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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/login 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, which apply to all versions of Windows, including Windows 10.

Fix for Desktop Icons Layout Not Getting Saved

1) Fix the MruPidlList Registry key in Windows 10

The desktop icon position and folder views may not be retained if malware has modified some settings under the MruPidlList registry key. To fix the settings, follow these steps:

  1. Start the Registry Editor (regedit.exe)
  2. Go to the following registry branch:
  3. Double-click (default) and set its value data to:
  4. Repeat the same in the following registry path:
  5. Then, delete the following branch under HKEY_CURRENT_USER. Do NOT delete the one under HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT.

    (The above branch is to be deleted irrespective of the Operating System.)

  6. Exit the Registry Editor.

REG File to automate the above three tasks: Download 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 to the article Take ownership of a registry key.

2) Fix the desktop folder registry key (all versions of Windows)

Step 1: Terminate Explorer (Shell) Cleanly

  1. Open the Registry Editor (regedit.exe)
  2. Press and hold the Ctrl & Shift keys, and right-click on an empty area in the Taskbar.
  3. Click the Exit Explorer option. This closes the Explorer shell cleanly.
The above applies to Windows 8 and Windows 10. For more information on restarting the Explorer shell, visit:
  1. Exit Explorer and Restart Explorer in Windows 10 and Windows 8
  2. Terminate and Restart Explorer.exe Process Cleanly in Windows 7 & Vista

Step 2: Fix Registry Key Permissions

  1. Switch to the Registry Editor window, and navigate to the following key:
  2. Right-click on the Desktop key, and choose Permissions.
  3. Click Advanced, and delete any “Deny” entries if present.
  4. Make sure that your user account has “Full Control” (Allow) Permissions for the registry branch.
  5. Click OK, OK.
  6. 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 + Shift + Esc to open Task Manager.
  4. From the File menu, click Run.
  5. Type explorer.exe and press Enter.
  6. Customize the desktop icons layout as you want.
  7. Log off and log back in to check if the icon positions are retained.
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