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. 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.

  2. 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.

    (Edit: check out the Icon Shepherd utility mentioned in the article, it saves the snapshots in Windows.)

  3. 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?

  4. 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.

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

  6. 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.

  7. As has been said this is rubbish when the icons move on there own – or just disappear off the screen. Thank god after years of suffering I found “DesktopOK” check it out on google – it works – you basically download the progreme and this allows you to take a “snapshot” of your desktop as you like it. Then when windows desides to do its thing and you open your computer to find all the icons everywhare with some missing altogether you just open “DesktopOK” click on the name of the file that you chose for your desktop layout – press restore and he presto all back to as you like them.
    don’t thank me – no really don’t !!!!!!!

  8. I see where that may be part of the problem, but it is not the entire problem. I rearrange my icons, edit nothing, just log out and back in to see if my changes remain. NOPE! The icons are back aligned to the grid to the left. All options are not checked, etc. Not a plain old bug in Windows. I really want the icons organized so I can find the things I need in a hurry!

  9. Ian – thanks so much for your suggestion to create a folder shortcuts as the solution. It took a couple months’ research to finally find something that works (other than downloading yet another utility application as a workaround for all the various Windows 7 bugs and deficiencies)! Desktop folders icons would move out of place every time I added a new document into it. Very vexing!

    The jumping desktop icons problem had come up before and I was able to resolve it by uninstalling a recently updated version of Malawarebytes .. after reading that AV programs can cause desktop icons to move around. Alas, it was only a temporary fix and I cannot figure out what brought on the latest desktop icon jumping problem. Here’s hoping the shortcut trick will work permanently.

  10. if you use programs that cant use native resolution windows can accedently change your resolution to fitt the program, and beacuse shortcuts cant be outside of the screen it moves them to fitt your new resolution

  11. Thank you so much!! This has been one of the things I have hated about my computer, because I like to be able to do what I want to do with my crap, and not have to search for it. I have windows 8.1, and it worked for me.

  12. Windows 10 Pro, 64 bit. Arrange icons
    1 Un-check Auto arrange icons.
    2 Check Align icons to grid.
    3 Arrange icons to required position.
    4 Right click desktop, Left click Refresh.
    Worked for me.

  13. I have stumbled unto a fix for, Windows 10 desktop not remembering icon locations between boots or from sleep. After manually selecting locations for particular icons on my desktop, I refreshed the desktop (twice if that mattered) and so far my locations have not been altered. Sometime between wake states, my icons would either revert back to an old setting, or just line up to the left without me intervening in any way. That has stopped, and has continued now for many starts and sleep terminations.

  14. I have program icons, folders (including the my documents folder) and documents on my desktop. Two or three times a week, I come in to work and everything has been rearranged. Its extremely frustrating for someone who is left handed because everything makes more sense for me when it is “backwards” – i like things on the left rather than the right. And I like my recycle bin on the bottom right (a hold over from my arly days of using apple products.

  15. In my Windows 10 I can’t even get ANY options/drop-down menu when I right click anywhere on my desktop. Therefore, I can’t even “uncheck” the “Auto arrange icons” because there’s nothing there!! …problem after problem with Windows 10.
    I truly regret “upgrading” to it from Windows 7. :+(

  16. @Demi O : Could it be that your computer in the “tablet” mode? If so, turn off the tablet mode and you should be able to right-click on the desktop and see the menu. Good luck!

  17. Go to:
    Settings/ Personalization/Themes. Under related settings select “Desktop Icon settings” Uncheck “Allow Themes to change desktop icons” Worked for me.

  18. I’m using Windows 10 and my icons resize and move themselves several times every day. I am getting so sick of having to drag them back into position. It is infuriating. I’ve tried every solution I can find. Nothing works. Dammit.

  19. Solved!
    Windows 7, -You need to “lock” the “Task Bar” in “Personalization” it will stop icons from relocating by itself.

  20. Vadlim – “lock” the “Task Bar” in “Personalization”
    = If you lock it, you cannot move the taskbar** to the bottom, side, or top of the desktop.

    ……………. Doesn’t fix icons that relocate on desktop….

  21. This issue has been around since at least Windows 97 – there used to be an application you could download and I am looking for something like that now – there are legions of threads in blogs about this issue. It is random and annoying and hasbeen for years – I use Windows and MS Office everyday and I have a very specific arrangement of icons that I like and presently they just randomly rearrange. It seems worse that ever on Windows 10 but was pretty naff on XP and Windows 7 (upgraded from these a few months ago).

  22. For Windows 10, until there is a real fix, I set my resolution to 1024×768. So far the icons stay put after each power cycle.
    Not exactly the best resolution, but it works.
    I’m guessing the icons are loaded on a default desktop before the final resolution settings are enacted. And that final resolution seems to trigger some default desktop sort operation.
    If I try any higher resolution the icons will move.

  23. I found something that suggests it has to do with the IconCache.db file in %userprofile%\AppData\Local

  24. right click on a blank section, go to view then click on large icons, they will switch to large icons. This resets the defect in windows. Then right click again and go to view again and then you will be able to change the auto arrange section.

  25. bart solution seem to work!!!!
    i have tried these solutions too many times to celebrate as yet!

  26. What worked for me was just unchecking ‘align icons to grid’ in the same place as ‘auto arrange icons’, and then checking it again. Have no idea why but icons are back to their non-moving state.

  27. what worked for me is Right click on the desktop/desktop restore/save desktop
    then when you reboot if the icons are in the wrong place then Right click on the desktop/desktop restore/restore desktop and it is back to the way I wanted them it just takes a few seconds

  28. Experience same problem after the latest update of win10 x64bit.

    Auto arrange + sort by item type. So far it stays the same after multiple refresh.

    1. After decades, microsoft just doesnt know that customer experience is very important. Why cant it preserve customer preferences on every upgrade?

    2. If there is a new feature they want us to try and get used to, make a demonstration video. Why shove something down the user’s throat without even notifying? Is it arrogance? If it is, then you know what i will do the minute i find something that is comparable.

  29. I agree with others that even with auto arrange unselected my desktop icons move from the positions I specify. With Windows 10 this issue happens continuously. Wasn’t so bad with Windows 7. All my desktop icons are for shortcuts to internet sites, internal SharePoint sites, applications, etc. and not associated with a file storage location. Very annoying that this simple function cannot be fixed.

  30. As indicated in the introduction just download the IconShepherd utility. It’s easy and works great!

    I was bugged by the Auto Arrange problem seemingly no matter what I tried of multiple solutions suggested online, i.e. until I did this simple download. I used to spend 20 or 30 minutes re-arranging my desktop after a variety of things caused an auto arrange. Now I just open the paw symbol stored under hidden icons in the taskbar, then choose Restore icons. Piece-a-cake!

  31. I was going to check out Icon Shepherd as suggested in the article but, changed my mind and hoping Bart’s solution works. If it does, it’ll save me from installing a 3rd party application for such a small function. (Although I appreciate and am grateful for such 3rd party dev’s works, and I use them extensively for various functions.)

  32. Yes this icon rearranging by the left grid when your system crashes has been around for a long time.

    I am very annoyed the Microsoft do not, or cannot, or will not fix it.

    I have tried the various desktop options and none of them work.
    Its a bug or problem with Windows 10 itself. (and 7 and 8)

    I have seen people on here and other sites, say try a certain screen resolution or icon size. Well NO, I want to use the screen res and icon size that suits me and my work flow and my eyesight!

    I have seen people say that the utiltity Icon Shepherd works.
    I may try it, but if they can fix it, why can’t Microsoft.?

  33. Unfortunately, Bart’s solution doesn’t work for me. I’m trying Icon Shepherd. Will report here in case Icon Shepherd too doesn’t work for me.
    Thanks for the program, WinAbility

  34. I had just one icon that was being moved and the solution was: Go to program name and right click it. Select “Properties”. Select “Compatibility”. Check “Override high DPI scaling behavior”. Select “Application” in the drop down list.

  35. A solution that really works:

    Create two batch files. The first one saves your icon locations on the desktop:

    copy desktop2.reg desktop1.reg /y
    reg export HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Shell\Bags\1\Desktop C:\Temp\desktop2.reg /y

    The second one restores them in case of windows changing their position:

    taskkill /f /im explorer.exe
    reg import C:\Temp\desktop1.reg

    I let the first file be executed by the task scheduler every time I log on in windows. The second file is to be executed when windows moved the icons.

  36. I have had this problem, on and off, for a long time. It is very
    aggravating and Microsoft must be well aware of both the problem and a cure. As an interim measure I used Desktop Restore and would not be without it.

    Thinking about why the above little programme always worked and MS didn’t I wondered if it was something to do with the way Windows stored the data. Wondering if cache size could be the problem I changed all my icons from Medium size to small size. I have not had the problem since.

  37. 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!

  38. 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!

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

  40. 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.

  41. 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.

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

  43. 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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