There’s little more frustrating to a computer user, than finding your icons scrambled all over the desktop. In addition, if your desktop is full of icons, you can imagine how annoying it would be to arrange them manually.
This problem usually occurs when you change your computer’s resolution. Changing the resolution, either manually or when installing drivers for your video card, can sometimes change the order and position of your desktop icons.
Because the screen is getting bigger or smaller, Windows tries to redistribute the icons to make them fit the new size. Unfortunately, it often fails, as it does not remember the original placement of the icons.
If you’re looking for a setting or option to make Windows remember desktop icon positions, you won’t find one. Despite the improvements and features added in Windows 7, Microsoft never came up with a solution for restoring the order and position of desktop icons.
Fortunately, there are plenty of third-party applications that can accomplish this and more.
Note: Using any of these applications will not recover any deleted desktop icons. They save only the icon position on the desktop, not the file itself. To recover lost system icons refer to this Worldstart article.
Below, you will find three easy to use, free applications that will allow you to save your icons position on the desktop.
Note: To install any of these applications in Windows Vista and 7, you need to be logged in with an administrator account or have administrator rights.
The first application is appropriately called Icon Restore. It’s by far the simplest and easiest to use. It’s a simple script integrated into the Windows context menu that allows you to save your desktop icons layout and restore it when a problem appears.
You can download the application from here.
I suggest that you also download the uninstaller (on the same page), since the application cannot be uninstalled through the add/remove panel.
Note: Even though the system requirements do not mention Windows Vista or 7, it works fine on these operating systems. However, you need to use the Recycle Bin instead of the (My) Computer icon.
After saving the icon_restore.exe file on your computer, double-click on it to execute, and follow the instructions to install the application.
With the application installed, go to the desktop and right-click on the Recycle Bin icon.
In the context menu, you should see two new options. Click on the Save Desktop Icon Layout option to save your current icon placement.
When the icons get scrambled, right-click on the Recycle Bin again and select the Restore Desktop Icon Layout option. This will restore your icons to their previous order and position on the desktop.
The second application is called DeskSave. It offers more features than the previous application. Features such as auto saving the layout profile and the ability to import and export icon layout profiles. Allowing the user to backup and even transfer the layout between computers.
You can download DeskSave from here.
After saving the dsksve8.zip archive to your computer, right-click on it and select Extract All…. Choose a location on your hard drive to unpack the archive and click Extract. Then open that folder and double-click on DeskSave.exe to start the application.
When DeskSave first starts, it will ask if you want to save your current icon layout, click Yes to do so.
Now, if you look at the taskbar (next to the clock) you should see a new blue icon. Right-click on this icon and choose Options. Here you can set different options regarding auto save and auto restore.
The Install shell extension button will integrate DeskSave with your desktop’s context menu. Meaning that you will be able to access DeskSave by right-clicking on your desktop even when the application isn’t running.
To restore your desktop with the saved layout, click the Restore Primary layout option in the menu.
The Save to file…/ Restore from file… options will allow you to backup or export the layout to another computer.
The third application is called Shock Desktop. What set it apart from the other applications are a few unique features not found in any other program.
You’ll find this application here.
After saving the Setup_ShockDesktop.exe file to your computer, double-click on it and follow the instructions to install the application.
With the application installed, double-click the Shock Desktop shortcut. Then look at the taskbar (next to the clock) and you should see a new green icon. Right-click on this icon and choose the Create Profile option. This will save your current icon positions.
A new section named Profiles will appear inside the menu. To restore your icon positions, click on the profile name you created. You can create as many profiles as you want.
Shock Desktop’s most interesting feature is found by pressing the Ctrl + Q keys (can be changed to any key in the Option window) while the application is running. This allows you to click and interact with the desktop icons even when working in a full screen program or window.
Another interesting (although not quite as useful) feature of the application is its ability to rearrange your desktop icons into predefined shapes. In the right-click menu of the application, under the Visibility section, click on Desktop Icon Layout and choose one of the many predefined shapes.
Note: You might want to use the Create Profile option first and save your current icon layout, before trying this out. As there is no undo option for this feature, you can then click on the created profile to restore your icons.
I hope these three applications will help you solve this small but annoying Windows interface problem.