Fix for Desktop Icons Layout Not Getting Saved Upon Restarting Windows

Windows saves the desktop icon layout when the user logs off, and the setting is read during logon. Recently I came across a case where the desktop icons rearrange to their default positions after a restart or logoff/logon cycle. This turned out to be a Permissions issue with a registry key, which kept Windows from writing to it. Here are some fixes for this issue, applies to all versions of Windows including Windows 10.

Using Windows 10? Try these steps first

Recently more number of these cases have been reported; that the desktop icon position and folder views are not retained, is caused by a malware which modifies the following registry key:

HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID\{42aedc87-2188-41fd-b9a3-0c966feabec1}\InProcServer32

Start Regedit.exe and go to the above location. Double-click (default) and set its value data to:

%SystemRoot%\system32\windows.storage.dll

Repeat the same in the following registry path:

HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Wow6432Node\CLSID\{42aedc87-2188-41fd-b9a3-0c966feabec1}\InProcServer32

Then, delete the following branch at the HKEY_CURRENT_USER hive, not the one in HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT.

(The following branch is to be deleted irrespective of the Operating System you use.)

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\CLSID\{42aedc87-2188-41fd-b9a3-0c966feabec1}

Exit the Registry Editor.

REG File to automate the above three tasks: Download w10-desktop-icons-guid-fix.zip and save to desktop. Run the REG file to apply the contents to the registry.

Note: If you’re unable to change the value data and getting a permissions error, you need to take ownership of the above registry locations, and then update the value data. For information on how to change ownership, refer article Take ownership of a registry key.

Fixing the desktop folder views registry key (all versions of Windows)

Step 1: Terminate Explorer (Shell) Cleanly

In Windows 8 and 10:

Press and hold the CTRL & SHIFT keys, and right-click on an empty area in the Taskbar. Click the Exit Explorer option.

exit explorer windows 10

In Windows Vista & Windows 7

Click Start. Press and hold the CTRL & SHIFT keys, and right-click on an empty area in the Start menu. Click the Exit Explorer option.

In Windows XP:

1. Click Start, Turn Off computer.

2. Press and hold the CTRL, ALT and the SHIFT keys, and click the Cancel button.

For more information on restarting the Explorer shell, visit these pages:

  1. Exit Explorer and Restart Explorer in Windows 10 and Windows 8?
  2. Terminate and Restart Explorer.exe Process Cleanly in Windows 7 & Vista
  3. Terminate and Restart Explorer.exe Process Cleanly in Windows XP

Step 2: Fix Registry Key Permissions

1. Switch to Registry Editor window, and navigate to the following key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Shell\Bags\1\Desktop

2. Right-click on the Desktop key, and choose Permissions

3. Click Advanced, and delete any "Deny" entries if present.

(While you’re in that screen, make sure that your user account has "Full Control" (Allow) Permissions for the registry branch.

4. Click OK, OK.

5. See if you can create a sample registry value in the Desktop key to test if you can write to the branch.

Step 3: Reset the Desktop Icon Layout Registry Key

This step is required only if the problem remains unresolved although you’re able to write to the Desktop registry key.

1. Using the Registry Editor, rename the key Desktop to Desktop.Old

2. Exit the Registry Editor

3. Press CTRL + ALT + DEL to open Task Manager

4. From the File menu, click Run. Type Explorer.exe and press ENTER

Customize the desktop icons layout as you require, restart Windows and check if the icon positions are retained.

About the author

Ramesh Srinivasan founded Winhelponline.com back in 2005. He is passionate about Microsoft technologies and has a vast experience in the ITeS industry — delivering support for Microsoft's consumer products. He has been a Microsoft MVP [2003 to 2012] who contributes to various Windows support forums.

17 thoughts on “Fix for Desktop Icons Layout Not Getting Saved Upon Restarting Windows

  1. When I went to those registry keys, the values I was supposed to change were already what you said I was supposed to replace them with. However, I still have the desktop icon problem. Any ideas?

  2. I am using virtual XP (VXP) on a windows 7 machine.

    I’m stuck at the step, “1. Click Start, Turn Off computer.”

    In VXP, when I click Start, the only option I have is to “Log Off (user name)”.

    So how do I get past the first step of this fix?

    Thanks!

  3. OS: Vista Home Premium (64 bit).

    I had fixed auto-arrange problem maybe a year ago with a 3rd party program, LAYOUT.DLL and associated key LAYOUT.REG. Last week after removing some malware (which wasn’t a virus and didn’t seem to be causing a problem but turned up in a scan), the problem reappeared.

    I originally thought auto-arrange had come back after running Memory test and Drive test, but that’s only when I discovered it because of the restart. Can’t say whether icons were rearranged after Memory Test because I didn’t have to look at the icons to run Drive Test. When I started Memory Test I hadn’t recently rebooted so can’t say the problem definitely preceded it.

    Besides removing malware, I had installed one seemingly unrelated Windows update, which was only for Windows Defender.

    I tried merging again LAYOUT.REG, which made no difference. Then I tried System Restore, which made Windows Defender complain that it needed to update but otherwise made no difference. I am certain that the icon defaulting problem did not precede that restore point, since it was from only about 12 hours before and the problem is anything but subtle. I turn the computer off when I’m not using it.

    I’ve tried everything in this blog (permissions were all OK so no change there) up to and including renaming the Desktop key to OldDesktop and restarting Explorer. Now I’m really puzzled! Not only did it make no difference in the layout behavior, but I really expected Explorer would create a new Desktop key. It didn’t (yes, I refreshed the regedit display)!

    I believe LAYOUT.DLL is still working to some extent because if I enable auto-arrange or disable snap-to-grid and then restart Explorer I find those settings restored (but the icons defaulted).

    I’m not a real Windows geek, just an experienced user with a problem. I use regedit only when I have trustworthy-looking instructions to follow.

    CCleaner found a lot of registry issues, and I let it fix the ones I understood. The rest were missing shared dll’s for iTunes, invalid firewall settings (which I don’t dare fix because it took me a long time to get Vista, XP and 7 to talk to each other), unused file extensions (which I fixed with discretion) – nothing obviously related to this problem.

    I’ve found this blog quite instructive even though I still have this rather aggravating problem. I’d been using Restart and later Task Manager to exit/restart Explorer until I found here the right way to do it.

    Anything else I can try do to fix it?

  4. what exactly was the fix here ?????, all i seem to have done was to delete any denied entries and make sure my account was allowed, which it was.

  5. To run a program without Explorer running, give it the three key (Ctrl-Alt-Del) and from the next screen you see, Start Task Manager. In Task Manager’s Applications tab, press the New Task button. This will give you a dialog where you can enter the name of a program (like explorer.exe).

  6. I’ve tried this, it didn’t work for me – I deleted the “Desktop” key under Bags\1, and it never got re-created. Simply refreshing the desktop is enough for all icon positions to reset.

  7. Still need to know the registry key where the Icon’s desktop location is stored. If I can find the Reg Key I am looking for then I should be able to arrange my Icons on a “template” PC for a user, then go to the reg key where the desktop layout is and export the key. Then I should be able to go to a PC which has been imaged from the template PC and copy the Icon/shortcut etc to the public desktop folder, for example, import the reg key from the template system and when I log in as the user the Icon will be where it was on the “template” PC.

    In other words I want to clone the physical location on the desktop of an Icon via a reg import such that all I need to do is put the Icon in the Default Profile desktop folder or the Public Desktop folder and the via a reg import know that the icon will show up on the desktop in the exact location it was at on the PC I use for a “template” for the Icon location.

    I do not want a 3rd party program to do it for me I just want to know what reg key I need to export/import to clone the desktop location of an Icon for a user or as the case may be, all users, from one PC to another identical PC.

    Thanks for the help,

    Ralph

    Thanks for the help

  8. This same problem started happening to me as well; right after a MS Update several months ago. I’ve tried everything, including your instructions and NOTHING has worked. If you ever find a real fix for this… I’d love to hear about it.

  9. Same problem as Rob S. A user probably did something stupid on their machine and now “noticed” this issue. I did the steps above to no avail.
    Any other recommendations?

  10. I am having the same problem as willbfun.

    After removing several pieces of malware, all is OK except the system except that, on log off or restart, the icons reset to a default arrangement on the left and to medium size from a previously set small size.

    Please provide another solution as I have tried the one you offered without success.

  11. I have the same problem as “john neeting”; I have Windows 7 Ultimate 64 Bit, and followed all the instructions, including resetting the Desktop Layout Key, but icons still rearrange themselves after each reboot. Additionally, autoarrange and align icons to grid are turned off (unchecked), but no dice…! :(

  12. I did everything here but STILL the icons default. I might add this happened AFTER I cleared myPC of a virus. I reloaded a mirror copy of the whole drive from 2 weeks ago and evrything is fine but this icon rearrangement still happenes. I’m stumped.

  13. Use Ctrl+Alt+Del to open Task Manager and then click start new task. Type regedit, and away you go…

  14. “Switch to the Registry Editor window” . . . well, normally I would click Start | Run and type “regedit” to do that. But you had me stop Explorer in step 1. Maybe you could give us a clue how to start the registry editor after stopping Explorer? Or, maybe step 0 should be to start the registry editor so that the user can ALT TAB to it after stopping Explorer.

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