How to Hide Desktop Icons in Windows

Right-clicking the desktop gives you the option to hide them in both Windows 11 and 10

What to Know

  • Right-click empty area of desktop > View. Select Show desktop icons to toggle checkmark and icons will hide.
  • Nothing is deleted, just hidden. All icons remain visible in File Explorer: C:\Users\[username]\Desktop.
  • Hide only some icons: Set the hidden file attribute or store the items in a folder with a blank icon and name.

This article describes all the ways you can hide desktop icons (files, folders, and shortcuts) in Windows 11, Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP.

How to Hide All Desktop Icons in Windows

It's easy: Right-click an empty area of the desktop and choose View > Show desktop icons.

Windows 11 Show desktop icons button highlighted.

If you're using Windows XP, the option in the right-click menu is Arrange Icons By > Show Desktop Icons.

Immediately, all the desktop icons, including the Recycle Bin, will disappear. Any new shortcuts or files added to the desktop will also be hidden. If you don't want to delete your desktop icons for good, this is the quickest way to make your desktop presentable and at least appear decluttered.

How to Hide Specific Desktop Icons

There are several ways to hide desktop icons if you only want some of them hidden.

Hide the Recycle Bin From the Desktop

In Windows 11/10, open Settings (WIN+i) and then go to Personalization > Themes > Desktop icon settings. In older Windows versions, right-click the desktop and go to Personalize > Change desktop icons.

Uncheck the box next to Recycle Bin and any other system icon you want to hide, and then select OK.

Windows 11 Desktop icon settings to hide the Recycle Bin.

To hide the Windows XP Recycle Bin, see our How to Remove the Recycle Bin From a Windows Desktop guide.

Hiding the Recycle Bin does not turn it off. It's still fully usable, so things you send to it will remain there until it's emptied, and you can still open it from File Explorer to restore deleted files (more on that below). It just won't be accessible directly from the desktop.

Hide Files/Icons With the Hidden File Attribute

Using the hidden file attribute is a neat trick to hide files and other items from any folder, including the desktop.

  1. Right-click the file, shortcut, or folder that you want to hide.

  2. Select Properties from the menu.

    File Properties menu highlighted in Windows 11.
  3. Choose the General tab if it isn't already selected, and select Hidden from the Attributes section at the bottom.

  4. Select Apply to see the file disappear. If it's a folder, you need to also select OK on the confirmation box.

    Hidden attribute on for a file on a Windows 11 PC desktop.

Make an Invisible Desktop Folder

Do you have lots of files or icons you want to hide? You can put it all in a hidden folder that sits on the desktop. Unlike the above method, you can make just one hidden desktop folder, but you can put other folders in it, and anything new you add to it will be automatically hidden as well.

To do this requires changing the folder icon and typing special characters into the file name box to make it all invisible:

  1. Make a new folder on the desktop if one doesn't already exist, and move anything into it that you want to hide. You can add files and icons to it later, too, but it'll be easier to do it now while it's still visible.

  2. Change the folder's icon. When you're picking a folder, scroll to the right until you find one that's blank.

    Changing icons to blank examples highlighted in Windows 11.
  3. Rename the folder, but type Alt+255 as the file name. This is the only way to hide the folder name, since deleting the name or adding a blank space isn't allowed.

    The quickest way to open the rename option is to left-click the folder once and select the F2 key. After typing the alt hotkey, press Enter or click elsewhere on the desktop to save it.

How to View Hidden Desktop Items

We explained a few different methods for hiding desktop items, but what if you want to view said files and shortcuts without actually undoing the above steps? There are a few ways to go about this, depending on the method you used.

If you hid all the desktop items at once, open File Explorer and change the path to Desktop (type Alt+D to change the path). This will show you everything that was previously visible on the desktop. The exception is the Recycle Bin; change the path to say Recycle Bin to view it.

Recycle Bin open in File Explorer.

If you used the hidden attribute on a file or folder, use our How to Show or Hide Hidden Files and Folders guide to learn how to make those items visible again. When you show hidden files/folders, they appear a bit darker than non-hidden items.

File Explorer Show hidden files option highlighted for Windows 11.

A hidden desktop folder is easy to locate if you highlight everything on the desktop with Ctrl+A. You can also open File Explorer to the desktop folder to see it listed next to everything else on the desktop.

Viewing a hidden folder on the desktop of Windows 11.

Reasons to Hide Icons on Your Desktop

We can think of a few reasons you might decide to hide desktop icons: to better see your awesome desktop wallpaper, to make your desktop look cleaner, and to hide sensitive data that you still want easy access to.

Of course, we recommend actually cleaning up your desktop, like putting documents in your Documents folders and creating desktop shortcuts to avoid accidentally deleting original files.

Also, as tempting as it is to hide important files on your desktop, it's unsafe to do so, especially if you share your computer with other people. As the previous section showed, it's really easy to unhide desktop icons in just a few seconds. It's much safer to encrypt your files behind a password.

  • How do I change the background in Windows?

    The fastest way to change the wallpaper in Windows is to right-click desktop > Personalize > Background. Then you can select images included with Windows

  • How do I take a screenshot?

    There's a key on your keyboard labeled PrtSc. Pressing that key takes a screenshot of the whole screen and places it on the clipboard ready for pasting into another app. If you hold down the Win key, your PC will take a whole screen screenshot and save it to the Screenshots folder inside Pictures. We go into more detail in our 4 Ways to Take Screenshots in Windows 11 article and, if you have an older version of Windows, you can check out our How to Take a Screenshot on a PC article.

Was this page helpful?