Tip: Hide desktop icons to improve Windows startup performance

Long, long time ago in a bedroom not so far away I was booting up my laptop. As my laptop was loading Windows, I couldn’t help but notice the desktop icons took a good amount of time to appear. Then a thought hit me: What if I hide the desktop icons — would that make my boot time faster? After all, with the excellent search box embedded in the Windows 7 Start Menu that will be no more soon, I rarely even used my desktop icons anyway; what could go wrong. So I gave it a try. And, to my pleasant surprise, p-value was < .05 — the null hypothesis was rejected: My Windows indeed did load faster with no desktop icons present.

How To Turn Off Desktop Icons?

Note: This tip should work on Windows XP, Vista, and Win7. It may work on Win8.

Easy. Right-click on your desktop, go to View, and uncheck Show desktop icons:

Once Show desktop icons is checked, the icons on your desktop won’t show. They aren’t deleted — they just won’t show. To reshow the icons, simply recheck Show desktop icons.

If you are heavily dependent on your desktop icons but would still like to enjoy the advantages of not showing desktop icons, consider using the Desktop Toolbar.


I’m not sure what the technical reason behind this is (aside from the whole “there are fewer things to load” explanation) and frankly I don’t know. Since that time long ago, I have rarely ever had the icons my desktop showing and am a better person for it.. If you have trouble with slow Windows boot, you may want to do the same.

Feel free to share your thoughts on this tip in the comments below.

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  • william neurauter

    Thanks for the xp Pro PS3 info on where the icon info is located;
    I forgot how to access the icon info.


  • Zapped Sparky

    @Harry44Callahan: Fences works a treat, it’s solved the problem I had. Cheers!

  • Harry44Callahan


    You are welcome “Janetb”.
    I have tried all these other methods mentioned here and Fences has them beat hands down.

  • Great tip. thanks.

  • Juanita

    I used to have my desktop cluttered with icons. Now, I have very few. To access most of my programs quickly, I use LaunchBar Commander, a wonderful donation-ware program available from the Donation Coder website. I like LBC much better than the Windows 7 Start Menu because I can choose which programs to include, rather than having to fight my way through all kinds of programs I don’t care about. I’ve arranged into categories about 80 programs that I want to access easily, categories such as Audio, Video, Languages, Photography, Security, Search, Web Tools, Vital, etc. More information about LaunchBar Commander can be found at http://www.donationcoder.com/Software/Mouser/LaunchBarCommander/index.html. The developer, Mouser, has also made a series of videos to demonstrate LBC’s features.

  • Janetb

    Thanks for the Fences reference!! FANTASTIC!!!!!!

  • Jon Steedley

    Hello, Ashraf.
    This has been a problem since the 9x days.
    My solution is simple.
    Find your “Quick Launch” folder, create a shortcut to it on your desktop, & open it.
    Then left-click your desktop icons & drag them into your “Quick Launch” folder.
    you can select almost all of them by left-clicking your desktop & ‘dragging’ a rectangle around them,
    then dragging that into the “Quick Launch” folder.
    I would leave the “My Computer”, the “Recycle Bin”, & the “Quick Launch” folder shortcut on the desktop.
    Those w/ large #s of icons will see the most improvement,
    but almost everybody will see some improvement in their boot times.
    I do this to almost every computer I use, or work on.
    Its really simple, & all the icons are still there, in the “Quick Launch” folder.
    So to access them, I just open my “Quick Launch” folder, on my desktop.
    I think this is the simplest, most elegant solution I’ve found.
    Hopefully helpful,

  • Harry44Callahan

    Just surprised “Fences” wasn’t mentioned. It’s the ideal way for me to keep the desktop organized and it only takes a double left click anywhere on the desktop to hide / show all, or a selected amount of icons. You have that option where you don’t with Window’s method. I now leave most all of my icons hidden until I need them because it so easy to show them.

  • David

    @Ashraf: @BuddahBoy: On my XP Pro SP3, right-clicking an empty spot on the (cluttered) desktop gets a menu where the first item is “Arrange Icons By”. Hovering on that yields a submenu that has the “Show Desktop Icons” option. Left-clicking “Show Desktop Icons” makes the menus disappear, and immediately (after approx. 10 seconds…) my island paradise is no longer obscured by the myriad icons of important things to do.

    “Approx. 10 seconds?” you ask. Um, well, yes, please feel free to send me a real computer.

  • Zapped Sparky

    @Ashraf: It probably is, and I bet it’s something staring me in the face :)

  • Terryb

    I am a freeware junkie (trying to quit) so my desktop is often overloaded. Every once in a while, I’ll move all the like programs into a folder then shortcut to the folder. This will be much quicker. Thanks again!

  • Patara

    Show Desktop Items can be accessed via the Desktop Context Menu.
    Right click Desktop and select View and then Select or Deselect Show Desktop Items.

  • Janetb

    Shouldn’t it read:
    “Once Show desktop icons is UNchecked, the icons on your desktop won’t show……..To reshow the icons, simply recheck Show desktop icons.”

  • Ashraf

    @BuddahBoy: Yes that is odd. What Windows are you on?

  • I don’t even have a “view” option when right clicking on the desktop – is that odd or what?

  • Ashraf

    @Col. Panek: Last time I used Soluto it was an OK product — see http://dottech.org/freeware-reviews/16736/. Soluto may be better now. Tech savvy people will prefer something like AutoRuns — see http://dottech.org/freeware-reviews/6032/.

    @Jeff: You are welcome! And thank you for catching my English mistake — sometimes I get sloppy. Fixed now.

    @Zapped Sparky: Odd. Do you have a program that could be resetting it every reboot? It works just fine for me but I am on Win7 although that shouldn’t make a difference.

  • Zapped Sparky

    I untick that after every reboot, and after every reboot the icons are back with “show desktop icons” ticked. Running Vista x86.

  • Jeff

    Ashraf, thanks for the tip, which I will be using because I do have that problem, with the over 100 icons on my desktop (I like to everything I occasionally use right there at my fingertips). Now all I’ll have to do is remember to turn the icons off before shutting down.

    By the way, it is obvious that the reason it takes LESS TIME to start up Windows is because “there are FEWER THINGS to load.” (Forgive me, I could not resist exercising my English teacher soul)

  • I recommend Soluto for reducing Windows boot time. It really tells you a lot about what’s going on, and lets you safely unload stuff. I’ve cut a minute off boot time with no problem, and found that Microsoft Security Essentials takes 20 seconds (dare not chop that though). Cool eye candy too, and a “ghost” flutters by when an application crashes, that’s priceless.


  • Ashraf

    @Bob Mason: I tried keeping my desktop clean. However I found a) it takes too much effort to remember to stop software from adding a desktop icon and b) I used the search box in the start menu more than desktop icons anyway so it wasn’t worth the effort.

    However, I totally understand your feelings.

  • Bob Mason

    I only have 4 desktop icons on my desktop; I hate clutter! Dropbox, Tetris and my monthly budget excel spreadsheet and the recycle bin. Everything else is either in the start menu or pinned to the taskbar. Frequently used programs are listed at the top of the start menu items. I find that with desktops that have zillions of icons on them, it takes longer to find the icon you’re looking for than going to the start menu!