How to Hide Desktop Icons (Win XP)

desktop-cc-icon Some people drop shortcuts and files all over their Windows Desktop. The result will be something between rigid organization and total chaos. There are a few people who can’t stand to see anything on their Desktop except the nice wallpapers they put there. Here are a few tips for these neat freaks.

A. Right Click Method
— If you’ve been around Windows awhile, you probably already know this method. Right click anywhere on an empty area of your Desktop, and choose “Arrange Icons By“, then select “Show Desktop Icons“. Use this method to show or hide icons any time you wish. Just be aware that it takes Windows a seemingly long, 5 or 6 seconds to actually react to this choice. Why does it take so long? Ask Bill Gates.


B. Registry Hack

— If you plan to make changes to the registry, be sure to create a backup before making changes. You can use the ERUNT tool to back it up, create a System Restore point, or you can read my post on how to use Regedit.

This hack will hide all the desktop icons until you remove it. Open Regedit and navigate to:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ SOFTWARE\ Microsoft\Windows\ CurrentVersion\ policies\ Explorer

Then add a new DWORD named NoDesktopwith a value of 1.

Here’s the registry merge script in case you want to create a .REG file.





If you don’t understand something in this section, I’ll remind you to read my post telling you how to use Regedit. Don’t mess with the Windows Registry unless you have a basic knowledge of how it all works.

C. Freeware app Desktop Control Center

— Ok, I’ll confess, I am one of those neat freaksat times and my Desktop has way too many icons on it. My favorite method for hiding them is a little utility created by Robert Hess, a Microsoft Software Designer.

Desktop Control Center (DCC) is one of those hard to findutilities, written way back in the early 1990’s. It’s tiny, at 19k, and it’s a stand-alone, single executable file.

I usually set a link to it in my Quick Launch as shown below. The second, green icon is Desktop Control Center.


Once launched, it’ll give you the option to hide all the icons, when you chose Hide the Desktop Window.


You can close the DCC app as soon as you’ve made a choice. It doesn’t need to continue running. The reason I always place it next to the blue Show Desktopshortcut, is that when you hit Show Desktop, all your application Windows will minimize just an you’d expect, however, all your hidden icons will temporarily show on the desktop for you as well. Now that’s a neat trick.

Oh, in case you want it, here’s the green desktop icon I made for the Quick Launch shortcut. I created it with IcoFX.

The original icon for DCC is not very nice looking.


Download Desktop Control Center

By the way, I have to give DCC a thumbs up. It’s a great little app.



I’ve shown you three ways to hide the Desktop icons. Do you have your own special tricks for organizing and hiding icons on the Desktop? If so, please comment below.

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Clif Sipe

Promoting Freeware and Free information since 2004. Owner of with over 2000 pages of freebies. Please subscribe to my Google Feed or follow me on Twitter @clifnotes.

  • Freeware app – Desktop Control Center is not bad, we created a simular freeware ( DESKTOP ICONS XP ) that controls from the tray icon such as, HIDE ME, SHOW ME and EXIT. It will be availible for download soon.

    • Grafix Lord has finished a great replacement for the old utility I wrote about in this post. Thanks GL, it's better, and will hide the icons with an autorun setting.

  • T Dinning

    I use Fences by Stardock. I can organize all my icons by use or type; e.g., all of my frequently used business shortcut folders in my "Often used" fence, all of my app shortcuts in my "Apps" fence, my documents for my extracurricular activities each in its own "group" fence, etc. I can hide all of them by double-clicking the desktop, and bring them back anytime I want. I LOVE IT!

    • Thanks T – I had never tried it. It does sound pretty good.

  • Tucker McPherson

    I like Iconoid by Doug Nadel. It’s 100% free with no nags and works great.
    Among other things, it can auto-hide/show desktop icons to a set time via mouse pointer focus.
    I set it so when my mouse pointer leaves the desktop my icons fade away after 20 seconds and come back right away when it returns.
    It works on Windows 2000, XP, Vista and Windows 7.

    • Thanks for the tip, Tucker.