PCs

Return familiar icons to your Vista desktop

While Microsoft has made Vista’s desktop a clean environment, they completely removed all of the familiar icons from Windows XP. Greg Shultz explains how you can return Computer, Documents, Network, and Internet Explorer icons to your desktop.

While Microsoft has made Vista's desktop a clean environment on which the Windows Sidebar can really shine as the main component, it completely removed all of the familiar icons from Windows XP. Missing in action are the Computer, Documents, Network, and Internet Explorer icons. In fact, the only icon on Vista's desktop is the Recycle Bin. Fortunately, you can easily put all those missing icons back on the desktop.

In this edition of the Windows Vista Report, I'll show you the two procedures you'll need to return Computer, Documents, Network, and Internet Explorer icons to your desktop. You can even put the Control Panel icon on your desktop.

Restoring the Computer, Documents, and Network icons

Figuring out where to start with restoring the Computer, Documents, and Network icons to the desktop can be a bit tricky, especially if you don't know where to look. To begin, right-click on the desktop and select the Personalize command from the Context menu (Figure A).

Figure A

Figure A

Right-click on the desktop and select the Personalize command.
When you do, you'll see the Personalization folder from the Control Panel. If you're like most users transitioning over from Windows XP, you would immediately begin scanning through the icons in the Personalization folder and might select Desktop Background or even Display Settings. However, in order to restore your desktop icons, don't select a Control Panel icon -- instead, select the Change Desktop Icons command in the Tasks section in the upper left corner of the folder window (Figure B). Believe it or not, it's very easy to miss this command.

Figure B

Figure B

You click the Change Desktop Icons command, which is hiding in plain sight in the Tasks section.
When the Desktop Icon Settings dialog box (Figure C) appears, you'll see that it is very similar to Windows XP's Desktop Items dialog box, which you used to access by clicking the Customize Desktop button on the Desktop tab of the Display Properties dialog box. Restore the Computer, Documents, and Network icons simply by selecting the appropriate check boxes. As a bonus, you can also add the Control Panel to the desktop.

Figure C

Figure C

Once you access the Desktop Icon Settings dialog box, restoring the icons is a quick and easy procedure.
If you wish, you can select any one of the example icons in the center pane and click the Change Icon button, choosing from hundreds of alternative icons (Figure D).

Figure D

Figure D

Vista's DLL files contain literally hundreds of icons from which you can choose.

Restoring the Internet Explorer icon

As you may remember, Windows XP's Desktop Items dialog box had a check box that allowed you to put Internet Explorer's icon on the desktop. However, there isn't a similar check box in Vista's Desktop Icon Settings dialog box.

In order to get the Internet Explorer icon back on the desktop, you have to edit the registry. Before I show you how, I have to remind you that editing the registry can be tricky, so make sure that you create a restore point and have a recent backup.

To launch the Registry Editor:

  1. Click the Start button.
  2. Type Regedit in the Start Search box.
  3. Press [Enter].
  4. When the Registry Editor appears, navigate to the following folder:

    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\

    CurrentVersion\Explorer\HidedesktopIcons\NewStartPanel
  5. Click anywhere inside the NewStartPanel folder.
  6. Pull down the Edit menu and select the New | DWORD (32-bit) Value command (Figure E).

Figure E

Figure E

Make sure that the NewStartPanel folder has the focus before you select the New | DWORD (32-bit) Value command.

  1. When the new value appears, type in the following code, including the brackets: {871C5380-42A0-1069-A2EA-08002B30309D}
  2. Press [Enter] twice.
  3. When you see the Edit DWORD (32-bit) Value dialog box, type 0 in the Value Data text box (Figure F).

Figure F

Figure F

Type 0 in the Value Data text box.

  1. To complete the operation, click OK and close the Registry Editor. In a few moments, you'll see an Internet Explorer icon on your desktop.

What will you do with your new icons?

Now that you know how to restore icons to the Vista desktop, will you restore all of the icons or just a few? Which ones? Stop by the discussion area and let us know what you think.

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About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

18 comments
waishuen26
waishuen26

It's easy to return icons, thank you. Sofi

charliedennis
charliedennis

Thank you SO much for this. I was wondering how to restore the IE icon back to the desktop. Only question is...why would Microsoft not include it with the others???

jnanning
jnanning

Who needs them.... I haven't missed them... I doubt if I ever used them that much...

The Cars Forever
The Cars Forever

Hello, There is another way to acquire these icons again, but it also changes the START menu. 1) Edit the Taskbar And Start Menu Properties (In Control Panel or Right-Click the START button and choose Properties). 2) Ensure you are on the 'Start Menu' tab. 3) Click the Radio Button for 'Classic Start menu.' 4) Click OK Now you will have the USER, COMPUTER, NETWORK and INTERNET EXPLORER icons on the desktop. This does change the START menu to the 'Classic' style though which some love and some hate. Hope this helps out, Chris

harishvenugopal
harishvenugopal

It is very informative and i'm happy to have the familiar icons back on the desktop of vista's. Thank you for such a wonderful information

Major Payne
Major Payne

Oh gee that's so simple! LOL I thought PCs would be getting easyier to use as time goes on. Like explaine to me why I have screen saver page and commands but-they don't work?

BrendanMeehan
BrendanMeehan

George, I think this is the first time I've seen one of your articles messed up. I'm certain I'll like this article better after you fix the Figures!

brian.burrows10
brian.burrows10

to return windows explorer to desktop icon programs,accessories,internet explorer, right click, send to, desktop(shortcut)

CBS224
CBS224

The figures in your blog are not showing.

seanferd
seanferd

a limitation of the user account you're logged into, or is that just Vista?

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

Yes, you can easily create shortcut to Internet Explorer on the desktop. However, the technique presented in this article actually puts a direct reference to the Internet Explorer's executable file on the desktop, which is the way that it was in Windows XP. Thus, you can right click on the icon and get to Internet Options and actually configure Internet Explorer.

rwpank
rwpank

I don't believe you will be able to edit IE internet properties in a short-cut.

Leee
Leee

I tested this in Firefox and IE 6. Have you tried clearing your cache and reloading the page?

carltonlovett
carltonlovett

Just in case your IE icon does not appear on the desktop after the registry change, right click the desktop and click refresh and will appear.

alec.wood
alec.wood

An irrelevant comment - "I've seen better weather"

Stockel1949
Stockel1949

Same problem with Vista and IE7 and/or Firefox !!!

home4ktt
home4ktt

The images don't show for me either. If you right-click where the image should be, save the 'image location' and paste it into Notepad you will see the port number being used is 8100 instead of the normal 80. Any decent firewall will block that, hence no images.