Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Icons Cluttering Windows Desktop – A Problem?

There is a compromise solution which “Power Users” know..”

Q: “Paul-
May I ask you a question? I have a few small programs on my desktop and lots of shortcuts.  Will this slow my computer any or cause any other difficulties? Thanks for your help & have a great day,”

A: On a reasonably modern computer, with reasonable graphics ability (say.. anything from 2004 to present) the number of icons on the Desktop becomes mostly a matter of personal preference, and not one of performance degradation.

True, each shortcut is usually associated with an icon (typically, a 16 x 16 pixel graphic), and Windows will have to look each one up (from its “icon cache”), and draw each one in, and this can take a moment or two (or three).. which technically you could be using for working… The more icons to draw, the longer it will take – but, we are talking moments, not minutes.

* Some people are in search of an “instant on” speed to get to their online Casino games, while other people turn on their PC on their way to brush their teeth. The first category might value those few moments.. and they may want to delete “shortcuts” (and associated icons). Deleting a shortcut does not delete the program itself.

* Some people find icons distracting, and want as few as possible; while others view them as friends, and want as many around as the screen will hold. (me.. I set my Desktop “wallpaper” to a nice, calming, nature photo, so to me, shortcut icons are a distraction.. why is there a white “W” [Word] up in that palm tree?)

There is a compromise solution which “Power Users” know: you can right-click on your Desktop, then:
Windows XP: choose “Arrange icons by” (I know.. not intuitive!)
Then uncheck Show Desktop Icons.
Windows Vista/7: point to “View“, and then click Show Desktop Icons to clear the check mark.

That will clear every icon off your Desktop, yet leave you the Taskbar.
Then, when you want access to your icons, you repeat the steps and check it again – getting them back. It’s too much hassle for me, but some folks swear by it as it gives the best of both worlds, and makes them seem tidier and more organized than they really are.

Note: Hiding all of the icons on your desktop doesn’t delete them, it just hides them until you choose to show them again.

Copyright 2007-2010 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.

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July 1, 2010 - Posted by | advice, computers, how to, PC, performance, tech, tweaks, Vista, Windows 7, XP | , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. There is another nice program that deals with desktop icons. It is called “Iconoid” and it is FREE. One can control whether the icons are viewed or not and for how long. It is easy to use. You might want to check it out.


    Comment by Skykisser | July 1, 2010 | Reply

    • Skykisser,
      There are many “Desktop managers” and interesting methods for .. um, er, ‘managing’ how things appear. I had not heard of Iconoid, but I looked at it and I agree it may be of interest to people (it can be found here). Note: the website says it works on XP and Vista, x86 or x64, but not yet on Windows 7.

      I thank you.


      Comment by techpaul | July 1, 2010 | Reply

  2. Try Fences (free) from Stardock.
    Nice overview by Scott Hanselman here:
    Herding Cats: Organize your Desktop Icons with Stardock Fences for Windows


    Comment by Amber | July 1, 2010 | Reply

    • Amber,
      Thank you for your suggestion. As I said to Skykisser, there are many such utilities.

      I am of the school of thought that emphasizes a lean machine, and I am reluctant to add any more programs than are absolutely necessary, so I won’t be trying Fences, but the link is there for those who are curious.


      Comment by techpaul | July 1, 2010 | Reply

  3. “I am of the school of thought that emphasizes a lean machine, and I am reluctant to add any more programs than are absolutely necessary”– Same here… ;) Why bother for something when the motive can be achieved w/o it. . . . ?!
    It may be a bit annoying but far better than adding some useless clutter…


    Comment by Ranjan | July 2, 2010 | Reply

    • Ranjan,
      Most Desktop Managers are very small and light-weight, and I do not begrudge anyone’s personal preferences or choices of software/”personalizations”. A lot of fun can be had with tweaks and wallpapers/Themes/etc..

      But for me, I prefer the fewest possible Startup entries and running Services, as I sit at my machines long enough each day to notice every millisecond delay. I use the latest hardware, so I see how it performs. And, my knowledge of Windows means I don’t need things to be made “1-click Simple” with a “helper” program. But I am unusual in this: in my experience, most people are not concerned with milliseconds, and prefer that as many things as possible be 1-click Simple and/or set-it-and-forget-it.


      Comment by techpaul | July 2, 2010 | Reply

  4. TechPaul,

    If you want to keep your desktop clear, hide the icons as you indicated; THEN go to the windows taskbar, right click, select “Toolbars”, then click on “Desktop”. This creates a toolbar menu on the taskbar with all of your desktop shortcuts, etc…

    I prefer a clean desktop (no icons) and then I use a menu launcher that I open/close at the click of the mouse at any location on the screen called 8start…



    Comment by Ramblinrick | July 2, 2010 | Reply

    • Rick,
      I remember your write up on 8start (A Challenging but GREAT Program Launcher) and I will count you as one of the “minimalists”.

      (And, I won’t show you my work laptop’s Desktop… I have to kill the Sidebar to see all my icons.)


      Comment by techpaul | July 2, 2010 | Reply

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    Comment by Rosalba Troutt | December 1, 2010 | Reply

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