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How to restore files and icons missing from Windows 10 Desktop

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Your icons might have disappeared from Desktop due to several reasons: an emergency restart of your computer, system failure, unscheduled system update or file corruption. As a result, not only icons but also their files and folders are gone.

Moreover, important documents and text records can be among them. An idea of storing important data in a cloud instead of Desktop hasn't even crossed the minds of many users.

Restoring lost desktop icons takes time and requires minimal skills, but fortunately this process is quite simple in the majority of cases. Further we're going to tell you how to do it (choose the most suitable method or try each of them until you manage to get your files back).

There are several ways how you can restore the icons that have disappeared from your Windows 10 Desktop:

  • Via "Personalize" Windows section;
  • Via the context menu of Desktop;
  • By restoring the files and icons sent to the Recycle Bin;
  • By rolling back to the recovery point of Windows (system restore feature);
  • By turning off tablet mode;
  • By recovering Desktop folder via Recuva.

How to get icons on desktop via "Personalize" in Windows

This method of recovering will be useful, if only system icons such as Computer, Recycle Bin, Documents and others are missing.

In order to show lost desktop icons on Windows 10 via Personalize settings:

  1. Select in the context menu of Windows Personalize command and enable it by a left-click;
  1. in the opened window go to Themes;
  1. choose Desktop icons settings;
  1. in the opened window mark the files you want to restore and then press Apply or OK. Then the selected items should appear again on your PC Desktop.

Restoring icons via the context menu of Desktop

If your icons were hidden via the context menu, you can restore them in the same way. This can be done in the following way:

  1. Go the context menu (put the cursor somewhere on the screen and right-click);
  2. In the opened menu choose View, and then in the additional menu – Show desktop icons (if it's already enabled, you have to toggle it off and on again);
  1. Go to the context menu one more time and click on Refresh

After it's done, the files and icons that have “disappeared” from your Desktop should be restored. Obviously this is the simplest way which is going to work only if data hasn't been actually deleted.

Restoring Desktop items from the Recycle Bin

The Recycle Bin has been designed as a temporary storage for files deleted from a hard drive and other storage devices. In order to restore deleted files (return them from the Recycle Bin to your Desktop), you have to do the following:

  1. Open the Recycle Bin via the context menu or Windows search bar;
  1. In the opened Recycle Bin folder mark all the files that you want to restore;
  2. Right-click and in the opened context menu click on Restore.

Note that deleted files are stored in the Recycle Bin until it's full. This can happen at any time, so if you didn't have time to go through the contents of your Recycle Bin, it's better to do it right now.

Does system restore recover deleted files?

While you're using your PC, Windows 10 operating system periodically keeps the track of its current state by saving the recovery points. Therefore, you can try to restore the files by rolling back to the saved state. If it works out, your Desktop files will be stored in this "copy".

In order to to recover Windows 10files using system restore, you have to do the following:

  1. from the «Start» menu go to the «Control Panel»;
  1. from the «Control Panel» go to «Recovery»;
  1. in the opened window click on «Open system restore» and press «Next»;
  1. confirm the rollback to the restore point.

Restoring missing files on Desktop by turning off tablet mode

In tablet mode files and folders aren't displayed on Desktop. If you want to get access to the "invisible" icons again, you have to disable this feature. In order to do this go to:

  1. Start – Settings – System;
  2. In «System» window select «Tablet mode»
  3. Disable «Hide app icons on the taskbar in tablet mode» feature;
  4. Reboot your computer.

Restoring Desktop files via Recuva program

How to restore Desktop files via Recuva:

  1. Download and launch Recuva
  2. Select the types of files for restoring. In the opened window we suggest choosing «All files».
  3. Specify the folder from which you want to restore lost files: C:\Users\«User name»\Desktop (user name is specified in Latin letters).
  4. Wait till the process of scanning is complete
  5. From the list of files offered by this recovery program mark the items that you want to be displayed on your Desktop.
  6. Press «Restore» button.


What's the fastest way to bring icons back to the Desktop

You may have disabled the settings display via the Windows 10 context menu. To return to the original display,

  1. Right-click an empty space on your desktop
  2. In the View menu, select Show desktop icons

How do I return Windows system icons to the Desktop?

To display system icons (Recycle Bin, Explorer, Control Panel and others),

  1. Go to Start
  2. Use the Personalization item in the Settings
  3. Under Themes > Desktop icons, check the icons you want.
  4. Apply the changes and check if the icons appear on your desktop.

Why are icons constantly disappearing on my Windows 10 PC?

By mistake, you may have enabled tablet display of your desktop. This is handy for touchscreens, but it usually makes the user experience uncomfortable.

You can return to the default settings at any time:

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Under System, find the Tablet Mode option.
  3. Toggle it off to disable Tablet Mode.

What to do if none of the methods work

If you accidentally delete icons from your Desktop, you'll have to manually make a new list of icons.

  1. Drag and drop the icons you want on your Windows Desktop
  2. Copy the icons and files to the Users > Desktop folder
  3. Update the contents of the desktop using the Refresh context menu

Where icon information is stored

1. Open the Registry Editor (Run -> regedit).

  1. Go through the Registry sections one by one:

HKCU\Software -> Microsoft\Windows -> Shell\Bags -> Desktop

3. Find ItemPosXXXXXXXX key

4. You can also control the Icon settings Mode, LogicalViewMode, IconSize.

  1. The changes are saved after you click on OK.

Can I save Windows Desktop settings such as composition and location of icons?

  1. Take a screenshot of the Desktop and save it in a safe place.
  2. Download the ReIcon program and save your Windows 10 visual settings as a file.

This way, after a failed upgrade, system crash, you will be able to return the icons manually or automatically by using the backup.

Ilia is a professional writer. He has expert knowledge in GPS and cartography with 15 years of experience. Additionally, Ilia has extensive experience in data recovery on PC and mobile. He started his career as a journalist by reviewing PC and mobile apps. His current responsibilities are to keep track of users' questions on MGT and answer them.