HomeWinBuzzer TipsHow to Hide or Show Desktop Icons in Windows 11/10 (All Icons,...

How to Hide or Show Desktop Icons in Windows 11/10 (All Icons, System Icons, Specific Icons)

We show you how to hide desktop icons in Windows 11/10 globally or selectively, as well as how to show desktop icons again when you need them.

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Desktop icons in Windows offer a practical shortcut to applications and files, but they can also clutter your screen. If you prefer a cleaner look or want specific icons to remain visible, Windows provides straightforward options to manage these icons to suit your aesthetic and practical needs.
 
If you value a clean and uncluttered desktop, you might opt to hide your icons to enjoy a pristine background. Windows provides flexibility in how these icons are displayed. You can choose to see everything on your desktop or hide specific icons to suit your workflow and preferences. Whether it’s system icons like ‘This PC’ and ‘Recycle Bin’, or personal files and applications, you can customize your desktop to reflect your needs and style. This level of customization ensures that each user’s desktop can be as unique as their use case demands.

How to Hide All Desktop Icons in Windows 11 or Windows 10

If you prefer a clean desktop environment, hiding all desktop icons in Windows 10 can be accomplished in a few simple steps:

  1. How to hide desktop icons
     
    Right-click on an empty area of your desktop. Hover over “View” in the context menu that appears, and uncheck the “Show desktop icons” option to hide all desktop icons.
     
    Windows 10 - Desktop - View - Uncheck Show Desktop Icons
  2. How to show Windows 10 desktop icons
     
    If you need to bring back your icons, right-click on an empty space on your desktop, select “View“, and then check the “Show desktop icons” option. This will make all your desktop icons visible again.
     
    Windows 10 - Desktop - View - Check Show Desktop Icons

How to Show or Hide System Desktop Icons in Windows 11 or Windows 10

To customize your desktop further, you can decide which system desktop icons to display or hide according to your preferences.

  1. Open Settings
     
    Click the “Start” button, then select the settings cog located above the power button. Alternatively, you can quickly open settings by pressing “Windows + I“.
     
    Windows 11 - Open Settings
  2. Click “Personalization”
     
    Navigate through the settings menu to find the “Personalization” option. Here, you can customize various visual aspects of your desktop. Click “Themes” to access the required option.
     
    Windows 11 - Settings - Personalization - Themes
  3. Acess “Desktop icon settings”
     
    Under the “Themes” section, select “Desktop icon settings” to access options for managing system icons such as ‘This PC‘, ‘Network‘, and ‘Recycle Bin‘.
     
    Windows 11 - Settings - Personalization - Themes - Desktop Icon Settings
  4. Tick or untick the system icons you want to hide or show
     
    Select or deselect the checkboxes next to each system icon you wish to show or hide on your desktop. Confirm your changes by clicking “OK”.
     
    Windows 10 - Settings - Personalization - Themes - Desktop Icon Settings - Check or Uncheck Icons - Accept

How to Hide Non-System Desktop Icons on Windows 11 or Windows 10

If you prefer to streamline your desktop by hiding non-essential or less frequently used app icons, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to effectively hide non-system icons on your Windows 10 desktop.

  1. Open “File Explorer”
     
    Press the Start button and run “File Explorer” or use the hotkey “Windows + E” to launch the app.
     
    Windows 11 - Open File Explorer
  2. Access “Folder Options” for “This PC”
     
    Windows 11
    : Navigate to “Home“. Click the three dots and select “Options
     
    Windows 10: Navigate to “This PC” and to the “View” tab. There select “Options” to open Folder Options.
     
    Windows 11 - Open File Explorer - More - Options
  3. Adjust Folder Options
     
    Adjust the visibility settings by ticking the option “Don’t show hidden files, folders, or drives”. Click “OK” to save these settings. This will ensure that when you hide your icons in the next step, they won’t show up.
     
    Windows 10 - This PC - View - Options - View - Don´t Show - Ok
  4. Right-click the icon you want to hide and choose “Properties”
     
    Find the icon you want to hide, right-click on it, and select “Properties”. In the properties menu, navigate to the “General” tab.
     
    Windows 10 - Desktop - Icon Properties
  5. Tick “Hidden” in the General tab and press “OK”
     
    In the “General” tab, check the box labeled “Hidden” and then click “OK” to apply the changes. This action will hide the selected icon from your desktop.
     
    Windows 10 - Desktop - Icon Properties - General - Check Hidden - Accept

How to Unhide Desktop Icons on Windows 11 or Windows 10

If you’ve previously hidden some of your desktop icons and now need them back, here’s a simple guide to make those icons visible again on your Windows 10 desktop.

  1. Open “File Explorer”
     
    Press the Start button and run “File Explorer” or use the hotkey “Windows + E” to launch the app.
     
    Windows 11 - Open File Explorer
  2. Access “Folder Options” for “This PC”
     
    Windows 11
    : Navigate to “Home“. Click the three dots and select “Options
     
    Windows 10: Navigate to “This PC” and to the “View” tab. There select “Options” to open Folder Options.
     
    Windows 11 - Open File Explorer - More - Options
  3. Adjust “Folder Options”
     
    In the Folder Options, under the “View” tab, check the option to “Show hidden files, folders, and drives“. Click “OK” to apply these changes and make the hidden icons visible, albeit greyed out.
     
    Windows 10 - This PC - View - Options - View - Show - Ok
  4. Right-click a previously hidden icon and select “Properties”
     
    Right-click on any icon that appears greyed out and choose “Properties” from the context menu.
     
    Windows 10 - Desktop - Icon Properties
  5. Untick “Hidden” in the General tab and press “OK”
     
    In the “General” tab, untick the “Hidden” checkbox and click “OK” to finalize the changes. This action will restore the icon to its usual visibility on the desktop.
     
    Windows 10 - Desktop - Icon Properties - General - Uncheck Hidden - Accept

Related: How to Change Icons on Windows 11 and Windows 10

Windows has always had a bit of an icon problem. While operating systems like Android and Google still have a general “style” for third-party app icons, Windows struggles to remain consistent. Icons can be 3D or 2D and round or square, or simply just bad. In our other guide, we show you how to change app icons, folder icons, and user icons in Windows 11 and Windows 10 by utilizing the Settings app and Registry Editor.
 
Featured - How to change icons on windows 10

Related: How to Fix Missing Windows Icons and Thumbnails with an Icon Cache Rebuild

Windows 10 icons and thumbnails are a feature we all take for granted until they don’t work anymore. Occasionally, Windows 10 desktop icons will go missing or disappear. More commonly, though, users notice that their Windows 10 icons are blank or white. The same applies to those thumbnails which Windows 10 is creating as little previews for images and video files. Just like static program symbols those thumbnails are stored as icons in the icon cache. When they go missing, you will have to reconstruct the icon cache. In our other guide, we show you how to delete and rebuild the Windows icon cache so they display as usual.
 
Windows 10 How to rebuild the icon cache for thumbnail-previews

Related: How to Hide or Show Icons in the Taskbar Corner Overflow Menu

With the advent of Windows 11, there’s been a significant change in how these icons are managed. The “Taskbar Corner Overflow Menu” now houses icons that are not actively displayed on the taskbar but are still running in the background. In our other guide, we show you how to hide or show app icons in the Taskbar Corner Overflow menu to free up space or to gain quicker access to the underlying apps.
 
Featured - Hide or Show Icons in Taskbar Corner Overflow Menu in Windows 11

Related: How to Make the Windows 11 Taskbar Smaller or Bigger

For the Windows 11 taskbar, there isn’t a “small icons” or “labels” option to shrink it down. Luckily there is a workaround to make taskbar icons bigger or smaller in Windows 11 using a handy registry hack, which we are showing you in our other guide.
 
Featured-Change-Size-of-Taskbar-Icons-in-Windows-11.jpg

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions About Managing Desktop Icons in Windows 11 and Windows 10

Can I hide all desktop icons except for specific ones like ‘This PC’ or ‘Recycle Bin’?

While Windows does not provide a direct option to selectively hide all icons except certain ones, you can individually tweak the visibility of non-system icons by right-clicking each one, selecting “Properties“, and then marking them as “Hidden” in the General tab. System icons can be managed through Settings > Personalization > Themes > Desktop icon settings.

Is there a keyboard shortcut to quickly access desktop icon settings?

There isn’t a direct keyboard shortcut to access desktop icon settings. However, you can press “Win + I” to open Settings, navigate to “Personalization,” then “Themes,” and finally “Desktop icon settings”. This is the quickest way through keyboard navigation.

How can I sort my desktop icons by item type or other criteria?

You can sort desktop icons by right-clicking on the desktop, selecting “Sort by,” and choosing your preferred criteria such as Name, Size, Item type, or Date Modified. These options can help organize the desktop based on your specific organizational needs.

Can I create desktop icons for applications that don’t automatically have one?

Yes, to create a desktop icon for any application, navigate to the application’s executable file in File Explorer, right-click it, select “Send to,” and then choose “Desktop (create shortcut)”. This will place a shortcut on the desktop that can be renamed and moved as desired.

How do I change the default icons for system elements like ‘This PC’ or ‘Recycle Bin’?

To change default system icons, go to Settings > Personalization > Themes > Desktop icon settings. Click on the icon you want to modify, then click “Change Icon,” select a new icon from the list or browse to an icon file, and press OK to apply the changes.

How can I automate the organization of my desktop icons?

Automating desktop organization can be achieved by enabling “Auto arrange icons” from the desktop context menu under “View.” This feature lines up your icons along the left side of your desktop grid automatically. However, it will restrict manual placement of icons.

Is there a way to incrementally adjust the size of desktop icons using the keyboard?

Incrementally adjust desktop icon sizes by selecting an icon on your desktop, hold down the Ctrl key, and use your mouse wheel to increase or decrease the size. This allows for precise control over icon sizing to suit visibility preferences.

How can I align my desktop icons automatically to a grid?

To align icons to a grid, right-click on an empty space on the desktop, hover over “View,” and ensure “Align icons to grid” is checked. This keeps all icons snapped to an invisible grid, thus maintaining order and preventing overlap.

Why are some desktop icons not displaying their proper images?

This issue often arises due to a corrupted icon cache. You can fix this by rebuilding the icon cache. Open Command Prompt as an administrator and execute commands to kill the explorer process, delete the icon cache database, and restart the explorer process. This usually refreshes and restores correct icon images.

Can I use third-party software to manage desktop icons more flexibly?

Various third-party applications such as Fences or Nimi Places offer enhanced desktop icon management features including grouping, locking positions, and creating tabbed areas on the desktop. These tools can provide flexibility and enhanced organization beyond native Windows capabilities.

What’s the difference between hiding and deleting a desktop icon?

Hiding an icon simply removes its visibility from the desktop but does not affect the file or program’s placement on your computer. Deleting an icon, especially a shortcut, typically does not remove the actual program or file but removes its direct link from the desktop.

How do I restore desktop icons that disappeared after an update?

To restore missing icons post-update, first verify if the icons are not just hidden by right-clicking the desktop, selecting “View,” and ticking “Show desktop icons”. If they remain missing, restore defaults in Desktop Icon Settings or check other settings that might have been altered during the update.

How can I protect my desktop icons from being modified or deleted by others?

To protect desktop icons, you can adjust file permissions by right-clicking the file or shortcut, going to “Properties,” then “Security” tab, and modifying permissions. Additionally, software solutions are available that lock desktop layouts to prevent changes.

How can I clean up my desktop without losing files?

You can clean up your desktop without losing files by moving items into appropriately categorized folders within your document library or other drives. Utilizing the Quick Access feature in File Explorer can also keep your workspace clean while retaining easy access to frequently used files.

Can I have different desktop icons on different virtual desktops in Windows 10 and 11?

By default, Windows does not support separate icons across different virtual desktops; changes affect all. However, some third-party tools might offer solutions by allowing different sets of icons for each virtual desktop, enhancing workspace customization.

Markus Kasanmascheff
Markus Kasanmascheff
Markus is the founder of WinBuzzer and has been playing with Windows and technology for more than 25 years. He is holding a Master´s degree in International Economics and previously worked as Lead Windows Expert for Softonic.com.
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