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

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

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

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

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:



  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

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:
  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

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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