Microsoft OneDrive folder in file explorer. Right-click menu for OneDrive exe file.
  • Perform this for every app that’s a shortcut you need on the desktop.
  • Some apps may be saved on the Local Drive C > Program Files (x86) folder.

Conclusion

If your desktop icons disappear, check if the visibility of desktop icons is on. If it is, use the methods mentioned in this guide to try and fix the problem.