Desktop Icons Not Showing Properly on Windows 10/11

Larissa updated on Mar 19, 2024 | Home >Computer Instruction

I cannot trace my Desktop icons, and my Windows 10 desktop icons not showing properly. This is happening since I backed up to a free-standing HDD that generated an unusual error of Not Enough Memory. Is there a way to fix the problem?

desktop icons not showing properly

Desktop icons on Windows 10/11 let you access your favorite apps, files, folders, and more. But it can be problematic when these icons vanish without a trace, leaving you wondering how to get them back.

This problem may occur due to an issue with Windows Explorer or the Windows settings. So, here are the ten best ways to fix desktop icons not showing

10 Solutions to Windows Desktop Icons Not Showing Properly 

When Windows 10 desktop icons do not show properly, you may have blank or plain white icons on your desktop. Here are the ten best solutions for fixing this. Let’s look at the detailed steps.

Fix 1. Restart File Explorer

File Explorer controls the navigation in Windows computers. When you restart File Explorer, it usually resolves most navigation issues and temporary glitches that result in blank icons on your desktop.

Step 1: Right-click the taskbar and tap Task Manager.

restart file explorr

Step 2: Tap the Processes tab and select Windows Explorer/File Explorer.

Step 3: Tap Restart.

Fix 2. Clear Icon Cache 

You can clear your icon cache to restore all the disappeared desktop icons on your screen. The icon database will rebuilt from scratch, restoring all the vanished icons.

EaseUS Todo Backup

It is always a good idea to back up Windows before any Windows update or change.

Here's how to clear your icon cache.

Step 1: Open your File Explorer and click File 

Step 2: Choose Options from the drop-down list.

select options from drop down list

Note: On Windows 11, click on three horizontal dots at the extreme-right end and click Options.

Step 3: Move to the View tab and tick the circle of Show hidden files, folders, and drives.

Step 4: Move to your C Drive > Users > %Your in-use account% > AppData > Local.

Step 5: Find and delete the Icon Cache file with a Database File type.

Fix 3. Change the Desktop Icon Settings 

If only a part of the system icons are missing from your desktop, like This PC, Recycle Bin, Control Panel, Network, and so on, these icons might have been turned off in the Desktop Icon Settings window. Follow these steps to get icons back on the desktop.

Step 1: Open the Start menu and touch Settings to launch this app.

Step 2: Choose Personalization and select Themes.

select the icons theme

Step 3: Under the Related Settings section, select Desktop Icon Settings.

Step 4: On the Desktop Icon Settings, tick the specific checkboxes to enable the system icons you want on the desktop. 

Step 5: Press Apply. Click OK to save the changes.

Fix 4. Perform SFC Scan 

SFC scans help locate and restore corrupted files. Corrupt files may interfere with File Explorer, resulting in blank desktop icons. Running the SFC scan will restore the icons after the corrupt files are fixed. Here's how. 

Step 1: Type cmd and run the Command Prompt app as admin.

open cmd

Step 2: Enter sfc /scannow into the Command Prompt and hit Enter.

As the process progresses, the SFC scan will let you know if any corrupt files have been repaired or replaced with new ones. The Command Prompt will notify you once the process ends.

Fix 5. Change a Theme 

Most themes work seamlessly on Windows, but some don't. If your desktop icons have gone blank after switching to a new theme, it is either incompatible with the Operating System or the theme file has become corrupt. Temporarily switching to another theme will help rule out this possibility. If changing the theme resolves the issue, the theme is probably to blame. Therefore, please refrain from using it in the future.

Fix 6. Rebuild Short-Cut on Desktop 

If your desktop icons are still missing after trying the above fixes, you can try restoring them manually. Check out how to fix desktop icons not showing by restoring them manually. 

To add an icon to the Windows 11 desktop, 

Step 1: Launch the Start menu and click on All Apps. 

Step 2: Pick the application you want to add to the desktop.

pick the application

Step 3: Finally, drag the app shortcut to your desktop.

Also, you can use the Create Shortcut wizard to create a shortcut on your desktop. 

Step 1: Right-click the desktop and click New > Shortcut. 

Step 2: Tap the Browse button to locate the file, folder, or application you want to add to your desktop. 

Step 3: Click Next, followed by Finish.

Fix 7. Check If the Desktop Icon Is Enabled 

If your desktop icon visibility settings are disabled, your icons may disappear. This can be human error or caused by an application you recently used or installed. Here's how to toggle on the desktop icon visibility. 

Step 1: Right-click on your desktop. Then, select View.

Step 2: Ensure Show desktop icons is ticked. 

Note: If it isn't, click on it once to ensure it isn't causing issues displaying your desktop icons. You should immediately see your icons reappear.

Fix 8. Disable the Second Monitor 

Tablet mode usually replaces icons on your laptop or Windows tablet with navigation tiles. So, you should check if tablet mode is enabled and turn it off to resolve the issue immediately. Here’s how to fix desktop icons not showing by disabling tablet mode. 

Step 1: Go to the action center on your taskbar, located right beside the date and time. A message popup symbol represents it. Expand it if it hasn't already been expanded.

click on the tablet mode

Step 2: Select the Tablet mode tile to disable if it's already on.

If you can't locate it in the action center, follow the steps below to turn it off.

Step 1: Open the Windows Settings and launch System. 

Step 2: Navigate to the Tablet settings on the left sidebar.

Step 3: Click on Change additional tablet settings.

Step 4: Disable the Tablet mode toggle by turning it to the left.

Note: If the Tablet mode did not cause the problem, you must run the SFC scan.

Fix 9. Update Display Driver 

An outdated display driver can cause your icons to become plain white. Upon updating your display driver, you can restore the original settings. Also, it lets you replace any corrupted files. Check how to update your display driver.

EaseUS Todo Backup

It is always a good idea to back up Windows before any Windows update or change.

Step 1: Right-click on This PC on your desktop. Click Manage.

Step 2: Choose Device Manager from the left menu and expand the Display Adapters category.

tap on the update driver

Step 3: Right-click on the GPU/adapter you are currently using. Then, tap Update driver.

Step 4: Tap on Search automatically for drivers and follow the on-screen prompts.

Note: You can also reinstall the display drivers if updating the driver does not work.

Fix 10. Update Windows OS 

Update your Windows if it is outdated. This will automatically resolve any problems. Here's how to update your Windows.

EaseUS Todo Backup

It is always a good idea to back up Windows before any Windows update or change.

Step 1: Open Windows Settings.

Step 2: Navigate to Update & Security.

update and security

Step 3: Select Windows Update and click Check for updates. Windows will find your most recent update.

Step 4: Once available, you can click on Download & Install.

Note: You must keep the automatic update option on so you do not have to worry about updating Windows ever again.

Share the post on your social platforms to help others solve the issue of Windows desktop icons

The Bottom Line

Windows 10 desktop icons not showing properly can be a big problem, mainly because icons help you navigate through apps and files/folders on your computer. We have shared the best solutions on how to fix desktop icons that are not showing, which will surely help resolve the issue. While none of your files will be damaged in the process, you can still back up the important files before attempting any major fix. 


Q. Why is my desktop icons not showing properly?

Icons appear blank if Windows cannot find the icon file associated with an app. A few issues can cause icons to go blank:

  • The app is an outdated version
  • Your graphics driver is out-of-date
  • The icon cache file is corrupt

If your Windows icons go missing, these are some potential causes:

  • Your desktop icons are hidden
  • The taskbar is hidden
  • Windows Explorer needs to be restarted

Q. How do I align my desktop icons in Windows 10?

You can align your desktop icons on Windows 10 by right-clicking a blank area on the desktop. Then, tap Arrange Icons to arrange icons by name, type, date, or size. Click the command indicating arranging the icons (by Name, Type, etc.). 

To arrange the icons automatically, click Auto Arrange.

Remove the check mark by clicking Auto Arrange to arrange the icons independently.

Was This Page Helpful?


Updated by Larissa

Larissa has rich experience in writing technical articles and is now a professional editor at EaseUS. She is good at writing articles about data recovery, disk cloning, disk partitioning, data backup, and other related knowledge. Her detailed and ultimate guides help users find effective solutions to their problems. She is fond of traveling, reading, and riding in her spare time.

Read full bio

Totalav antivirus software

EaseUS Data Recovery Services

Request a free evaluation >>

EaseUS data recovery experts have uneaqualed expertise to repair disks/systems and salvage data from all devices like RAID, HDD, SSD, USB, etc.