What does Refresh Desktop or Refresh explorer window actually do?

I am sure that you must have noticed that when you right-click on your Windows desktop or inside an open explorer window, you see an option called Refresh in the context menu. The Refresh option has been there since you can remember!

But have you really wondered what this option actually does? Does it refresh your Windows OS and keep it running smoothly? Does it make your Windows faster? Or maybe you think it will clear your computer’s memory or refresh the RAM…? Actually it is none of these!

What does Refresh Desktop or Folder do

The Desktop is nothing but a folder in the Windows operating system. It is programmed to auto-refresh when its contents change. When the contents of the folder changes, it will auto-refresh. But at times, you may find that the desktop or folder does not auto-refresh.

You may then need to refresh your desktop manually in the following circumstances:

  • The desktop does not display the files or folders you just created, moved, deleted, renamed or saved on it
  • You need to re-align your desktop icons
  • You find that you cannot use the desktop icons.
  • Files that were created to the desktop by some 3rd-party application do not appear
  • And such similar situations where the contents of the desktop or the folder do not change when expected to.

In such a case, when you press F5 or right-click on your Windows desktop and select Refresh, the situation will be corrected. Manually refreshing the desktop or folder may re-order its contents as, folders first, then files, in an alphabetical order.

But if you constantly need to use the Refresh option frequently, to refresh your desktop or explorer windows, you may want to see this fix – Desktop does not refresh automatically in Windows 7.

Why do some people Refresh desktop constantly?

You may have noticed that some people just refresh their desktops frequently for the sake of refreshing it. It has become almost like a compulsive disorder, to refresh the desktop constantly. You may have noticed this habit especially among some Computer Engineers and Technicians who are obsessed with using the Refresh option – almost in a state of frenzy.

What is the reason for this? There is no need or reason to do this. It is just a silly habit, they simply need to break.

Do you have any friends who are in habit of using Refresh Desktop option frequently? Maybe you want to share this post with them.

Or maybe you too are one of them … if so do try and break this habit! 😉

NOTE: The Refresh option cannot be removed from the right-click context menu, or changed as it is not a shell extension, but is hard coded in the operating system.

Posted by on , in Category Windows with Tags
Anand Khanse is the Admin of TheWindowsClub.com, an end-user Windows enthusiast, & a 10-year Microsoft MVP Awardee in Windows for the period 2006-16. Please read the entire post & the comments first, create a System Restore Point before making any changes to your system & be careful about any 3rd-party offers while installing freeware.


  1. LOL! I kinda have this 🙂
    but I only refresh after restarting explorer…

  2. hilman firdaus

    LoL im one with that wkwkwkwk

  3. Skylab

    I confess, I do it constantly! 😀 Although it makes me rage… 🙁

  4. Anil

    He he he i was in wrong assumption. Thanks 🙂

  5. Guest

    My XP desktop refreshes automaticly….but it seems to take forever. All the icons turn to some generic looking creature first. Cause???

  6. Aamir Berni

    Every time I go to some Internet Cafe, the engineer would keep refreshing the desktop like crazy, especially if I have any sort of complaint! I have never seen anything good coming out of this silly habit.

  7. Prashant

    I hate to see people doing that and I feel they are stupid. It’s very common with people working at internet cafe, printing press etc. commercial places. I see it almost everywhere.

  8. Mr.Wildfire

    I was born into Windows 95 and the awesome Windows Millennium Edition. Right click -> Refresh was the only way to be sure the OS was working 😛

  9. hosien max

    Thanks man !

  10. UberUltimate

    lol this is totally me… I refresh every 1 minute 🙁

  11. James M Singleton

    If the auto-refresh worked as it should, this wouldn’t be an issue.

  12. joy

    you are right

    i have many comp-engineer friend who frequently use refresh key because today people assume that they understood computer and they know everything about computer .

    but ” there is difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something. “

  13. Zheka

    I want to remove the Refresh option. Is there a way?

  14. This is super cool! Thanks a lot, Anand.

  15. Not possible. It is hard-coded.

  16. You are welcome. 🙂

  17. Sachin Kumar Sahu

    i got the refreshing addiction from my bro 😀

  18. Jinglebob

    I have to refresh constantly, especially videos on Explorer but not at sites like youtube. What gives?

  19. Aung Kyaw Myint

    How to add ( new) item to window right click menu ..please answer me 🙂

  20. Tchabe Tchabe

    Thanks so much, this was me! somebody just asked me about it and thats why i got here and lol! i will share with him its really crazy…

  21. ogbodojnr

    i do it sometimes.

  22. moongya

    m a chronic refresh addict. Also for some reason I am compulsive about invoking the task manager to check system resources. Is there a cure?

  23. Brian

    I have windows 8.Just ran a Refresh,and it has taken all my game apps,and panda security,tc.Can I re-insall these,or are they lost?

  24. You are talking about Refresh PC http://www.thewindowsclub.com/repair-windows-8. This will keep your files and personal settings as it is, but the rest will be reset to default settings. Moreover, any downloads from App Store will be removed. So you will have to reinstall them.

  25. Brian

    thankyu Anand for helping me so quickly.Brian Vendt Australia

  26. Alina

    Not possible.

  27. Harun Hernandez

    bur one thing is undeniable – the second refresh is executed much quicker than the first. It’s evidence that the computer is getting faster, so it’s working!

  28. Kashif

    In refreshing disorder people think their PCs are horses and they are doing horse whipping.

  29. Mi Woj

    that part about refreshing compulsive disorder is almost scary. i know people mindlessly doing it all the time thousand times a day, believing it actually does something. i’ve been wondering about it for years.

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