How to Remove Icons From Your Windows Desktop

This article is a guide to deleting icons from the Windows 10 desktop, with additional information on how to tell the difference between a file and a shortcut icon and what to do when you accidentally delete an icon.

How to Delete All Desktop Icons on Windows 10
Removing icons is one of the best and easiest ways to clean and speed up your Windows 10 desktop.

You can delete all Windows 10 desktop icons in a matter of seconds with just a few mouse clicks. All you need to do is right-click the icon on your Windows 10 desktop and select Delete from the popup menu.

Windows 10 desktop with the Delete icon menu option highlighted.
If you’re using a Windows 10 device, such as a Microsoft Surface, with a touchscreen, you can also trigger the menu by performing a long press on the desktop icon.

Alternatively, you can delete desktop icons by dragging them to the Recycle Bin icon (which should also be on the desktop).

A Windows 10 desktop icon being dragged to the Recycle Bin.
Want to delete all desktop icons on Windows 10 at once? Highlight all of the icons with your mouse by dragging the cursor over them. Once they’re all highlighted, right-click one of them and select Delete or drag them all to the Recycle Bin.

Three icons being selected on a Windows 10 desktop.
How Do I Remove an Icon From My Desktop Without Deleting It?
If you don’t want to delete any files or shortcuts from your Windows 10 desktop, but you still want to move them out of the way while you work, you have a couple of options.

The first option is to hide the icons from view. To do this, right-click your desktop, select View, and uncheck Show desktop icons.

Windows 10 desktop with Show desktop icons menu option showing.
This is a great choice for those who like their Windows 10 desktop icons’ aesthetic but don’t want to see them all of the time.

To make your desktop icons visible again, repeat the above instructions.

Your second option is to move the icons to another location on your Windows 10 device. You can do this very quickly by dragging the icons into another folder location.

You can also right-click the icons, select Cut, and then right-click and select Paste in the target folder.

Windows 10 desktop with the Cut option highlighted in a pop-up menu.
Understanding Desktop Files and Shortcut Icons
A Windows 10 desktop can store both files and shortcuts to files. The former is the actual file, while the latter is a tiny file that links to another file or program’s location elsewhere on your computer or tablet.

While desktop shortcuts and files can appear similar, you can easily spot a shortcut by looking for the small arrow in the icon’s lower-left corner.

An image file and a shortcut icon on a Windows 10 desktop.
If the icon doesn’t have this arrow, it’s the full file. If it does, it’s a shortcut.

Windows 10 desktop shortcuts have an arrow in the lower-left of their image.

It means when you delete a file’s icon from the desktop on Windows 10, you’ll delete the whole file. If you delete a shortcut icon, you’re just deleting the shortcut to the file.

If you want to uninstall or delete the program entirely, you’ll need to uninstall it the same way you would other Windows 10 apps.

How to Undo a Windows 10 Desktop Icon Deletion
Any deleted desktop icons can be undeleted as long as you haven’t emptied the Recycle Bin. If you have cleared out the Recycle Bin, you can create a new desktop shortcut icon or attempt to retrieve the deleted Windows 10 file via various proven strategies.

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