The desktop (overview)
The desktop is the main screen area that you see after you turn on your computer and log on to Windows. Like the top of an actual desk, it serves as a surface for your work. When you open programs or folders, they appear on the desktop. You can also put things on the desktop, such as files and folders, and arrange them however you want.
The desktop is sometimes defined more broadly to include the taskbar. The taskbar
sits at the bottom of your screen. It shows you which programs are running and allows you to switch between them. It also contains the Start button
, which you can use to access programs, folders, and computer settings.
For more information about the taskbar, see The taskbar (overview).
Working with desktop icons
Icons are small pictures that represent files, folders, programs, and other items. When you first start Windows, you'll see at least one icon on your desktop: The Recycle Bin (more on that later).
Your computer manufacturer might have added other icons to the desktop.
Some examples of desktop icons are shown below.
Double-clicking a desktop icon starts or opens the item it represents.
Adding and removing icons from the desktop
You can choose which icons appear on the desktop—you can add or remove an icon at any time. Some people like a clean, uncluttered desktop with few or no icons. Others place dozens of icons on their desktop to give them quick access to frequently used programs, files, and folders.
If you want easy access from the desktop to your favorite files or programs, you can create shortcuts to them. A shortcut is an icon that represents a link to an item, rather than the item itself. When you double-click a shortcut, the item opens. If you delete a shortcut, only the shortcut is removed, not the original item. You can identify shortcuts by the arrow on their icon.
For more information about desktop icons, see Show, hide, or resize desktop icons
Locate the item that you want to create a shortcut for. (For help with finding a file or folder, see Find a file or folder. For help with finding a program, see The Start menu (overview).)
Right-click the item, click Send to, and then click Desktop (create shortcut). The shortcut icon appears on your desktop.
Common desktop icons include Computer, your personal folder, the Recycle Bin, and Control Panel.
Right-click an empty area of the desktop, and then click Personalize.
In the left pane, click Change desktop icons.
Under Desktop icons, select the check box for each icon that you want to add to the desktop, or clear the check box for each icon that you want to remove from the desktop, and then click OK.
Open the folder that contains the file.
Drag the file to the desktop.
Moving icons around
Windows stacks icons in columns on the left side of the desktop. But you're not stuck with that arrangement. You can move an icon by dragging it to a new place on the desktop.
You can also have Windows automatically arrange your icons. Right-click an empty area of the desktop, click View, and then click Auto arrange icons. Windows stacks your icons in the upper-left corner and locks them in place. To unlock the icons so that you can move them again, click Auto arrange icons again, clearing the check mark next to it.
By default, Windows spaces icons evenly on an invisible grid. To place icons closer together or with more precision, turn off the grid. Right-click an empty area of the desktop, point to View, and then click Align icons to grid to clear the check mark. Repeat these steps to turn the grid back on.
Selecting multiple icons
To move or delete a bunch of icons at once, you must first select all of them. Click an empty area of the desktop and drag the mouse. Surround the icons that you want to select with the rectangle that appears. Then release the mouse button. Now you can drag the icons as a group or delete them.
Hiding desktop icons
If you want to temporarily hide all of your desktop icons without actually removing them, right-click an empty part of the desktop, click View, and then click Show desktop icons to clear the check mark from that option. Now no icons are displayed on the desktop. You can get them back by clicking Show desktop icons again.
The Recycle Bin
When you delete a file or folder, it doesn't actually get deleted right away—it goes to the Recycle Bin. That's a good thing, because if you ever change your mind and decide you need a deleted file, you can get it back. For more information, see Recover files from the Recycle Bin.
If you're sure that you won't need the deleted items again, you can empty the Recycle Bin. Doing that will permanently delete the items and reclaim any disk space they were using. For more information, see Permanently delete files from the Recycle Bin.