No Windows 10 issue is quite as disconcerting as loading up your PC only to find that your meticulously curated desktop icons have seemingly evaporated into the virtual ethos and are nowhere to be found.
Bar the fright this can cause and the run-on ruminations of an irretrievably broken PC, the issue is quickly resolved via the methods detailed below.
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“”Show Desktop Icons”” Option
To start, we need to single out the most common cause of missing desktop icons, which can happen by inadvertently altering the desktop settings.
- Right-click anywhere on the desktop, then select hover over the “View” option that appears in the drop-down window.
- Under “View,” check to see if there’s is a tick/checkmark next to “Show Desktop Icons” located at the bottom of the options.
- If it is unticked, click on it.
In most cases, this will restore the desktop icons immediately.
Disabling Tablet Mode
Another common reason linked to missing desktop icons is a new feature implemented with Windows 10 – tablet mode. Microsoft designed the mode for use with tablets running Windows 10, and it effectively rejigs the desktop to work more intuitively with the touch screen tablet layout by removing icons.
When used on a PC, it removes desktop icons from view in favor of the familiar tablet/phone app layout.
To disable tablet mode:
- Click on the Windows Start menu and select “Settings.”
- From the list on the left-hand side that appears in the “Settings” window, click on “Tablet mode.”
- Make sure the “Make Windows more touch-friendly when using your device as a tablet” option is toggled to “Off.”
- Under ”When I sign in”, select ”Use desktop mode”.
- Close the “Settings” window and restart the PC.
Sometimes turning tablet mode on and setting all the option toggles to “On,” and then switching them back can resolve missing desktop icon issues. We recommended always restarting the PC after doing so to iron out any lingerings problems.
If you’ve recently used a second monitor and disconnected it, the icons may be anchored to the second monitor settings and hiding out of view. Alternatively, you may have accidentally dragged an icon out of the desktop’s field of view.
Another possible cause is a recent Windows update rejigging the desktop code and involuntarily moving the icons around. To remedy this:
- Right-click anywhere on the desktop.
- Navigate to “View” as above and tick the “Auto arrange icons” option.
- Missing icons that were previously missing/on a second monitor will now be rearranged to appear as normal.
Similar to the rearrange icon fix, this involves resetting the spacing parameters between icons, which, when set too high, can cause them to disappear off-screen.
- Minimize all programs, and left-click anywhere on the desktop.
- Press and hold down on the Ctrl key on the keyboard and move your mouse wheel downward to reduce the icon spacing.
- Adjust this until all the icons start to appear relatively close to each other.
- Release Ctrl when you are happy with the results.
- Follow the rearrange icons steps above, just in case.
Restore Specific Icons
If specific icons are missing or you wish to restore them, here are the steps to follow.
- Right-click anywhere on the desktop and select “Personalize” at the bottom of the drop-down menu.
- Click on “Themes” from the list of options on the left-hand side.
- Under “Themes,” locate the “Desktop icon settings” under “Related Settings” midway down the right-hand side of the window or below.
- In the window that appears, select the icons you want to restore, such as “Computer,” “Recycle Bin,” “Network,” etc., by checking the box next to them.
- Click on ”Apply”, then ”Ok”.