Desktop Icons not working in Windows 10

Are you facing and issue, where you find that your desktop icons are not working or showing in Windows 10/8/7? Usually, this happens if the file associations are messed up. Before telling you how to fix it, I will, in brief, talk about File Associations. If you have been working on computers for long, you can identify the applications needed to open certain files just by looking at their extensions.

Desktop icons not working

By default, file extensions are not shown in Windows Explorer. You have to go to Folder Options and uncheck Hide Extensions for Known File Types. The last two words of the option explain it all. File extensions are used to recognize file types. That is, if a file has.txt as its extension, you know it would open using Notepad, Word or even Microsoft WordPad/Write.

However, I recommend turning the visibility of extensions off, as many users might not be able to deal with them. There is always a possibility that you rename a file and overwrite the file extension – thereby, leaving it with no extension. In this case, Windows will present you with a dialog box when you double-click the file. The dialog box will ask you to select a program to open the file. The overwriting of file extensions is actually disassociating the file from regular applications and somewhat similar to the problem of desktop links not working in Windows 10/8/7.

We take a look at the following in detail:

  1. Desktop Icons and File Associations
  2. Fix .lnk File Association
  3. Use File Association Fixer.

1] Desktop Icons and File Associations

The desktop icons are shortcuts to respective applications. If you right-click any desktop icon and click on Properties, you will get a Properties dialog box with the Shortcut tab selected. If it is not, select the Shortcut tab to see the program, it is associated with.

Most of the shortcuts, whether on the desktop or elsewhere, have the extension “.lnk”r. Do not confuse it with the capital case of the alphabet “i”. It is – in fact – the lowercase of the alphabet “L”. That is supposed to mean ‘link’ without the ‘i’. This is where many get confused when setting up file associations as the characters look similar.

2] Fix .lnk File Association

Normally, most of us know which file types need what apps. If not, the option of searching the Internet is always there. Just open the Default Programs under All Programs in Start Menu and set up the file association. You can also use the Default Programs to make a file type open in a different application rather than having it open in what Microsoft decided is best for you.

In the case of desktop icons not working, however, you need to know what applications are required to open each type of icon. If you know, you can simply use the right-click ->Properties to set up the default program. Just browse Program Files – in the system drive – using Windows Explorer and copy the path of the application related to the desktop icon or shortcut. In the Properties dialog box, paste the path followed by the app’s executable name (see image below). To copy the path, click in the Windows Explorer Address bar, select all and then press CTRL+C.


3] Use File Association Fixer

There are some third-party apps available in the market to fix file associations automatically. I recommend our File Association Fixer available on The Windows Club. Since is the Internet, you should trust only credible sources. That fixes our problem of desktop icons not working. That also tells us what to do if any icon is not opening the desired application.

If you wish to dissociate files associations, check out Unassociate File Types Utility.

If your desktop icons do not display on your Windows desktop, try this fix. This post will show you how to hide or un-hide desktop icons in Windows 7.

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Arun Kumar is a Microsoft MVP alumnus, obsessed with technology, especially the Internet. He deals with the multimedia content needs of training and corporate houses. Follow him on Twitter @PowercutIN