Why Has Windows 10 Changed My Desktop? (Windows 11 Too)

Is your Windows 10 desktop automatically changing after a reboot or while using your PC? Do you see a new wallpaper, rearranged icons, or a different layout? It’s highly frustrating since the desktop functions as a “central hub” where most users keep their favorite apps, important documents, and even a pleasant wallpaper.

The Windows desktop is made up of multiple elements, including the background wallpaper, the icons, the taskbar, and the overall layout.

Reasons Why Your Desktop Changed

  • Tablet mode is enabled.
  • A recent Windows update changed the desktop.
  • The desktop background is set to Slideshow.
  • Windows is syncing the desktop with another one of your PCs.

Next, let’s explore how these situations lead Windows to change your desktop and how you can fix them. 

1. Disable Tablet Mode 

A Surface Pro laptop.

Do you see Live Tiles – square or rectangular tiles, instead of regular icons on your Windows 10 desktop?

If yes, the problem is related to a feature called Tablet Mode. Disabling this feature should solve your problem.

With Windows 10, Microsoft introduced the Tablet mode – a feature designed to make your desktop more touch-friendly.

The idea was that using fingers to touch tiles is more straightforward and intuitive than touching small icons in cramped spaces.

Tablet mode is automatically enabled if you have a Windows 2-in-1 laptop/tablet and detach the keyboard.

It signals to the OS that “touch” is currently the default input, and so it turns on Tablet mode. 

Other than this, you can also accidentally enable it by pressing the Tablet mode shortcut in the Windows action center. 

Note: Windows 11 doesn’t have a Tablet mode with Live Tiles similar to 10. Instead, it increases the spacing between the icons to make selecting a finger easier.

If you think your Windows desktop changed because the Tablet mode was enabled, you can easily solve the issue by disabling the feature.

Disable Tablet Mode on Windows 10

How to change Tablet Mode Settings to maintain the desktop appearance.
  1. Press Win + I on your keyboard to open the Settings app (Or open the Start Menu and select the gear icon).
  2. Go to System
  3. From the left side panel, select Tablet.
  4. Under When I use this device as a tablet, select Don’t switch to tablet mode from the drop-down menu.
  5. Click on Change additional tablet settings.
  6. Make sure these options are turned off:
    • Tablet mode.
    • Hide app icons on the taskbar.
    • Automatically hide the taskbar.
    • Make app icons on the taskbar easier to touch.
    • Show the search icon without the search box.
    • Make buttons in the file explorer easier to touch.
Additional Tablet Mode Settings to turn off to prevent Windows from changing desktop.

I’d also advise that you remove the Tablet mode shortcut from the Action Center, so you don’t accidentally enable it. To do this, follow the steps given below:

  1. Open the Settings app (Win + I) and go to System > Notification & actions.
  2. Under the Quick actions section, click on the option called Edit your quick actions.
  3. Locate the Tablet mode pin item and remove it.

2. Uninstall recent Windows updates

Major Windows updates can sometimes change the desktop background wallpaper, icon arrangement, and overall appearance.

However, it usually doesn’t remove any apps, files, or folders you have on the desktop.

As such, if you remember updating Windows and the desktop changed after that, it’s likely because of the update. 

Now, if you can’t tell whether your system got an update recently, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to see the Windows 10 update history:

  1. Open the Settings app by pressing Win + I.
  2. Go to Update & Security > Windows Update.
  3. From the list of available options, click on View update history.
  4. Click on the option Quality Updates. It shows all the regular major updates coming to your Windows 10 system.

Here, you’ll find the dates on which each update was installed on your Windows 10 PC.

How to open View update history.

On Windows 11, the Update history option is available in Settings > Windows Update (located in the left-hand sidebar). 

If you find that an update was installed recently and that the desktop changed right after that update, then you can shortlist it as a likely cause.

If a Windows update changes your desktop, you can uninstall the update to bring back your old desktop.

Note: This might not work all the time, especially if it was a major upgrade that radically changed your desktop layout, icons, wallpaper, etc. For example, when upgrading Windows 10 to 11.

Uninstall updates on Windows 10

The steps on how to uninstall a Windows update from Update history.
  1. Go to Settings (Win + I) > Update & Security > Windows Update > View update history.
  2. Click on the option called Uninstall updates.
  3. In the new Window, locate the recently installed update you suspect to have changed the desktop, right-click on it, and click Uninstall.
  4. Follow the on-screen instructions to uninstall the update successfully.
  5. Reboot your system.

Uninstall updates on Windows 11

How to uninstall updates in Update history in Windows 11.
  1. Go to Settings (Win + I) > Windows Update > Update history > Uninstall updates (under Related settings).
  2. From the new Window, select the update in question, right-click on it, and then left-click on Uninstall.
  3. Follow the on-screen instructions.
  4. Reboot your system.
How to uninstall a Windows 11 update in Update history.

Note that after you uninstall an update, Windows will try to reinstall it. As such, you’ll need to block that update, or it will again install and change your wallpaper.

Stop Windows from installing updates

Microsoft used to provide a tool KB3073930, that allowed users to hide specific updates and prevent them from installing if they were causing a problem.

Unfortunately, that tool is not available on their official website anymore.

However, this Microsoft Community post shares an alternative source for downloading that tool, including a quick tutorial.

You can check it out to prevent a buggy update from changing your desktop.

Note: The guide covers a tutorial for using the tool on Windows 10. However, the same steps will work on 11 as well.

3. Disable Slideshow in the desktop background 

When you say that Windows is changing your desktop, do you mean it’s changing the desktop wallpaper automatically?

If yes, you might have the desktop Background set to a Slideshow

This feature, if enabled, will automatically change the desktop wallpaper to a different pre-selected one at regular intervals. 

How to change the background to a single image instead of a slideshow.

To check if the Windows 10 background is set to Slideshow, follow the given steps:

  1. Open Settings (Win + I) and go to Personalization.
  2. From the left-hand sidebar, select Background if it’s not the default view.
  3. Now, under the Background option, you’ll find a drop-down menu with 3 options – Picture, Solid color, and Slideshow.

On Windows 11, it’s slightly different. 

How to change a background to a single image instead of slideshow in Windows 11.

You’ll still need to go to Settings > Personalization > Background. Here, you’ll find the option Personalize your background, which you can set to the same three options – Picture, Solid color, or Slideshow.

In both cases, selecting the Slideshow option explains why your desktop wallpaper is automatically changing.

Additionally, the desktop wallpaper can automatically change if you install a slideshow wallpaper app like Bing Wallpaper

If your Windows desktop wallpaper changes because it’s set to Slideshow, simply switching to a different option will solve your problem.

Disable background slideshow in Windows 10

  1. Go to Settings (Win + I) > Personalization > Background.
  2. From the drop-down menu under Background, select Solid color if you want a static solid color background, or Picture, in which case you’ll need to set a single picture as your new desktop wallpaper.

Disable background slideshow in Windows 11

  1. Go to Settings (Win + I) > Personalization > Background.
  2. Click on the Personalize your background option.
  3. Now change from Slideshow to Solid color or Picture, depending on whichever option you prefer.

Disable background slideshow caused by third-party apps

If you believe the problem is because of a wallpaper app you recently installed, then you need to go into its settings and disable Slideshow or any similar option.

For reference, in the Bing Wallpaper app, you get a tray icon from where you can toggle on Enable daily refresh – a feature that’ll change the desktop wallpaper to a different Bing image daily.

Simply toggling off the feature will solve your problem.

Likewise, depending on which third-party wallpaper app you’re using, try to find and disable its Slideshow or shuffle feature.

You can also uninstall the app if it’s causing too much annoyance.

4. Stop syncing Windows with another one of your PCs

Do you have more than one Windows 10 system – for example, a PC and a laptop?

Does the desktop on one of your machines change to look like the desktop of your other systems? 

If your answer is yes, Windows is likely syncing your PC settings with your other system.

Windows 10 and 11 have a sync feature built-in.

If you sign in to more than one PC using the same Microsoft account, the sync feature will allow you to synchronize various settings between all the PCs. 

These features include the theme, saved passwords, your language preferences, and ease of access settings.

In this case, your theme settings are likely getting synchronized between your different Windows systems. 

A Windows theme controls multiple UI elements, including the background wallpaper, color scheme, system sounds, and the mouse cursor.

As such, changing the theme will also change the overall appearance of your Windows desktop.

If your desktop is changing because the theme settings are getting synched between your various Windows systems, you can easily solve it by disabling the feature.

Turn off sync settings on Windows 10

Change Sync theme setting in Windows 10.
  1. Open the Settings app by pressing Win + I.
  2. Head into Accounts.
  3. From the left-hand panel, select the option – Sync your settings.
  4. Under the section Individual sync settings, there is the option for Theme. Toggle it off.

Turn off sync settings on Windows 11

How to turn off Sync Preferences in Windows 11.
  1. Press Win + I to open the Settings app.
  2. Go to Accounts from the left-hand panel.
  3. On the right-side panel, scroll down, and select the option Windows backup.
  4. From here, toggle off Remember my preferences.

With the sync settings disabled on your Windows machine, you can now customize your desktop to how you like, and it should not change back to what you have on your other systems.

5. Other solutions

If the above solutions don’t solve the problem, your Windows background is likely changing because of corrupted files or malware. 

In this case, you’ll need to repair the corrupted files or remove the malware to get your Windows system working normally again.

Delete and rebuild your icon cache

Do your Windows desktop icons look different or keep changing? If so, the icon cache is likely corrupted, and you’ll need to fix it. 

Delete and rebuild your icon cache on Windows 10

How to delete ironcache files in Windows.
  1. Open File Explorer. (Windows key + E).
  2. Go to C Drive > Users, and open the folder that’s your “username”.
  3. From the top toolbar, select View and then enable the option Hidden items.
  4. Navigate to AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Explorer. Here you’ll find a lot of cache files ending with the .db extension.
  5. Select & delete all the files that say iconcache. e.g., iconcache_32.db, iconcache_64.db, etc.
  6. Reboot your system.

Windows will automatically rebuild all the icon cache, and your desktop icons should go back to looking normal.

Delete and rebuild your icon cache on Windows 11

With Windows 11, you must follow the same process as on 10.

However, File Explorer changed with Windows 11, enabling the Show hidden files option has changed.

Fix your corrupted user profile

Does the desktop change to the default Windows look when you log in?

Do you see the blue wallpaper, the default icons on the taskbar, and just the This PC and Recycle Bin icons on the desktop? 

This can happen if your original User Profile and personalized settings are corrupted.

As a result, Windows pushes you to a temporary profile with the default configurations.

When logging in to your profile, you’ll see the message We can’t sign in to your account followed by You’ve been signed in with a temporary profile.

You can follow this guide to fix your corrupted user profile if this happens.

Scan Windows for malware

Sometimes a virus or malware can cause your system to keep changing your desktop.

Both Windows 10 and 11 come with the Windows Defender anti-malware software, which detects and removes common threats.

However, it can’t find all the security threats, which is why you might want to install something more powerful.