How do I stop Windows from rearranging my desktop icons?

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You have quite a few icons on your Windows desktop, and you have spent quite some time painstakingly arranging them in the way that makes sense to you. All is well for a while, then one morning you log in to your computer and suddenly all icons are messed up. Does this sound familiar?

If Windows keeps moving the desktop icons, you may find our software Icon Shepherd of use: it memorizes the positions of the icons and keeps track of them when they are moved around, creating snapshots of the icon positions after each change. When Windows messes up your icons, you can use Icon Shepherd to restore the previously saved layouts, and return the icons to their proper places with one click. Download Icon Shepherd now or read more about it. (Icon Shepherd is free for the private, home use on one computer.)

However, before starting to use Icon Shepherd, you may want to check a few things first. If Windows does not let you rearrange the icons as you want, 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

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.

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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. Maybe it can give you an idea for a little April Fools joke...

If unchecking the Auto-arrange icons option didn't work and the icons keep moving, it could be due to several other possibilities:

1. Some programs (such as computer games in particular) change the screen resolution when you run them. When it happens, Windows automatically re-arranges the desktop icons to fit the new screen size. When you exit the game, the screen resolution may change back, but the icons have already been re-arranged. Sound familiar? If you've noticed that the icons change their positions after you run a particular program, this might be the case. What is the solution? Not to run that program :-) or look through its settings, maybe there is an option to adjust the screen resolution it uses. Contact the company that makes the offending program, and they might be able to help.

2. If only some icons are moving after you save changes to the documents they represent, it could be because the program that saves the changes actually recreates a new document from scratch, and it makes Windows to find a new position for the icon rather than reuse the old one. As suggested in the comments below, a solution to such a problem is not to save documents themselves on the desktop. Instead, save them to some other folder, such as Documents, and create shortcuts to the documents on the Desktop. This way, when you save the document, the shortcut will not be changed, and it should keep its position on the desktop.

3. If Windows keeps rearranging the icons even after you've tried the previous suggestions, another possibility is that you have a faulty video card or an outdated driver for the video card. You see, if the video card or its driver do not behave well, they may change the resolution spontaneously, and when the resolution changes, it causes Windows to rearrange the icons on the desktop, too. If this is the case, first of all check for updates to your video card driver, and install a new version, if available. Keep in mind that you may need to search the web site of the company that manufactured your video card for the latest driver for your specific model. If updating the driver does not solve the problem, try tweaking the video card settings, such as changing its resolution or the display mode. Good luck!

Finally, if Windows keeps rearranging the desktop icons no matter what you try, you may want to install our software Icon Shepherd. It memorizes the positions of the desktop icons and keeps track of them when you move the icons around, creating snapshots of the icons after each change. When Windows messes up your icons, you can use the Icon Shepherd icon (next to the system clock) to restore a previously saved layout of the icons, and return them to their proper places. Download Icon Shepherd now or read more about it. (Icon Shepherd is free for the private, home use on one computer.)

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  1. Win10 64 Laptop:
    Thanks Bart and Dave
    Worked for me this: Settings/ Personalization/Themes. Under related settings select “Desktop Icon settings” Uncheck “Allow Themes to change desktop icons”. After that click and empty space on your desktop, right click and refresh 3 x.

    To test this solution, I opened a image bank website and tried to save any image. Save as… in my desktop (just to test) and ok!
    None of the icons changed their place, like before.
    The image was saved a available space.

    No iconed moved this time. Ok
    ( I usually download files on desktop and then move to specific folders in C drive. My desktop has only software icons and two folders, but everytime I saved any file I download it was placed on the top left corner of the desktop.. no matter what…and all other icons were rearranged… why???!!)

    After these solutions above it is ok now. No app, no new fix software to install. All icons are in ther own places.

    All the best!

  2. I recently reinstalled windows 10, and now all of my icons relocate to the upper left side of the desktop after reset. I tried the following “solutions” and then some without success (save the last one).

    * R/click desktop; select view; uncheck (Auto Arrange Icons, Align Icons to Grid); Then refresh (3x).
    (Result: Didn’t work)

    * R/click desktop; select Personalize; select Themes; select Desktop icon settings; unchecked “Allow themes to change desktop icons”. R/click desktop, then refresh (3x)
    (Result: Didn’t work)

    * R/click desktop; select Display settings; under Scale and layout, ensured size of text, apps, and other items was set to recommended setting (100%); Resolution was set to Recommended setting); select Tablet mode; under When I sign in, select Use desktop mode. R/click desktop; Refresh (3x). (Result: Didn’t work)

    * Tried this from MS:
    (Result: Didn’t work)

    * R/click Desktop; select View; select medium icons; refresh (3x). (Result: Worked)

    I tried all of the above methods in various combinations, individually, and all (except the last one). None of them worked except the last one where I set the icon size to medium (or large). I want more desktop area and would like to use the small icon setting, but it continues to move my icons to the upper left corner after resetting the computer. I’ve checked for updates on all drivers and peripherals (monitor, mouse, and keyboard) as well, but I continue to have this issue!

  3. Robert: perfect solution.But good is mention to put this batch to temp,otherwise error message appear

  4. What I found was if the primary display was using the older connection (VGA compared to DVI) than the seconday, the icons would move. Once I used the newest connection for my primary monitor, all was good. Before that, I was putting a single icon on the secondary desktop to keep them from moving. Hope that helps.

  5. To keep my Windows 10 Home desktop icon changes from being lost, I removed all icons from the desktop, and then put them back.

    Here’s how:

    (1) Find out where the icons are coming from.

    In my case, they came from folders C:\Users\Public\Desktop
    and C:\Users\my_user_id\Desktop, and from
    Setting => Personalization => Go to Themes => Desktop icon settings

    (2) Create temp folder for each of the folders in (1).

    In my case, created folders C:\Users\my_user_id\temp_p and

    (3) Move icon files to the corresponding temp folders.

    (4) Uncheck all the desktop icons on the Desktop Icon Settings window, remembering what was checked. Also, don’t know if it matters, but I didn’t have “Allow themes to change desktop icons” checked.

    (5) At this point, there should be no icons on the desktop.
    Reboot (The reboot may not be necessary, but that’s what I did).

    (6) Move the icons files back and do the rechecking on the Desktop Icon Settings window.

  6. I solved this by renaming the icons. All other solutions about windows settings did not help. Thanks

  7. I want to SHARE my solution experience:

    Check for the cause the Driver the Graphics Card or not:
    With “Start” -> “Run” and (Enter) Regedit [Enter] to HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ Shell \ Bags \ 1 \ Desktop
    There is/was missing the key-entry corresponding to the current (screen) resolution (for my resolution: ItemPos800x600 (1)).
    Conclusion: This is the place where it can be seen by whether this entry exists, or not, which automatically returns this as the cause of the ‘Icon automatically after restart’ is the cause the driver the graphics card or not.
    Note: When installing the older version, override the existing newer (file) versions !

    (Comment: I tried several driver versions until I came up with the idea of ​​testing the first original version, for then to update with the latest version.
    Although I had already tried the latest version, but first the complete ‘new files’ overwrite, with the first original driver install, and then update with the latest version, this solved the problem.
    Note: for the tests,: before reboot, restore the icons array (with IconSaver (RestoreIcons.exe).)

    My solution (for VIA / S3G Unichrome Pro IGP (Graphics Onboard ASRock P4VM890), very well probably not just only for XP:

    (- Secure the desired arrangement with IconSaver (only for save and restore), for respective restore.)

    – Do not ignore the message(s) for restart.)

    – Install the oldest original driver version, with at message “existing file is newer than the”: the newer file OVERRIDE (overwright) !

    – Install the latest (for the this board as said above: VIA V6.14.10.6007, 28MB) driver version.

    Works for XP, but will in newer versions, too, I am convinced.

    Best Regards.

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