How do I stop Windows from rearranging my desktop icons?

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You have quite a few icons on the Windows desktop, and you want them to be arranged in some way that makes sense to you. For example, you may want to move the most frequently accessed icons right next to the top edge of the desktop, to be able to quickly use them when you have a program's window open on the screen, covering most of the desktop. Yet, when you move an icon to a new position, Windows moves it back to some other place, not the one you want. Does this sound familiar?

If Windows keeps moving the desktop icons and does not let you rearrange them at will, then most probably the Auto-arrange icons option is turned on. To see or change this option, right-click on an empty space of your desktop, and move the mouse pointer to highlight the View item on the shortcut menu. This should open another menu with several desktop customization options:

The Auto-arrange icons option on the View submenu

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If the Auto-arrange icons option is checked, uncheck it and see if that makes a difference. Chances are, you should now be able to move the icons to their appropriate positions on the desktop and Windows should not get in the way.

If this worked, you may want to experiment with other options on the same shortcut menu. For example, did you know you could use the Show desktop icons to quickly hide or show all of the desktop icons at once? Try it and see how it works. Does it give you an idea for a little April Fools joke to play with your co-workers? Have fun!

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  1. Vincent says:

    This didn’t work. I don’t even have auto arrange checked and it still moves.

  2. Didn't work for me says:

    Never had this proble with XP. I could also select “lock icons”, a usefiul option that has been removed in Win 7.

    I do not have auto arrange selected, either. I had Align icons to grid selected. Just de-selected to see if it makes a difference.

  3. Doug says:

    The suggested setting change does not stop windows from rearranging icons. rearranging still happens even when auto-arrange is not selected. there has to be some other way to stop icons from being moved around.

  4. John says:

    Didn’t work for me. Windows-7 insists on rearranging my icons periodically no matter how I try to get them to stay put.

  5. anca says:

    There is no way to do this using Windows. There is an option to “snapshot icons” on for example AmigaOS versions. What is needed is an option like this on Windows.

  6. Brian says:

    Didnt work for me :( mine was already unchecked
    the icons moving really annoy me especially when i spend so much time arranging tim

  7. Ian says:

    If the icons being shifted are files you edit regularly like maybe a database or spreadsheet having added data – then resaved them – then later you find that file (or those files) are placed differently it has nothing to do with the main drive of the above oversimplified explanation.
    It’s because they’re being resaved and Windows puts them in the first available default location on its grid of positions on the desktop.
    Obviously if these are not the icons you’re worried about then this won’t apply. But if it is you can get around it by keeping the file/files in a folder somewhere else – My Documents might be worth consideration! – and make a desktop shortcut for each file and place it where you want it on the desktop.

    Clicking *on the shortcut* will access the file in its saved folder + launch the application needed to access the file. Then when you save your edited version it’s saved once more to the My Docs location – so Windows doesn’t have to figure out where to stick it on the desktop – because it’s not ON the desktop any more – only your shortcut is. And as far as Windows is concerned the shortcut has nothing to do with the save process – so it’s ignored whilst the saved file is being saved. Hence your shortcut remains in place.
    I’m sure it’s the save-after-edit that gets windows to place the file in a default position. Try it and see. Mind you if it’s all your desktop icons that are migrating around, well – back to the drawing board for you!
    Hope this has helped some of us?

  8. Keith Woods says:

    My Win 8.1 dsktp icons often jump to another position when I close them. I contacted Microsoft, but they pretend to have no knowledge of the problem. Obviously they are lying .. there are just too many complaints about this for them not to know.

  9. Elaine says:

    Ian’s suggestion really works (for Windows 8). So, no more saving frequently-used documents directly onto the desktop!

  10. David says:

    With all due respect to your solution Ian, I know you’re just sharing what has worked for you, I shouldn’t have to modify my behavior around a worthless system. I understand that windows forgot how to make a decent UI after XP, but that’s not my problem. Here’s the thing Microsoft. If you find that nobody wants to upgrade to the system you made because “that’s what the people want,” you should force an update to make them want it, but rather modify your systems to adhere to the preferred settings. You are a company and all you are doing is opening up a niche in the marketplace for the first alternative OS for PC’s that caters to the market rather than to some ridiculous idea of what the market should want.

    So far all Windows 8.1 does is irritate me and slow me down. FIX. IT!

    That’s my stance on the matter.

  11. David says:

    Sorry: …you should not force and update…”

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