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There are many reasons why you may be missing icons in Windows 7. You may have inadvertently removed an icon or changed a setting. Perhaps a bug or glitch of some sort caused them to disappear. No matter the cause, though, the important thing is getting your desktop icons back. The good news is that you have a few solutions to try and all of them are relatively quick and simple to perform.
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Restore Missing Icons from the Desktop View Menu
Perhaps the most common cause of missing icons in Windows 7 also has the simplest fix. Someone may have deselected the Show Desktop Icons option from the Desktop menu, intentionally or otherwise. To see if this is the cause and to restore your desktop icons, right-click any blank area of the Windows 7 desktop. Point to View in the contextual menu. Look to see if Show Desktop Icons has a check mark to the left of it. If not, click Show Desktop Icons to select it. Your icons should be restored automatically and instantly.
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Restore Missing Icons from Desktop Icon Settings
If Show Desktop Icons was already selected and you are still missing icons in Windows 7, the next solution to try is to go to Desktop Icons Settings. There are two ways to get there, so choose the one that seems easiest to you.
The first way is to right-click a blank area of the desktop and select Personalize. The Personalization window will open. Click Change Desktop Icons in the left pane of the window. The Desktop Icons Settings window will open.
The second way to open Desktop Icons Settings is via the Control Panel. Click Start and select Control Panel from the right side of the Start menu. Click Appearance and Personalization. Select Personalization and then click on Change Desktop Icons in the left pane of the window. The Desktop Icons Settings window will open.
Once you have the Desktop Icons Settings dialog box open, select the check boxes for the icons you want to display on the desktop. Click OK to apply the changes and close the dialog box.
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Restore Missing Icons from the Group Policy Editor
The final way to recover missing icons in Windows 7 is via the Group Policy Editor. Group Policy is used to specify user and computer configurations. You must be logged into the computer as an administrator to open the Group Policy Editor, and it is only available in Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate, and Enterpise editions. If you using Windows 7 Starter or Home Premium editions you will not have this option. To find out what version of Windows 7 you have, click the Start button, right-click Computer and select Properties. The version will be listed near the top of the main window under Windows Edition.
To open the Group Policy Editor, click the Start button, type gpedit.msc into the Instant Search box at the bottom of the Start menu and press Enter. (To find out more about Instant Search, read Searching for Folders in Windows 7.)
Click Administrative Templates under User Configuration. Double-click Desktop. Double-click Remove Name Icon, where Name is the name of the location for which the icons is missing. For example, if the Recycle Bin icon is missing, double-click Remove Recycle Bin Icon. Click the Setting tab, click Not Configured, and then click OK. Repeat for each of your missing icons in Windows 7.
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For more help with your Windows 7 desktop, read the Bright Hub articles Restoring Gadgets in Windows 7, How to Customize Windows 7 Desktop – Best Windows 7 Themes and How Do I Change the My Computer Icon in Windows 7?