How to fix Desktop icons are missing on Windows 10?

by Ugnius Kiguolis - -


Issue: How to fix Desktop icons are missing on Windows 10?

Hello, something happened to my desktop icons – they simply vanished. I assume that I might have clicked something wrong, or maybe there is something else that caused this? Could you please tell me what is the reason for hit deadly irritating issue and how to fix it? Many thanks!!

Solved Answer

Desktop icons are missing on Windows 10 is one of many issues on the latest version of the operating system. When Windows 10 came out, it caused a lot of dissatisfaction due to bugs and stability issues.[1] Most of the OS update issues were fixed with further Windows updates released in 2018. However, this particular issue with the Start Menu creates frustration among many users[2] up until recently even.

Windows icons are often an important part of many users' daily computer usage routine. Shortcuts allow them to access the desired application or a document with just a click of a mouse, without having to dig inside various folders on the system. Essentially, these tiny desktop helpers did not change much since the very beginning of Windows development – or at least it may seem so for most users.

The desktop icons are missing issue can be extremely frustrating to many users, as it takes so much longer for them to find files/apps via File Explorer or other navigation apps. Nevertheless, there are several different methods that can help users fix missing Desktop icons on Windows 10, most of which are not difficult to execute.

The start menu was changed because of the user complaints and requests, but this error with Desktop icons missing on Windows 10 is pretty annoying and can appear due to a few different reasons. Firstly, when users have many icons on the sudden desktop, change is not pleasant. 

The primary reason for this issue on the device is modified settings, Desktop and Tablet mode settings, for example. People tend to blame operating system bugs from the start too. Fortunately, due to the bug fixes in Windows, the issue when Desktop icons are missing on Windows 10 can be fixed.

Fix missing desktop icons

Windows 10 is a great OS, which has been developed with respect to Windows OS users and their preferences, as well we taking into account the best and the worst features of previous Windows versions. Consequently, Windows enthusiasts must have noticed how many Windows 8 errors and inconveniences have been fixed. Yet, issues like Desktop icons are missing on Windows 10 prevail.

On top of that, those who were complaining about Windows design or Graphic User Interface (GUI) and Start menu were presented with the major changes. Unfortunately, but some of the changes have been treated as bugs by some of the users. Missing desktop icons is one of them.

Methods to fix missing Desktop icons on Windows 10

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The problem of missing desktop icons is not universal – sometimes, users see the underlying names of apps or files without icons, while in other cases, all the shortcuts are invisible completely. Some reported the desktop wallpaper removal following the missing icons issue.

While in some of the cases missing desktop icons may be caused by virus infection[3], in most of the cases it happens due to incorrect settings, accidentally hidden, or the wrong mode. Although most of the cases happen due to the accidentally set Tablet mode instead of Desktop mode, there are some other causes. Luckily, this “bug” may be fixed quite easily, but you should check the system first using the PC security/repair tool Reimage – it might also fix the missing desktop icons issue automatically for you as well.

Restart File Explorer

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File Explorer is an integral part of any Windows 10 operating system. If you have issues with interface or such as icons went missing, you should restart the process as follows:

  1. Press Ctrl + Shift + Esc to open the Task manager
  2. Scroll down to locate Windows Explorer
  3. Right-click on the entry, and select RestartRestart File Explorer
  4. Your desktop will blink and the process will be restarted for you

Run Search and Indexing troubleshooter

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Built-in troubleshooters are great solutions that can help you fix various Windows issues. If anything, it can at least pinpoint in the right direction. Thus, run the Search and Indexing troubleshooter as follows:

  1. Right-click on Start button and select Settings
  2. Go to Update & Security section
  3. On the left side, select Troubleshoot
  4. Scroll down and click on Search and Indexing
  5. Select Run the troubleshooterRun Search and Indexing Troubleshooter

Rebuild icon cache

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  1. Type in cmd into Windows Search
  2. Right-click on Command Prompt result and select Run as administrator (note: in case Windows search is not working for you as well, tap Win + R on your keyboard, enter cmd.exe and then hit Ctrl+Shift+Enter)
  3. As soon as the new window opens, type in these commands, pressing Enter after each:

    taskkill /F /IM explorer.exe
    cd /d %userprofile%\\AppData\\Local
    attrib –h IconCache.db
    del IconCache.db
    start explorer.exe

  4. Close down Command PromptRebuild icon cache

Check the visibility of desktop icons

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In case you have accidentally hidden desktop icons, you should follow these steps:

  1. Right-click on desktop (it does not matte where, as long as it is a blank space)
  2. Hover your mouse pointer on View
  3. Ensure that Show desktop icons option is tickedCheck Icon visibility

Additionally, some users reported that selecting Auto arrange icons option helped them to fix missing icons issue.

Turn off Tablet Mode

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As we have already pointed out, missing desktop icons may be the result of incorrectly set Mode. Therefore, the last thing that you should try is to disable Tablet Mode and switch to Desktop mode. This can be done by following these steps:

  1. Click on the notification prompt at the bottom-right of your screen
  2. In the bottom section of the new window, you will see many options
  3. Click on Tablet mode to ensure that the mode is disabledTurn off tablet mode

Run SFC scan

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Corrupted Windows system files may cause various malfunctions. To fix this, run a System File Checker via Command Prompt:

  1. Access Command Prompt as explained in the previous fix
  2. Type in the following command and press Enter:

    sfc /scannow

  3. Wait till Windows detect related issues and fixes them automaticallyRun SFC scan

Use System Restore point

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To repair damaged system, you have to purchase the licensed version of Reimage Reimage.

If none of the above solutions helped you fix the missing desktop icons issue, you could try using System Restore function to return your computer configuration to a point when your icons were still working fine. Note that this will not affect your personal files, although programs and updates installed after the restore point you are going back to will be removed.

  1. Press Win + R simultaneously
  2. Type in rstrui.exe and press Enter
  3. Click Next
  4. Select a restore point with a know good system configuration
  5. Click Next and press FinishUse System Restore point

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Prevent websites, ISP, and other parties from tracking you

Private Internet Access is a VPN that can prevent your Internet Service Provider, the government, and third-parties from tracking your online and allow you to stay completely anonymous. The software provides dedicated servers for torrenting and streaming, ensuring optimal performance and not slowing you down. You can also bypass geo-restrictions and view such services as Netflix, BBC, Disney+, and other popular streaming services without limitations, regardless of where you are.

A VPN is also crucial when it comes to user privacy. Online trackers such as cookies can not only be used by social media platforms and other websites but also your Internet Service Provider and the government. Even if you apply the most secure settings via your web browser, you can still be tracked via apps that you are connected to the internet. Besides, privacy-focused browsers like Tor is are not an optimal choice due to diminished connection speed.

Therefore, to stay completely anonymous and prevent the ISP and the government from spying on you, you should employ Private Internet Access VPN. It will allow you to connect to the internet while being completely anonymous, prevent trackers, ads, as well as malicious content. Most importantly, you will prevent the illegal surveillance activities that NSA and other governmental institutions are performing behind your back.


Recover your lost files quickly

Unforeseen circumstances can happen at any time while using the computer: it can turn off due to a power cut, a Blue Screen of Death (BSoD) can occur, or random Windows updates can decide to reboot the machine when you went away for a few minutes. As a result, your schoolwork, important documents, and other data might be lost.

Additionally, you might also be attacked by malware that can corrupt your Windows or encrypt files with a robust encryption algorithm, and ask for a ransom in Bitcoin for the decryption tool. Cybercriminals might not deliver what they promised, however, so it is better to attempt alternative file recovery methods that could help you to retrieve at least some portion of the lost data.

Data recovery software is one of the options that could help you recover your files. Once you delete a file, it does not vanish into thin air – it remains on your system as long as no new data is written on top of it. Data Recovery Pro is recovery software that searchers for working copies of deleted files within your hard drive. By using the tool, you can prevent loss of valuable documents, school work, personal pictures, and other crucial files.

About the author

Ugnius Kiguolis
Ugnius Kiguolis - The problem solver

Ugnius Kiguolis is the founder and editor-in-chief of UGetFix. He is a professional security specialist and malware analyst who has been working in IT industry for over 20 years.

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