How to add or remove desktop icons (shortcuts) in Windows 10

While desktop icons or shortcuts are useful, knowing how to add or remove them helps you avoid clutter and keep your desktop screen tidy. Showing only one icon by default, Windows 10 appears to encourage a “clean” desktop, but you can add as many shortcuts as you want, as long as they fit on your screen. This tutorial illustrates how to add and remove desktop icons or shortcuts, helping you quickly access whatever you need on your Windows 10 computer or device:

NOTE: The features presented are available in Windows 10 November 2019 Update or newer. If you’re using an older version of Windows 10, things might look different. Check your Windows 10 build and, if necessary, get the latest Windows 10 update available for you.

First things first: About desktop icons or shortcuts

Desktop icons or shortcuts are one of the most efficient ways to access your favorite locations on your Windows 10 computer or device. They can save you the time you would otherwise spend “digging” through your files and folders. On top of the regular shortcuts you can create to reach apps, files, folders, and web pages, Windows has a predefined set of desktop icons. Most of these standard icons were shown by default on your desktop on previous versions of Windows, but, starting with Windows 7, only one icon was displayed: the Recycle Bin.

The predefined desktop icons you can enable in Windows 10

Before seeing how you can personalize your desktop by adding more standard shortcuts, let’s go over what each of them does.

  • This PC – allows you to browse your computer and the shared contents of other computers on your network: partitions, folders, files, libraries, and more; corresponds to the Computer entry from the list of Desktop icons.
  • Network – shows a list of computers currently connected to your network and the folders and devices they share with the network.
  • Recycle Bin – stores deleted files and folders temporarily until they are permanently removed.
  • Control Panel – it is the classic way to access important system settings.
  • User’s Files (Username folder) – provides quick access to files and folders associated with your particular user account: Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, and others.

How to add shortcuts on the Windows 10 desktop

Depending on the type of desktop icons or shortcuts you want to add, the process is different. We discussed how to Create shortcuts for apps, files, folders, and web pages in Windows 10, but things are not the same when it comes to the predefined set of desktop icons. To add more standard Windows shortcuts, you first need to access the “Desktop Icon Settings. Right-click or press-and-hold on an empty area on your desktop, and then click or tap on Personalize.

Access Personalize

This opens the Personalization settings window. From the column on the left, click or tap on Themes.

Access Themes

Scroll to the bottom of the Themes tab and, in the section called Related Settings, click or tap on “Desktop icon settings.

Access Desktop icon settings

TIP: You can get to the same place by opening Settings, and going to “Personalization -> Themes -> Desktop icon settings.”

The “Desktop Icon Settings” window opens, displaying at the top a list of default icons that you can enable or disable. Check the boxes to choose the icons you want displayed on the desktop.

Select the icons you want displayed

Press OK or Apply, and the shortcuts are displayed on the desktop.

The desktop icons are now shown

If you can’t see any shortcuts or desktop icons on your screen in spite of your best efforts, you might have to restore them. We detailed the steps to get them back to your desktop in How to restore default Windows shortcuts and their icons.

TIP: Keep in mind that shortcuts are highly customizable. You can modify a shortcut’s size and change the icon of any shortcut in Windows 10.

How to delete desktop icons in Windows 10

When you install them on your Windows 10 computer or device, most programs and apps add, by default, a shortcut to your desktop for easier access. Over time, having too many items on your desktop can make it harder to find what you’re looking for, so it’s a good idea to know how to remove desktop shortcuts. Except for the Recycle Bin, you can delete any shortcut from your desktop the same way you would any other file. One way is to right-click or press-and-hold on it to open a contextual menu, and then click or tap on Delete.

Tap on Delete to remove a shortcut

Another way is to select the shortcut you want to remove and then press the Delete key on your keyboard. You can also grab the shortcut, by either clicking and holding or pressing and holding on it, and then dragging and dropping it to the Recycle Bin. Release when the message “Move to Recycle Bin” is displayed.

Drag and drop shortcuts to the Recycle Bin

To remove the Recycle Bin and other standard icons, you must access the “Desktop Icon Settings. Follow the steps illustrated in the previous section and, then, uncheck the boxes corresponding to the icons you don’t want on your desktop.

Uncheck the boxes to remove standard icons

Press OK or Apply to save your changes.

TIP: When you delete a desktop icon for a program or an app, you don’t remove the program from your device, only the shortcut helping you access it. To completely remove apps or programs, read 9 ways to remove desktop programs and Microsoft Store apps in Windows.

How many desktop icons or shortcuts do you have on your screen?

Knowing how to add more desktop icons or shortcuts helps you get easy access to your favorite items. Knowing how to remove shortcuts can be useful to organize things depending on your current focus and preferences. How many shortcuts do you have on your desktop? Do you have any standard desktop icons showing, except for the Recycle Bin? Let us know in a comment below.