How To Keep Desktop Icons From Rearranging (5 Ways To Stop)

Logging in to find that your desktop icons have been rearranged can be just another frustration atop everything on your to-do list. It’s not uncommon to reboot, update, or otherwise log on to your computer to find all of your icons have shifted. So what are some ways you can avoid this?

Here are five fixes for your desktop icons rearranging: 

  1. Disable the auto-arrange setting.
  2. Edit your theme setting. 
  3. Change your screen resolution. 
  4. Delete icon file. 
  5. Update graphic card drivers.

The five fixes listed above are arranged according to what an IT or Windows Support person may suggest.

example of icons arranged on a desktop

It is most likely that all you will need to do is disable your auto-arrange setting or edit your themes setting, but if these fixes aren’t working, you can make your way down the list until you have tried them all. 

This information, heavily sourced by Microsoft Support web pages, is specifically for the Windows 11 software.

If you are experiencing the same issue on any other software, the steps might not be the same, but the concept should be universal.

1. Disable the Windows auto-arrange setting

disable auto arrange icons and align icons to grid

The first fix you can attempt for rearranging icons is changing the auto-arrange settings. Unfortunately, this setting is often a default setting, so it will likely continue to happen even if you have customized your computer (by arranging the icons or otherwise). 

To disable the auto arrange setting:

  1. Start with a plain desktop screen. This is your screen with nothing else open, where your icons are arranged. 
  2. Right-click (on the wallpaper area) and hover your mouse pointer over View.
  3. In the pop out menu, uncheck the Auto-arrange icons option.
  4. In the same menu, turn off Align Icons To Grid.
  5. Reboot your computer. Turn your computer off and back on to make sure this has changed the setting. You will do this by selecting the menu and choosing either Shut Down and powering back on or by selecting Restart.

Using this solution, you change the computer’s default setting to auto-arrange the icons upon startup.

You are also disabling the computer’s default setting to snap your icons to a grid, which could cause them to rearrange themselves.

2. Edit your theme setting

unchecking allow themes to change desktop icons

Another possibility is that your themes setting is changing your desktop icons. The themes settings are a way of personalizing the appearance of your computer background, the buttons, menu, and icons.

By default, your computer will shift around your icons when using a particular desktop theme. If this is causing Windows to shift your icons, you can disable it. 

Here is the step-by-step process of editing your theme setting:

  1. Find the Start Button. It’s usually on the left side of your computer screen and appears as a Windows icon. 
  2. Open the Settings App by clicking on the gear icon in the Start Menu.
  3. Click on Personalization.
  4. Select Themes.
  5. In the Related Settings somewhere on the page, click on Desktop icon settings.
  6. Disable Allow themes to change desktop icons. Disable this setting by unchecking the box.

Following this process will disable your Windows theme from changing your desktop settings, including your icons.

To see if this worked and was causing the problem at hand, you can reboot or restart your computer. 

3. Change your screen resolution

arrows on monitor showing width and height representing monitor resolution.

Screen resolution is super important but rarely a setting that people change on their own. Screen resolution is the size and clarity of things on your desktop, from images to apps and more.

The screen resolution is set, by default, to whatever is recommended for your desktop size. Sometime’s, this can cause the icons to move around in a certain way.

Before starting, I recommend looking up your monitor’s native resolution. You can do this by searching the model number in Google and viewing the monitor’s specifications.

To edit your screen resolution and scaling, you will:

  1. Go to Display Settings. You can do this by searching it up in your Start menu or by right-clicking on the desktop and selecting it
  2. In the Display Settings, open the drop down box under Display resolution to select a new resolution. I recommend adjusting it to your monitor’s native resoltion if it isn’t already.
  3. Open the drop down box under where it says Change the size of text, apps, and other items. It will be a sliding bar or a drop down box, and it is usually at the Recommended setting of 250% unless it has been otherwise changed. 
  4. Experiment with the scaling percentage. You may want to try 100%, 125%, 200%, screen resolution. 
  5. Click Apply

After changing your settings, you can restart your computer and see if this fixes the issue. Changing the screen resolution may ensure that your icons are not pushed around when the computer restarts.

This may be a timely fix since you are experimenting with the screen resolution. Try the other listed fixes before trying this one. 

4. Delete icon file

a finger pressing the delete key on a computer keyboard

This fix requires you to get a little techier with your computer, but it may be helpful if nothing above has worked.

You will attempt to delete your icon file, which may be what is moving your desktop icons around. 

To do this, you will:

  1. Press the Windows key and the letter R on your keyboard. This should bring up your Run Dialog.
  2. Type in %userprofile%
  3. Click Ok after typing this in. Your user folder should open up now. 
  4. Open your App Data folder.
  5. Open the Local folder.
  6. Find the IconCache file. If you are unable to find this file, you can look it up in the search bar.
  7. Right-click or select the file, and then select Delete
  8. Arrange your desktop icons in your preferred manner. 
  9. Restart your computer.

The icon cache supports your computer showing your icons or thumbnails on your desktop.

You take this job away from your computer by doing it yourself. 

5. Update graphic card drivers

graphics card driver properties

This method is going to be similar to the one above, in that you are going to get a little techier than with the other ones.

For this method, you are going to update the graphic card drivers. Your graphic card driver is what makes all the text and images on your computer appear.

Here is how you update your graphic card drivers:

  1. Press the Windows key and the letter R on your keyboard. This should bring up your Run Dialog.
  2. Type in devmgmt.msc and then select Ok. This should open your Device Manager
  3. Click the button to expand the Display Adapters menu.
  4. Right-click your graphics card and select Enable and then select again to select Update
  5. Have your computer Search automatically for updated driver software.

This will ensure that your graphic card drivers are updating whenever a software update is available.

If this doesn’t solve your icons issue, and none of the above fixes are working either, there might be something going on with your Windows computer.

It may be necessary to contact support to see what is happening. 

Why have my desktop icons rearranged after a reboot?

If you like to have your desktop arranged in a certain way, it can be frustrating to rearrange them each time you reboot your computer.

Your icons moving on their own is something that can be fixed, though. But first, you have to figure out why it’s happening. So what could the possible cause be? 

Your desktop icon might be rearranging due to auto-arrange, default theme settings, or your resolution. To know which is changing your desktop icons, you’ll have to do some experimenting. First, make sure your computer has the most recent update, as an old version may cause desktop icons to be rearranged. 

Again, you’ll need to experiment to figure it out.

It is most likely that your auto-arrange is on or that your default theme settings are making your desktop icons rearrange themselves.

However, it may take a bigger fix, like deleting your icon cache or updating your graphic disc. 

Fix desktop icons rearranging when connecting a second monitor

reboot computer logo on a laptop screen

When you add a second monitor to your setup, this can change the way your display looks.

Whether you are mirroring the display or extending it, this may have caused your desktop icons to shift around. 

When you set up a second monitor, your default settings may adapt by shifting your desktop icons on the screen. Or, if you already have tried to customize your desktop icons, your computer may be having a hard time saving these settings. But, again, you’ll need to experiment to figure out the direct cause. 

You will need to check your default settings to see what may be causing your icons to rearrange, but it could be any combination of the suggestions above. 

Tips & tricks to positively change desktop icons

There are many benefits to personalizing your workspace, especially if your work happens mainly on your computer.

If you are using your computer constantly, you can consider it your office or workspace.

On the other hand, having an organized desktop helps with efficiency in your workspace. Having a cluttered desktop may make things harder to find and bog down your ability to work. 

Don’t give up if you have issues with desktop rearranging your icons and are ready to throw up your hands.

Try the fixes above to ensure you can personalize your desktop. Below, we discuss a few tips for personalizing your desktop icons.

Snapping icons to a grid

Snapping your icons to a grid is one way of organizing your icons. This will take your computer screen, split it up into an invisible grid, and make sure your icons are constantly snapping to it.

It will make your icons arranged in a clean, smooth line.  To do this, you will: 

  1. Right-click any unused area on the desktop. A menu should appear.
  2. Select the View option. 
  3. Click Snap To Grid.
  4. Arrange your icons.

While snapping to a grid will always have your icons set up in straight lines, it won’t arrange your icons for you. You can arrange your icons how you want. 

Auto arrange icons by date, date modified, etc. 

icons splayed out of a computer monitor

If you are constantly adding new icons or thumbnails to your desktop, it may be beneficial to arrange them by date modified, size, or another setting.

For creatives, it’s especially common to be constantly adding new uploads to your desktop screen. To arrange them by a setting, you will: 

  1. Right-click your mouse pointer anywhere on an unused place on your desktop.
  2. Select Arrange Icons.
  3. Select what setting you would like to arrange your icons by.

You can usually select from size, date added, date modified, name, type, etcetera. Select which one makes the most sense for you. 

Adding folders for easy-access  

Another way to customize your desktop icons is to add folders for easy access. This can be especially beneficial if you work multiple jobs or work with many clients. To do this, you will:

  1. Right-click your mouse pointer on any unsed place on your desktop.
  2. Select Add Folder
  3. Rename the folder.
  4. Drag and drop your icons, documents, or apps into the folder. 

With this customization, you can have different folders for Gaming, Work, Social, or whatever else you may need. 

Key takeaways

There are a few reasons icons may keep rearranging when you restart your desktop computer.

If this is the case, you can try to solve the problem by:

  • Changing your screen resolution. 
  • Editing your default settings. 
  • Updating your graphic card drivers.
  • Deleting your icon cache. 

Even if the troubleshooting process is frustrating, don’t give up. Rearranging your desktop icons on your home screen is another way of cleaning your workspace, so it can definitely be worth it.