Fix: Desktop icons not showing in Windows 10/11

by Madalina Dinita
Madalina Dinita
Madalina Dinita
Windows & Software Expert
Madalina has been a Windows fan ever since she got her hands on her first Windows XP computer. She is interested in all things technology, especially emerging technologies... read more
Affiliate Disclosure
  • Icons are the de-facto way of accessing applications.
  • Therefore, not being able to see your icons can be very troublesome.
  • We have plenty of other troubleshooting articles like this one in our dedicated System Errors Hub.
  • For more guidance on PC-related issues, visit our website's Windows 10 Errors page.
Desktop icons not showing in Windows 10

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Windows 10 might be a brand new operating system, and it might have gotten above the design flaws that Windows 8 brought with it – it is not a perfect operating system, and it still has to carry the burden of all the issues Windows has accumulated over the past decades.

This problem is not common to Windows 10, so some solutions made for previous versions of Windows might or might not work – however today we are going to show you some solutions for Windows 10 specifically.

What to do if Desktop icons stop showing in Windows 10

1. Run explorer.exe

But first here is a temporary patch rather than a solution, it should get your icons back but it’s not going to permanently fix the reason causing them to disappear. Here it goes:

  1. On your keyboard, press Control + Alt + Delete keys and then click on Task Manager.
  2. Open the Process tab and locate explorer.exe, then click on it and then click the End task button on the bottom.
  3. In the Task Manager, click on File at the top left and click Run new task.
  4. Type “explorer.exe” in the box, and then proceed to click OK.

Your icons and taskbar should now pop back up, and you should be able to operate your computer for the time being.

For a more permanent solution, we first need to learn some of the causes for this problem – it could be a corruption of Windows files, or maybe a malware you might have caught from the internet, or maybe even some random software that is behaving badly.

2. Maybe it is something you installed?

Try to remember what software you installed recently – it could be a photo editor or even a brand new antivirus – anything can cause this absurd issue. If you match this criterion you must try and uninstall this software and see if that fixes the problem.

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You could also run a full PC virus scan with the AntiVirus you have installed while you are at it, just in case, it is a malware.

One last option you could try would be doing a System Restore – this basically turns the clock back on your PC and restore your primary Windows files back to how they were when the given restore point was created. To do this, simply follow these instructions:

  1. Open your Start Menu and type rstrui.exe, then open the first result – this should open the Windows System Restore utility.
    desktop icons not showing windows 10
  2. Now follow the onscreen instructions until you see a page with all of your existing restore points.
  3. Pick the restore point on or before the date you started facing the issue – and then start the restoration process.
  4. Once done, restart your computer.

3. Disable the tablet mode

  1. Open Settings > System and choose Tablet mode from the left.
  2. Now locate the Make Windows more touch-friendly when using your device as a tablet and set it to off.desktop icons missing
  3. Your desktop icons should now appear. If that doesn’t work, try turning on and off Tablet mode a few times.

4. Disable the second monitor

If you’ve used a dual monitor setup before, it’s possible that Desktop icons are set to appear on the second monitor. So, make sure to disable the second monitor if you’re not using it, and the icons may appear.

5. Make sure the Show Desktop icons feature is enabled

Although it may sound banal, it’s quite possible you overlooked this. So, just to be sure, check if your Desktop icons are set to appear once again. Here’s how to do that:

  1. Right-click on the empty area on your desktop.
  2. Choose View and you should see the Show Desktop icons option.
  3. Try checking and unchecking Show Desktop icons option a few times but remember to leave this option checked.

6. Turn off Start Full Screen

Some users also reported that using the Start Menu in the Full-Screen mode can somehow hide the Desktop icons.

desktop icons not showing windows 10

So, if nothing from above resolved the problem, let’s try turning off the Start Menu Full-screen mode, as well. To turn off this option, go to Settings > Personalization > Start > toggle off Use Start full screen.

7. Rebuild icon cache

One of the most common tweaks when resolving the missing icons problem is rebuilding the icons cache. So, we’re going to try that, as well. Here’s how to rebuild the icons cache in Windows 10:

  1. Go to Start > type file explorer > double click on the first result
  2. In the new File Explorer window, go to View and check Hidden Items in order to display hidden files and folders
  3. Navigate to C:Users(User Name)AppDataLocal > scroll all the way down
  4. Right-click on IconCache.db >  click on Delete > Yes.
  5. Go to Recycle Bin > empty it
  6. Restart your computer.

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