How to Remove Unused Icons From a Computer Screen

by Lane Madison

Computer desktop icons can be convenient time-savers, allowing users to quickly access applications and frequently used files with one click. Unused or duplicate icons often clutter the desktop and result in more annoyance than convenience. Users can clean up the desktop by removing unused shortcut and file icons in a few steps.


Step 1

Identify the unused shortcut icons on your computer desktop. A shortcuts is identified by a small arrow in the lower left corner. If you delete a shortcut, the file or program it represents remains on your computer and you can access it from another place in your computer, such as the Start Menu or your Documents or My Documents folder.

Step 2

Right-click the shortcut icon and choose "Delete" from the menu, or press the Delete key to remove the icon from the desktop and send it to the Recycle Bin.

Repeat steps one and two for each unused shortcut icon.


Step 1

Identify unused file icons on your desktop. These do not have arrows in the lower left corner. If you delete one of these, you are deleting the actual program or document file and will no longer have access to it.

Step 2

Move document files you want to keep to another location. Right click on the document and choose "Cut." Navigate to the folder where you want to place the file, right click on an open area and choose "Paste" from the menu. If you change you mind about moving the file before pasting it, press Esc on your keyboard.

Step 3

Right-click an unused file on the desktop that you don't want to keep and choose "Delete" from the menu, or press the "delete" key, to remove the file from the desktop and send it to the Recycle Bin.

Step 4

Programs that are located on your desktop should not be moved, as they may not function properly afterward. Fortunately, programs are seldom installed on the desktop. If you want to remove an unused program, it is best to uninstall it. If you delete just the program file, it may leave various other, unused files cluttering your computer. To uninstall a program, use Windows' "Uninstall or Change Programs" utility. Some programs have an uninstall icon, which is usually in the same folder as the program in the "Programs" section of the Start Menu.

Repeat steps two, three or four with each unused file or program on the desktop.

Restoring Icons and Files from the Recycle Bin

Step 1

Double-click the "Recycle Bin" icon or right click the icon and choose "Open" from the menu.

Step 2

Right-click the icon of the shortcut or file you wish to restore to the desktop.

Step 3

Choose "Restore" from the menu, removing it from the Recycle Bin and returning it to the desktop.

Repeat steps one to three for each shortcut or file you wish to restore.


  • If you are sure you won't want back any of the items in the Recycle Bin, you can empty it by right clicking on the Recycle Bin and clicking "Empty."

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