How to Put a Document in an Icon on the Desktop

by B. Steele

Placing documents on a Windows desktop, whether as shortcut icons or actual saved files, provides a convenient way to keep frequently-accessed files at your fingertips. The Windows desktop is technically a file folder, which means you can save files to it (which appear on the desktop as icons), or create shortcuts to files located elsewhere. Before deciding whether to save the file itself or just a shortcut, understand that your desktop is part of your user folder. This means that other user accounts on your computer--aside from ones with administrative rights--cannot access any files you move or copy there.

Step 1

Click the "Start" icon in the Windows task bar, and then click "Computer." If you are using Windows XP, click "My Computer" instead of "Computer."

Step 2

Double-click the drive containing the document for which you want to create an icon, and browse to find the file.

Step 3

Right-click the file, and click "Copy."

Right-click on an empty space on your desktop, and click "Paste Shortcut." If you want to copy the actual file here, click "Paste" instead.


  • A shortcut icon will have a small arrow in the bottom-left corner while an actual file icon will not. Consider using shortcut icons rather than pasting the actual files to avoid creating duplicate files. You can even create shortcuts to documents located on a flash drive or network share. Deleting a shortcut icon will not delete the actual file to which the icon points.


  • Creating a shortcut icon does not move the actual file from its original location to your desktop. If you ever move the file elsewhere, the shortcut icon will "break," and you will need to recreate one pointing to the file's new location.

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