How to Fix: Windows 10 Desktop Icon Spacing

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader 'Marilyn' writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I just upgraded to Windows 10 and almost all of my desktop icons are missing. I can only see three icons on my desktop and they are spaced out with 1 huge line at a time. When I select 1 icon, the entire row of my desktop gets highlighted. I have never seen anything like this before. I read your article on 'How to Fix: Windows 10 Desktop Icons Missing', and have ensured that my system is not in Tablet Mode, so I don't know why my Windows 10 desktop icons are missing. Can you help? "

My response:

Admittedly, I was perplexed Marilyn's question and offered to help through my remote desktop support service. Sure enough, the only icons on her desktop were two documents and one image - there was nothing else on the screen. I offered to investigate the problem further, but Marilyn had to leave for a meeting and so we disconnected our session. She then emailed me back shortly after to say that she found a solution to her problem:

" Dennis, I just wanted to let you know I figured it out what caused my Windows 10 desktop icons to go missing. Apparently, the option to set the Windows desktop icon spacing has been removed from Windows 8 and 10 (via the desktop), and the only way to adjust this option is to modify the registry. When I did that, I found that my icon spacing was set to -38285, whereas the default should be set to -1125. I'm not sure how this got changed, but I set it to the default -1125 setting, and everything went back to normal. Go figure! "

Thank you Marilyn for emailing the solution. I reviewed the link that Marylin provided on how to edit the Windows registry in order to adjust icon spacing (horizontal and vertical), but figured it would be easier to find a freeware program that would do the same; unfortunately two of the programs I tried didn't work on my system. As such I will provide two alternative solutions.

Solution #1: Use your Mouse to Adjust Icon Spacing

Icon spacing can be adjusted via the desktop using the mouse. To do so:

  1. Go to your desktop and left click on an empty area of your desktop background. This will ensure that the desktop is activated.
     
  2. Hold down the CTRL key on your keyboard (do not let go). Now, use the mouse wheel on the mouse, and move slide it up or down to adjust the icon size and its spacing. The icons and their spacing should adjust to your mouse scroll wheel movement. When you find the setting you like, release the CTRL key on the keyboard.

This should fix the spacing problem. If it does not, then you will have to use the registry edit (described next).

Solution #2: Use the Registry Editor to Adjust Icon Spacing

You can also adjust the icon spacing using the Windows Registry. To do so:

  1. Click Start and type in "regedit" (no quotes); wait for "regedit" or the Registry Editor to appear in the list and click it.
     
  2. Scroll to the top of the Registry Editor on the left of the screen and collapse all the folders (if any are open). You should now see: Computer, then underneath that: HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT, HKEY_CURRENT_USER, HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, HKEY_USERS and HKEY_CURRENT_CONFIG.
     
  3. Click the HKEY_CURRENT_USER (folder). It will expand; underneath that, click "Control Panel", then "Desktop", then finally, "WindowMetrics".
     
  4. On the right column of the screen, double click the IconSpacing option and set it to -1125, then click OK. Next, double click the IconVerticalSpacing option and set it to -1125, then click OK.
     
  5. Exit the Registry Editor; your changes will be active immediately. Next, click Start, then shut down, and reboot the computer.

Your desktop icons should now be back to normal.

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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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Comments

desilynn79's picture

this totally fixed my problem and i had been having it since upgrading to windows 10. it only happened on occasion.. the icons always take a long time to load for some reason but sometimes they don't load at all... somehow the spacing got changed and only had 2 icons that would appear and the rest were just black squares. i followed the directions in solution 1 and it worked perfectly for me. thank you so much. this was the best solution for me and i registered just to say thanks.