Icons disappeared on the Windows desktop: how to fix

Have our desktop icons disappeared? Let’s see how to quickly restore them on any Windows workstation.

Icone desktop Windows

One of the most recurring nightmares among office workers is finding themselves with the computer in the office all desktop icons gonereplaced by the sad, empty Windows background.

Although we can launch the most important apps and files from the Start menu or the search bar Many people prefer to have app shortcuts ready to use on the desktopwithout forgetting that many directly save files and folders on it to immediately start documents or files used on a daily basis.

In the following guide we will show you how to restore missing icons from the Windows desktopillustrating all the procedures to follow to trace the origin of the problem and make all the icons of the apps, folders and files on the desktop appear again.

READ ALSO -> How to change Windows icons easily

1) Turn on Show desktop icons

Show icons

Icons on the Windows desktop they can also be hidden via a simple right-click menu item.

The first trick to restore desktop icons is to right-click on the empty desktop, press on the menu View and place a check mark on the item Show desktop icons.

This change should be enough to restore your desktop icons in the vast majority of scenarios, without having to apply any other tweaks or tricks.

2) Restore system icons

System icons

If the system icons (Recycle Bin, Computer, Network or the User folder) have disappeared from the desktop, we can quickly restore them by following a simple procedure.

On Windows 11 and Windows 10 the system icons can be restored by right-clicking on the desktop, clicking on the item Customizeby pressing on the menu Themesby clicking on the menu Desktop icon settings and activating the system icons required or necessary for the job.

In the same window we can press the Restore button to restore the default Windows icons, so as to quickly resolve any problems loading the system icons; the button can be used even if we do not remember which system icons were already active in our workstation.

3) Restart the explorer.exe process

Process Explorer

If the desktop icons do not appear or are all white, it may be a good idea to restart the process that manages the windows and desktop icons: this advanced trick works in all cases in which the graphics-related process has gotten messed up or has blocked for any reason.

To proceed we press WIN+X on our keyboard, we press on the menu Activity managementpress on if necessary More details (only on Windows 10) and, in the tab Processeswe identify the process Explorerclick on it and finally press on End task.

The desktop will become all black, without bars and without icons: this is normal and means that the process has been correctly closed. If it doesn’t restart on its own after a few seconds, press the top of the item Run new task (File -> Run new task on Windows 10), we type explorer.exe and press the button Sending o Enter of the keyboard to restart the entire Windows graphical interface.

If the problem is of a graphical nature it may be a good idea to read our guide on How to restart your video card graphics driver.

4) Clear the icon cache

Icon cache

If the icons on the desktop do not appear despite the tricks seen so far or we see white icons without a connection, the problem could be related to the icon cache filewhich may have been damaged during a sudden shutdown (for example following a blackout).

To delete this file we open the Start menu, type File Explorerwe open the corresponding app, press on at the top View -> Show -> Hidden Items (on Windows 10 just open the menu View and activate your voice Hidden elements), press on the address bar at the top and type the following path:


Now let’s go to the folder Localwe identify the file IconCachewe right-click on it and press the button Remove; after deleting it Let’s empty the Windows Recycle Bin and restart the PC for the changes to take effect.

5) Repair damaged system files

Repair damaged files

If none of the previous advice worked, the problem could be with system files, which were damaged during an update, an unexpected reboot or a blackout. To restore the desktop icons all we have to do is open the Start menu, search for the Command Promptright click on it, press up Run as administrator and run the following command:

sfc /scannow

The prompt will begin scanning all system files, repairing any that it can replace with copies present in the installation files kept by Windows. If even this command fails to solve the problem we can always run the DISM command, even more powerful; in this case the command to launch (in the administrative prompt) is the following:

DISM.exe /Online /Cleanup-image /RestoreHealth

To learn more we can read our guides on how to repair windows system files with DISM come on how to repair corrupted system files on Windows 11 and 10.


The disappearance of icons from the Windows desktop causes a lot of anxiety, but in reality it takes very little to restore the correct display of links, files and folders present in it. We remind you that, if we have important files on the desktop, they can be synchronized on the OneDrive cloud space, as also seen in the guide on come configurare OneDrive su Windows.

If the desktop icons no longer appear after all the advice seen in this guide, it may be a good idea to restore Windows, as seen in the articles on how to restore your PC to a previous date Well yes how to repair windows with new installation.

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