Posted by & filed under Windows / Server.

So your desktop shortcuts are missing?

If they are all missing, chances are they might have been deleted or somehow, either you or a program, has disabled desktop icons. See Method 1 below.

If some of your icons look funny, are missing thumbnails, or the desktop doesn’t “refresh” when you’ve placed new items on it, try Method 2 as your icon cache may be corrupted.

If your desktop icons are missing and they are all network, broken local shortcuts, or shortcuts to files on a removable USB drive, system maintenance is to blame. There are two methods to help with that:

  • Method 3 is the easy way. The downside is that it disables all system maintenance. I would only recommend this as a way to test if that is indeed the correct solution to your problem.
  • Method 4 is the recommended method, as it is less of a band-aid solution. It involves increasing the threshold that Windows will have before it starts cleaning up broken shortcuts.


Method 1: All Icons missing from Desktop

  1. Right-Click on an empty part of the Desktop.
  2. Hover over “View” and make sure “Show Desktop Icons” is checked.
Show Desktop Icons


Method 2: Rebuild The Icon Cache

Open notepad, paste the following code, and then save it as IconFix.bat. Go to where you saved the file and double click it. As an alternative, you can type the lines one-by-one in the command prompt (Start -> Search -> cmd -> Right-click and select “Run as Administrator”).

taskkill /F /IM explorer.exe
cd /d %userprofile%\AppData\Local
attrib –h IconCache.db
del IconCache.db
start explorer.exe


Method 3: Disable System Maintenance

  1. Go to the Start Menu -> Control Panel -> System and Security -> Under “Action Center” click on “Troubleshoot Common Computer Problems” -> Click “Change Settings” on the left side.
  2. Under “Computer Maintenance” select “off” and under “Other Settings” remove both checkmarks as shown in the screenshots below.
Disable System Maintenance Step 1 Disable System Maintenance Step 2


Method 4: Modify The Scheduled Task Files

Try this when your network shortcuts or broken shortcuts disappear from your desktop. Windows 7 has a broken-shortcut threshold of 4. Some people recommend deleting the script file, but modifying it to increase the threshold to a higher number is a safer way to do it, while still allowing system maintenance to run (unlike Method 3). This method does require a bit more work, and there is a greater risk to system damage than the previous methods. There are some screenshots below to help you along with the steps.

  1. Double-click on “Computer” on the Desktop, or right-click on the Start Menu and click “Open Windows Explorer.”
  2. Go to: C:\Windows\diagnostics\scheduled\Maintenance.
  3. Right-click on TS_BrokenShortcuts.ps1 and select “Properties.”
  4. Click on the “Security” tab.
  5. Click on “Advanced” near the bottom.
  6. The Advanced Security settings dialog will pop up. Click on the “Owner” tab.
  7. The Current Owner will show TrustedInstaller. Click “Edit” near the bottom.
  8. Under “Change Owner To:” select your username.
  9. Click “OK” to close the dialog. Click “OK” to the warning.
  10. After returning to the Advanced Security settings dialog, it will show your user as the current owner. Click “OK.”
  11. Now that you are back in the Security tab, click “Edit.”
  12. The Permissions dialog will pop up. You are now free to select a group or user and modify the permissions on the file. You will likely be part of the “Users” group. Select “Users” and under permissions select “Modify.”
  13. Click “OK” to return to the Security tab. Click “OK” again to exit the file’s properties.
  14. Right-Click on TS_BrokenShortcuts.ps1 and select “Edit.”
  15. On line 44, find “-gt 4))” -> Change this to “-gt 25))” to set the threshold to 25 broken icons. If you feel there may be more than 25 broken network icons on your desktop at a time, adjust accordingly.
  16. If you wish to use the same method for preventing the removal of unused icons, edit the TS_UnusedDesktopIcons.ps1 file following the steps above, find “-gt 10” on line 50 and change it to a higher number.
Step 4 for fixing missing icons Step 4 for fixing missing icons Step 6 for fixing missing icons Step 8 for fixing missing icons Step 12 for fixing missing icons Step 15 for fixing missing icons

5 Responses to “Windows 7 Desktop Icons and Shortcuts Disappearing”

  1. Tony

    Method 2 works for me but needs to be run as administrator. Otherwise, the “Start Explorer” line doesn’t restore the taskbar, start menu, desktop icons, etc.

    Is there a way to invoke Explorer to get the screen flair without having admin privileges?

  2. Rumply

    Just in case you have a prankster about, or I’ve had those fake AV warning virus do this as well, don’t forget to check the visibility settings on the desktop folder to make sure that they aren’t marked as hidden. I had one user get a fake AV virus that made every file in her user directory hidden.

  3. Oona

    Thank you. Why the hell would you want to have something in a specific place and not be able to see it I don’t even know how it just enabled. I didn’t even know you you could make them just not show up. Thanks a bunch!


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