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. 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.

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

  3. 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….

  4. 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).

  5. 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.

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

  7. 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.

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

  9. 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.

  10. 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

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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!

  14. 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.)

  15. 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.?

  16. 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

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

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