Clean up Your Windows Desktop

Make better use of your computer's memory

Removing files from desktop illustration

SchoonIngekaderd / Pixabay


If your formerly fast-running computer has slowed down noticeably, take a close look at your desktop. Is it littered with icons, screenshots, and files? Each of those items takes memory that your computer could put to better use elsewhere. To speed up your computer, clean your Windows desktop.

Instructions in this article apply to Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows 7.

How Many Files Are on Your Desktop?

Each time Windows starts, operating memory is used to display all files on the desktop and to locate the position of all files represented by shortcuts. If there are dozens of files sitting on the desktop, they use lots of operating memory, essentially for no purpose or gain.

With less memory available, the computer runs slower because it has to swap out information from operating memory to the hard drive. It performs this process, called memory paging, to keep everything the user wants to do running at the same time.

Clean Your Desktop

The best solution is to put your documents in the My Documents folder and your other files where they belong (anywhere other than the desktop). If you have numerous files, you can put them in separate folders and label them accordingly.

Create shortcuts on your desktop only for the folders or files you frequently use. Simplifying the desktop contents frees up operating memory, reduces the time and frequency the hard drive is used and improves the response of your computer to programs you open and things you do. The simple act of cleaning the desktop makes your computer run faster.

Screenshot of Create Desktop Shortcut

How to Keep It Clean

The more desktop items you have the longer it takes for your computer to start up. Make a conscious effort to "park" fewer icons on your desktop. Other steps you can take include:

  • Schedule a weekly or monthly cleaning to corral any stray items that have gathered on your desktop since the last cleanup.
  • Use the Start Menu as a parking place for app shortcuts. Pin any app on your desktop to the Start Menu by right-clicking it and selecting Pin to Start.
Screenshot of Pin to Start
  • Delete any shortcuts, screenshots, or files you no longer use.
  • Gather all the files and folders you want to keep on the desktop and instead place them in a single folder on the desktop.
  • Hide all the icons on the desktop by right-clicking on the desktop, going to View and deselecting Show desktop icons in the context menu. Repeat the process to show them again.
Screenshot of Show Desktop Icons

You may need to organize your Start Menu into groups to keep everything there tidy and accessible.

Before you know it, hoarding files on your desktop will be a thing of the past and your computer will be running like it did when it was new.