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Revert Desktop icons auto arranging in Windows 10

Many users prefer to arrange Desktop icons manually, placing them at a custom location on the Desktop. But sometimes the custom position of icons is lost and they get automatically arranged. Or if you accidentally messed up your desktop icon alignment yourself by turning on the auto-arrange function, there is a way to revert it quickly. Here is how.

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There are some situations when the icon view and arrangement of desktop icons changes. It can happen if you accidentally press one of Ctrl + Shift + 1..5 hotkeys on Desktop which will switch the icon view to Details, Content or List view. Or you might accidentally tick the Auto arrange icons menu item in the Desktop context menu:Windows 10 icons auto arrange context menu item

Regardless of the cause of the issue, it is possible to revert Desktop icons auto arranging in Windows 10. This trick works only if you have not signed out from your account yet, e.g. you need to do it immediately after they get rearranged.

As you might be knowing, every time Explorer exits, it saves the Desktop icon layout to the following Registry key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Shell\Bags\1\Desktop

Instead, if you terminate the Explorer process, it will not write the new icon layout to the Registry. So, the next time you start Explorer, it will use the previous customized icon position, as it still stored in Registry.

Here is what you need to do to terminate Explorer.

For example, I have set the following icon layout:

Windows 10 custom icons layout

Now I 'accidentally' changed it to the following appearance:

Windows 10 ruined icons layout

  1. Once your get icons messed up,
    - Do not sign out from your current Windows session.
    - Do not exit Explorer using this hidden secret option.
    - Do not use the tools ExitExplorer or RestartExplorer.
  2. Instead, open a new instance of the command prompt.
  3. Type the following command:
    taskkill /IM explorer.exe /F

    Windows 10 open command promptThis will forcibly close Explorer and prevent it from saving the new icon layout to the Registry.Windows 10 kill explorer

  4. Once the Desktop disappears, type explorer at the opened command prompt and press Enter. This will start the Explorer shell again.Windows 10 Start Explorer again

The Desktop will appear with the previous icon layout.

Windows 10 restored icons layout

The following video shows everything mentioned above in the action:

Tip: you can subscribe to our YouTube channel HERE.
That's it. Using this simple trick, you can quickly revert the Desktop icon layout within a few seconds.

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Author: Sergey Tkachenko

Sergey Tkachenko is a software developer who started Winaero back in 2011. On this blog, Sergey is writing about everything connected to Microsoft, Windows and popular software. Follow him on Telegram, Twitter, and YouTube.

5 thoughts on “Revert Desktop icons auto arranging in Windows 10”

  1. I use a free program called DesktopOK. You can arrange your desktop icons in the order you want. DesktopOK will save that arrangement for you. Now if you’re icons get displaced, DesktopOK will be able to restore your icons to their original saved location. Can find the program at http://softwareok.com/

    1. Was expecting this comment.
      Yep, I know about that app and it does its work well.
      The point of this article is how to do it quickly if you don’t have such an app on your PC.

    1. Bad idea. Because after some period of time, Windows 10 File Explorer saves the icon layout automatically.
      Steps above should be performed immediately, not on shutdown.

  2. You Sir, are a gentleman and scholar, and I am pleased to have experienced a mere a fraction of your wisdom.
    Thank you for sparing your time to share your life changing knowledge.

    But seriously, you just saved me a chunk of time, effort and frustration in solving an historic problem. Cheers!

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