How to customize the Desktop: Add or remove standard shortcuts

When you first see the Desktop on a newly installed Windows, you will find that only one icon is shown: the Recycle Bin. Over time, most of the icons that appear on the Desktop will be shortcuts, which are links to a file or program present elsewhere on your computer. This being said, if you delete a shortcut, it will only be removed from your Desktop , while the file, program or location it is connected to will not be harmed. As everyone has their own computing habits or customization preferences, it seemed necessary for us to explain how each of you can add standard Windows shortcuts to the Desktop. Continue reading to find out more:

NOTE: This guide applies to Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10. In total, you have to go through two steps, which are detailed in this guide.

The default Desktop icons

Windows has a predefined set of default icons that can be enabled on your personalized Desktop. Below you will find a short list with standard shortcuts and each of their particular functions:

  • Computer ( This PC ) - allows you to browse your computer and the shared contents of other computers on your network: partitions, folders, files, libraries, etc.
  • Network - shows a list of computers currently connected to your network and the folders and devices they share with the network.
  • Recycle Bin - the place where deleted files and folders are temporarily stored, until they are permanently removed.
  • Control Panel - the classic way to quickly access all the important system settings.
  • User's Files (Username folder) - which will provide quick access to folders and files that are associated with your particular user account: Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures and others.

Step 1: Open the Desktop Icon Settings window

The changes are done from the Desktop Icon Settings window, which can be opened in several ways. The easiest method is to right click or press and hold an empty area on your Desktop and then select Personalize from the contextual menu.

In Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, this action will open the Personalization area from the Control Panel. Then, in the left side column, click or tap on Change desktop icons.

In Windows 10 you will be sent to the Personalization window from the Settings app. Here, you should first select the Themes subsection from the left side column and then click or tap the option labelled Desktop icon settings.

Another way to open the Desktop Icon Settings window in Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, is to go to the Control Panel. Then, in the options of the Appearance and Personalization section, you should click or tap on Change the theme.

Finally, as mentioned above, on the left side of the newly opened Personalization window, click or tap on the option labelled Change desktop icons.

Unfortunately, this second method of opening the Desktop Icon Settings window does not work in Windows 10 as the Personalization window from the Control Panel no longer contains the Change desktop icons link.

Still, there is another way that works on all the Windows versions mentioned earlier. It requires you to use the Search Box (Windows 7) , Search Bar (Windows 8.1) or the Cortana Search Box (Windows 10) , where you will have to input the term "desktop icon". Then, from the results that you will receive, click or tap on " Show or hide common icons on the desktop".

All the methods mentioned above will open the Desktop Icon Settings window, where you will find a list with the default icons you can enable or disable.

Step 2: Add or remove standard shortcuts on the Windows Desktop

In the Desktop Icon Settings window, check the boxes near the icons you want to display on the Desktop to activate them. Of course, if you want to remove any of them uncheck the appropriate boxes.

After you have selected the necessary icons, click or tap on OK.

That is it! The Desktop will now be personalized with the standard shortcuts you deem useful.

Bonus: Another way to remove default Desktop shortcuts

Besides disabling the shortcuts that are useless for you, there is another way to remove them from the Desktop.

Select a shortcut that you want removed and then right click or press and hold to open the contextual menu and press Delete. Alternatively, if you are using a device that works with a keyboard and mouse, you can select the shortcut and then press the Delete key on your keyboard.

If you are asked to confirm the deletion process, click Yes and you are done.

NOTE: This procedure works for all shortcuts except the Recycle Bin.


Even though this seems like an easy process, it is an important part of your Desktop's customization. This tutorial tries to ensure that you will not experience any problems and that you will be able to personalize these standard shortcuts to your liking. If you have any questions or problems, do not hesitate to use the comments form below.