How to Restore Desktop Icons

By Anne Hirsh

Updated September 28, 2017

Desktop shortcuts may require manual restoration.
i Ethan Miller/Getty Images News/Getty Images

If your desktop icons disappear, you will need to restore each icon manually unless you have backed up your computer and created a restore point through the operating system. In that case, search for "Windows Backup and Restore" in the Start menu search bar, select it, and then follow the on-screen instructions to restore your computer to an earlier state. This can delete your more recent items, however, so if your icons are all that is missing, restoring them manually is the best practice.

Program Icons

Click "Start," then choose "Programs." On some Windows versions, this option is called "All Programs."

Locate the program for which you want to add a shortcut. If it is within a folder, click the folder to open it and find the program. For example, if you want a desktop icon for MS Word, click the Microsoft Office folder to reveal the "Word" program icon.

Right-click on the program icon. This opens a menu of options.

Choose "Send to," and then click "Desktop." Some versions of Windows have other wording, such as "Create shortcut." Either method will restore your desktop icon for that program.

Repeat the process for each program icon you wish to restore to your desktop.

Basic Windows Icons

Click the "Start" button, and then choose "Control Panel."

Choose "Appearance and Personalization," and then "Personalization."

Select "Change desktop icons" from the left side of the window.

Click "Restore default" to restore all of the default icons your computer came with, such as "Computer" and "Recycle Bin." You can also manually select icons from the check boxes. This method only works for Windows basic icons, not for all programs on your computer.


If you use a Mac computer, just open the "Applications" folder and drag each program icon to your desktop to restore the icon.