Windows 11 is a versatile operating system, allowing users to customize their desktops in numerous ways. However, sometimes, you may accidentally move, sort, or rearrange your desktop icons and want to revert to the previous arrangement. Thankfully, there are several techniques to undo these changes and restore your desktop icon positions to their original state.
In this guide, we will show you a quick workaround to quickly undo desktop icon changes in Windows 11. We will also discuss how to backup and restore your desktop icon positions using third-party applications.
Undo desktop changes by killing and restarting explorer.exe
A quick and effective method to undo desktop icon changes in Windows 11 is by killing and restarting the explorer.exe process. This technique works because desktop changes, including the positions and arrangements of icons, are not saved immediately in Windows 11. Instead, they remain in memory until you log off or restart your computer.
To kill and restart the explorer.exe process using Command Prompt, follow these steps:
- Open Start menu and type “cmd” in the search bar.
- Right-click Command Prompt from the search results and select “Run as administrator“.
- In the Command Prompt, type the following command and press Enter to terminate the explorer.exe process:
taskkill /IM explorer.exe /F
- Next, type the following command and press Enter to restart the explorer.exe process:
If the above commands don’t work for you, try using the
tskill explorer command instead.
Related issue: Windows 11 Desktop Icons Move to Secondary Monitor
In case the commands don’t work, you can follow these steps to kill and restart explorer.exe using the Task Manager:
- Press Ctrl + Shift + Esc to open the Task Manager.
- Find the Windows Explorer process under the Processes tab.
- Right-click on Windows Explorer and select End task.
- Click on File in the Task Manager menu, then click on Run new task.
- Type “explorer” in the Open field and click OK.
By killing and restarting the explorer.exe process using either of these methods, you force Windows to discard any unsaved changes to your desktop icon arrangement. When the process restarts, it will reload the last saved icon layout, effectively undoing any unwanted desktop icon changes.
Useful tip: How to Change Desktop Icon Spacing in Windows 11
Why does killing explorer work to undo desktop changes?
This method of killing and restarting the explorer.exe process works because Windows 11 manages desktop icon arrangements differently from other system settings. When you move, sort, or rearrange your desktop icons, the changes are stored in memory and not immediately written to the disk. The explorer.exe process is responsible for managing the desktop environment, including the positions of your desktop icons.
By terminating the explorer.exe process, you force Windows to discard any unsaved changes to your desktop icon arrangement that are still in memory. When you restart explorer.exe, it will load the last saved icon layout from the disk. This effectively reverts your desktop to the previous state before the unwanted changes occurred.
What if you have logged out or restarted your computer?
If you have already logged out or restarted your computer, the method of killing and restarting the explorer.exe process will not work. This is because when you log out or restart, Windows saves the current desktop icon arrangement to the disk. As a result, the changes are no longer held in memory and cannot be discarded by terminating the explorer.exe process.
In such situations, you will need to resort to alternative methods to revert your desktop icon arrangement to the previous state. One option is to manually rearrange the icons to your preferred layout. Another option is to use third-party applications that can backup and restore desktop icon positions, as discussed in the next section.
A better way to backup and restore your icon positions in Windows 11
To avoid losing your preferred desktop icon arrangement in the future, consider using third-party applications to backup and restore your icon positions. These tools allow you to create multiple snapshots of your desktop icon layout, making it easy to revert to a previous state if needed.
One such application is DesktopOK, which is a lightweight and portable tool that does not require installation. Here’s how to use DesktopOK:
- Download DesktopOK from the official website:
- Run the program by double-clicking on the executable file.
- Click on the Save button to save your current desktop icon layout. You can create multiple snapshots by clicking Save at different times.
- If you need to restore a previous icon layout, simply select the desired snapshot from the list and click on the Restore button.
Troubleshooting common desktop icon issues
At times, you may encounter issues with your desktop icons, such as disappearing icons or icons not responding to clicks. Here are a few troubleshooting tips to resolve these issues:
- Disappearing desktop icons: If your desktop icons have vanished, right-click on an empty area of the desktop, select View, and ensure that the Show desktop icons option is checked.
- Icons not responding: If your desktop icons are not responding to clicks, try restarting the explorer.exe process as described earlier in the article. This can often resolve minor issues with the desktop environment.
- Corrupted icon cache: If some icons appear as generic icons or are not displaying correctly, the icon cache may be corrupted. To rebuild the icon cache, open the Command Prompt as an administrator and run the following commands:
taskkill /IM explorer.exe /F cd %localappdata% del IconCache.db /a shutdown /r
This will terminate the explorer.exe process, delete the icon cache file, and restart your computer to rebuild the icon cache.
In conclusion, killing and restarting explorer.exe is a quick and effective way to undo desktop icon changes in Windows 11, but it may not be suitable for all situations. Users who are uncomfortable with working with command-line tools or have other programs running in the background may need to resort to manually rearranging icons.
Alternatively, users can use third-party applications such as DesktopOK to backup and restore their desktop icon layout. However, it’s important to note that you must have a previously saved icon layout in DesktopOK to restore to it. Regardless of the method used, it’s always a good idea to back up your desktop icon layout regularly, especially if you have a lot of icons or frequently rearrange them. This can help you avoid the hassle of having to undo unwanted changes in the first place.