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How to automatically hide desktops icons on Windows 10

Desktop icons can be both distracting and a source of clutter. One simple way to keep the desktop clean is to make a habit of saving files to properly named directories instead of dumping them on the desktop. If you, for example, download images for wallpapers, you can leave them in the Downloads library or dump them on the desktop. The best option though, is to create a dedicated folder for the wallpapers and save them there to avoid creating clutter.

Hide desktops icons on Windows 10

You can keep the desktop clean but never putting anything on it is a bit hard. Windows 10 users instinctively put frequently used files, folders, and app shortcuts on the desktop. It serves as a great quick-launch location so it’s hard to not put something on it. To keep it looking clean though, you can choose to hide desktop icons when you’re trying to eliminate distractions.

1. Desktop context menu

Windows 10 has a built-in option that you can use to hide desktop icons. It’s accessible via the GUI and does not require running a command to enable/disable.

  1. Go to the desktop (do not access it in File Explorer).
  2. Right-click on an empty area on the desktop.
  3. From the context menu, select View>Show desktop icons.
  4. Uncheck the option to hide the desktop icons.
  5. Repeat the above process and check Show desktop icons when you want to get them back.

2. Automatically hide desktops icons

The stock Windows 10 option for hiding desktop icons is easy to use but it’s clumsy. It forces you to hide/unhide the icons which may disrupt work. To automatically hide desktop icons, use a free app called AutoHideDesktopIcons.

  1. Download either the installable or portable version of AutoHideDesktopIcons.
  2. Run the app.
  3. Under Preferences, disable the ‘Hide taskbar‘ option.
  4. In the set of options on the right, select how you want to show the desktop icons.
  5. Use the slider at the bottom left to choose the ‘inactivity’ period whereby, if you do not click (left, right, or middle) on the desktop, the desktop icons will automatically be hidden.
  6. Close the app and it will minimize to the system tray.
  7. The desktop icons will be hidden automatically when you do not click on the desktop.
  8. To show desktop icons again, click with the mouse.


AutoHideDesktopIcons works great but it has one limitation. If you access the Desktop in File Explorer and try to organize, add, or remove files from it while the app is hiding icons, File Explorer will restart. A simple workaround to this is to organize items directly on the desktop after the icons have been set to show, or to first show them and then organize them from File Explorer.


Hiding icons on the desktop on Windows 1o isn’t hard. There are plenty of apps, free and paid, that do the job. There are also scripts that can perform the same function. It boils down to what’s easy to use and doesn’t interrupt the workflow.

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