Fix for Duplicate Desktop Icons in Windows

Every time when you place a file or a shortcut on your Desktop, you may get 2 identical icons. If one icon is deleted, the other icon will also be removed if you refresh the Desktop. The path for both icons would be the same. You may be wondering what causes the display of duplicate desktop icons in Windows.

Cause

This problem is caused by inadvertently dragging the desktop folder about in the person’s profile folder or All Users. Or, the user may have incorrectly changed the “User Shell Folders” registry value.

The Desktop is composed of two folders, one is the current user’s Desktop, and the other is the “All Users” (a.k.a, Public) Desktop. The Desktop is a special folder that displays the icons from both these locations.

Duplicate desktop icons issue occurs if both are set to the same folder. For instance, if the current user “Desktop” and All users’ “Desktop” paths (in the registry) are pointing to the same folder (e.g., %USERPROFILE%\Desktop), the Windows shell enumerates the items twice and displays the same set of icons twice on the desktop.



Fix for Duplicate Desktop Icons in Windows

To fix the duplicate desktop icons issue, fix the shell folder paths for “Desktop” folder in the registry. Follow these steps:

  1. Start the Registry Editor (regedit.exe)
  2. Go to the following location:
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders
  3. Double-click “Common Desktop” and set its value data to:
    %PUBLIC%\Desktop

    (Make sure that the value type is REG_EXPAND_SZ. If it’s showing up as REG_SZ, then delete the value and create a new value of type REG_EXPAND_SZ and name it “Common Desktop”)

  4. Go to the following location:
    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders
  5. Double-click “Desktop” and set its value data to:
    %USERPROFILE%\Desktop

    (Make sure that the value type is REG_EXPAND_SZ. If it’s showing up as REG_SZ, then delete the value and create a new value of type REG_EXPAND_SZ and name it “Common Desktop”)

  6. Exit the Registry Editor.
  7. Log off and log back in. Or restart the Explorer shell for the change to take effect.

I hope you were able to fix the double/duplicate icons issue on the Desktop. The above instructions apply to all versions of Windows, including Windows 10/11.


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Ramesh Srinivasan is passionate about Microsoft technologies and he has been a consecutive ten-time recipient of the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional award in the Windows Shell/Desktop Experience category, from 2003 to 2012. He loves to troubleshoot and write about Windows. Ramesh founded Winhelponline.com in 2005.

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