How to Fix: Windows 10 Desktop Icons Missing
Infopackets Reader Kelly R. writes:
" Dear Dennis,
I've been using Windows 10 and so far so good. I took your advice and installed Classic Shell, which I think is a superior Start Menu than the default Windows 10 Start Menu. Everything has been great for the last few weeks, but suddenly all of my icons on the desktop have disappeared! At the same time, my browser window won't minimize or maximize - it only moves left or right. I have no idea what's going on but I'd really like to have my icons back on the desktop! I am going bananas! Can you help? "
Admittedly I was perplexed by Kelly's question and so I offered to dial into her machine using my remote desktop support service to have a closer look. Kelly agreed to let me dial in, and sure enough, the desktop icons were gone. In fact, the desktop was completely blank with the exception of 3 bars at the top left of the screen. When I clicked the 3 bars, it activated the Start Menu - but it wasn't the Classic Shell Start Menu - it was the Windows 10 Start Menu, which I thought was strange.
I also tried adjusting the web browser, but it would only move from left to right. I asked Kelly if she was using a tablet computer, but she said she was using a PC. As such, I suspected that perhaps "tablet mode" somehow got triggered on the PC.
After a bit of research and some digging around, I confirmed my suspicion - tablet mode was in fact enabled on the PC. As soon as I disabled it, everything went back to normal. I then demonstrated how to enable or disable tablet mode so that Kelly could help herself to undo the change if she needed to again in the future. And, in case anyone else is wondering, I'll explain how to toggle back and forth between tablet mode and PC mode should you find yourself in this very same situation.
Update 20160118: Originally when I wrote this article I pointed out one major possibility that causes Windows 10 desktop icons to disappear. Since then, however, users have emailed me and we've solved this problem using a few other approaches. As such, I will list 3 different ways to get the missing desktop icons back.
Update 20160404: I've also included an article on how to fix the Windows 10 Start Menu, as this question gets asked from folks that stop by to read this article. If your Windows 10 Start doesn't work when you click it, then please read my article on "How to Fix: Windows 10 Start Menu Not Working".
Option #1: Enable or Disable Tablet Mode
Switching back and forth between PC and Tablet mode is very easy to do. Here's how:
- In the lower right hand corner of your task bar (near the clock), there is an icon that looks like a speech balloon. This is the Action Center and it's used to display important system messages, but it also has a few other features, such as allowing you to toggle Tablet Mode mode on or off. When it's off, then PC mode is activated.
- To demonstrate how this is done, click on the Action Center icon to open the Action Center window on the far right of the screen.
- Near the very bottom of the Action Center window are a number of squares; one of them says "Tablet Mode". If you click on Tablet Mode, the system will change into Tablet Mode instantly and icons on the task bar and the desktop will disappear. Don't worry - the tray bar will remain on the screen, including the Action Center, so you can easily get back in to reverse the changes.
- To disable Tablet mode (and to re-enable PC mode), click the Action Center icon again and then click on the Tablet Mode square. Your system will then change back to PC mode and the icons on the desktop will reappear.
Option #2: Show Desktop Icons Not Enabled
Another possibility is that the "Show Desktop Icons" feature is been unchecked. This option can be activated or deactivated from the desktop.
To activate it:
- Right click on an empty area of the desktop to bring up a dialogue menu.
- Select View, then ensure that the "Show Desktop Icons" has a check mark beside it.
Option #3: Windows 10 Desktop Icon Spacing
Yet another possibility is that the Windows 10 Desktop icon spacing has been corrupted. I've written a separate article from another user that reported only 3 icons were displayed on the desktop and the rest were missing. If the above solutions did not work for you, please also read: How to Fix: Windows 10 Desktop Icon Spacing.
Got a Computer Question or Problem? Ask Dennis!
I need more computer questions. If you have a computer question -- or even a computer problem that needs fixing -- please email me with your question so that I can write more articles like this one. I can't promise I'll respond to all the messages I receive (depending on the volume), but I'll do my best.
About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of Infopackets.com. With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.
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