How to Undo Desktop Icons Auto Arrange? [Quick Tip]

If you’ve accidentally reset your custom desktop icons layout by enabling Auto-arrange or by hitting a wrong key sequence, here is a neat trick to revert back to the original position.

Desktop icons layout remains in the memory until you initiate a logoff. During user account logoff or when restarting Explorer cleanly, the desktop icons position is saved to the registry.

To quickly revert to the original icon positions during the current logon session, forcible kill and restart the Explorer.exe process. To do that, press Win + R to launch the Run dialog, type the following command, and press Enter:

taskkill /f /IM explorer.exe

The above command works in all versions and editions of Windows. In Windows Pro editions, alternately, you can also use this command:

tskill explorer

This closes all folder windows, kills Explorer shell, and restarts it. The last saved desktop icons position (written during the previous logoff) is now applied. Of course, this would work only if you’ve inadvertently changed the desktop icon layout during the current logon session.

Note that cleanly exiting Explorer won’t help in this case, as it would save the current desktop icons layout to the registry.

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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 in 2005.

11 thoughts on “How to Undo Desktop Icons Auto Arrange? [Quick Tip]”

  1. Did not work in Windows 10 Home Version 1903 OS Build 18362.592.
    Went to all blue screen and stopped. Had to re-boot whole system.

    Ron L.

  2. No idea when this was written, but it still helps others like me in 2021!

    If you kill the shell you will simply have to log out and it will revert to the logon screen – at least in W10-pro it did.
    Thank you!

  3. If you get the blue screen don’t get bummed – it’s just half the battle.

    I ran the taskkill method and killed all of explorer, like expected, but it didn’t restart. Blue screen, no task bar, no start menu – like others said. But – then I just did the 3-finger salute (ctrl-alt-del) and ran Task Manager.

    Go to File -> Run new task

    Enter “explorer” (or maybe I typed explorer.exe? I bet both would work though)

    Everything came back – icons back in the places I wanted them to be. No restart/logoff required.

    Thanks for the tip!

    Windows 10 Home Edition – build 19042


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