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Group and local policy settings enable users and administrators to control the way the computer functions and appears, including which items appear on the desktop. Application of group or local policy can sometimes be the cause of unexpected changes to the desktop, such as the disappearance of all icons.
If all icons on a desktop are missing and group or local policy does not seem to be the cause, check the computer's Active Desktop settings. If Active Desktop is enabled but no active content is selected for display, the desktop will be blank. To redisplay the default desktop icons, right-click the desktop, choose Active Desktop, and click Show Web Content if there is a check beside the command. Turning off Active Desktop in this way should cause the default desktop icons to reappear.
To configure additional Active Desktop properties, right-click the desktop and choose Properties, and then click the Web tab. This is where you can enable/disable Active Desktop content and add or remove active items.