This post was born out of the fact that I really enjoy customizing the icon layout on my desktop, such as placing system icons in the top left corner, moving all app icons to the right side of the screen, etc., but I hate when all positions are icons change when I connect my computer to a TV or projector.
After you change your screen resolution, Windows automatically rearranges all your icons and all the hard work is lost! However, there are free tools that you can use to quickly save your desktop icon layout in Windows. For Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, I would recommend the DesktopOK program, which supports 64-bit operating systems. For Window 95, 98, ME, 2000 and XP there is an older program that still works great called Icon Restore
DesktopOK is a tiny application that I really like to use because it doesn’t have a lot of features and doesn’t require you to install it on your system. If you are a person like me and you just need to save a layout of your desktop icons once or twice a month, then this program is perfect. It also has some automated features, so if you need to save the layout more often, DesktopOK can handle that too.
Once downloaded, just unzip the file and move the executable to a more permanent location before running it. The interface is very simple which makes it very easy to use.
To save your current desktop layout, simply click the Save button. The list below will be automatically filled with a new entry. The name will be the default resolution and it will also record the time. If you want to change the naming convention, click Options and then Save Options and you can add additional elements to the name such as username, computer name, etc.
There are many other items in the Options section that are worth mentioning. First, autosave is useful when you want to capture the layout of desktop icons at set intervals. The autosave feature also only allows you to save when you make changes to the layout, which is useful as you might end up with many duplicates otherwise.
You can also save the layout on shutdown and restore the layout when loading a backup. You can also always restore it to a specific layout on boot. Finally, you can configure it so that DesktopOK starts when Windows starts and starts automatically in the taskbar.
If you want to restore a layout, just click a layout in the list and then click “Restore”. There is one important thing you should understand about how DesktopOK works, as I think it should work, but this can be confusing for new users: when you restore the desktop layout, any new items added to the desktop will remain in current positions.
If DesktopOK did not know about them when saving, it will not delete or move them until you perform a new save with new desktop items. I personally find this to be better because I would not want anything I added to the desktop to suddenly disappear when I perform a restore.
The program also has several other small but useful functions under the Tools menu item. On Windows, you can tiling or cascading windows. You can also hide the mouse cursor if it no longer moves for a certain number of seconds.
If you like a really clean desktop, you can hide the desktop icons when the mouse hasn’t moved for a certain number of seconds. Then you can choose to display them again when you left-click or right-click. If your mouse has a wheel, you can use it to adjust the volume when the mouse is on the taskbar, or to scroll through windows when it is in the main area of ??the desktop. Under System, you can open some common dialog boxes in Windows such as User Accounts, Task Manager, Display, etc.
Overall, DesktopOK is a useful tool for Windows users who want to keep the layout of their desktop icons. I found it very useful on my office laptop because that’s where my desktop icons are constantly being thrown around whenever I connect my laptop to an external display or projector. Now I can get my desktop back to normal in just a couple of clicks.
Icon Restore installs a DLL file named layout.dll that comes with the Resource Kit and the necessary registry entries. Once installed, you will find two new options when you right-click any Windows system icon: “Save Desktop Icon Layout” and “Restore Desktop Icon Layout”.
The Windows system icon means you can right-click My Computer, My Documents, or Trash to access the new menu options.
After you arrange the icons on the desktop in the order you want. Next, right-click “My Computer” and left-click “Save Desktop Icon Layout”. Now, if your computer’s screen resolution ever changes, or you need to start your computer in Safe Mode, etc., you can easily restore the previous position of the icons by right-clicking and choosing “Restore Desktop Icon Layout”.
There are other programs as well. which are more advanced and allow you to do things like create multiple layouts of icons and so on, but this program is free and works well for most people!
I played around with the program, saving the desktop, deleting the program executable file I downloaded from the Internet, and then restoring the desktop to see what happened. If you delete anything from your desktop, this item will not appear when performing a restore. This includes shortcuts, program files, text files, whatever!
I prefer this type of behavior because there are times when I add a bunch of shortcuts to my desktop but remove them later. Recovering icons will not restore those deleted icons, but it will keep the original position of other icons.