This article explains how to hide files, folders, and shortcuts on the desktop in Windows 11, Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP.
How to Hide All Windows Desktop Icons
It’s simple: Right-click an empty spot on the desktop and choose View > Show desktop icons.
When you right-click in Windows XP, you can choose Arrange Icons By > Show Desktop Icons.
Right away, everything on your desktop, including the Recycle Bin, will go away. Any shortcuts or files that you add to the desktop after that will also be hidden. If you don’t want to get rid of your desktop icons for good, this is the fastest way to clean up your desktop and make it look less cluttered.
How to Hide Certain Icons on Your Desktop
If you only want to hide some of the icons on your desktop, there are several ways to do so.
Cover up the trash can on the desktop
Open Settings (WIN+i) in Windows 11 or Windows 10 and go to Personalization > Themes > Desktop icon settings. Right-click the desktop and go to Personalize > Change desktop icons in older versions of Windows.
Uncheck the box next to the Recycle Bin and any other system icons you want to hide, and then click OK.
See our How to Remove the Recycle Bin From a Windows Desktop guide to learn how to hide the Windows XP Recycle Bin.
Use the Hidden File Attribute to Hide Files and Icons
You can hide files and other items from any folder, including the desktop, by using the hidden file attribute.
- Click the right mouse button on the file, shortcut, or folder you want to hide.
- From the menu, choose Properties.
- If it isn’t already selected, click on the General tab and choose Hidden from the Attributes section at the bottom.
- Click Apply to get rid of the file. If it’s a folder, you also need to click OK in the box that pops up.
Make an Invisible Desktop Folder
Do you want to hide a lot of files or icons? You can put it all in a folder on the desktop that is hidden. Unlike the method above, you can only make one hidden desktop folder. You can put other folders in it, and any new folders you add will also be hidden.
To do this, you have to change the icon of the folder and type special characters into the file name box.
- If there isn’t already a folder on the desktop, make one. Then, move anything you want to hide into the new folder. You can add files and icons to it later, but it’s easier to do it now while it’s still visible.
- Change the icon of the folder. If you want a blank folder, scroll to the right until you find one.
- Change the name of the folder, but for the file name, type Alt+255. This is the only way to hide the name of a folder since you can’t just delete the name or add a blank space.
How to View Hidden Desktop Items
We showed you a few ways to hide files and shortcuts on your desktop, but what if you want to see them again without going back through the steps above? Depending on the way you did, there are a few ways to do this.
If you hid everything on the desktop at once, open File Explorer and type Alt+D to change the path to Desktop. This will show you everything you could see on your desktop before. The Recycle Bin is the only exception. To see it, change the path to say Recycle Bin.
If you made a file or folder hidden, you can use our How to Show or Hide Hidden Files and Folders guide to making those items visible again. When you show hidden files and folders, they look a little darker than things that aren’t hidden.
If you use Ctrl+A to select everything on the desktop, it’s easy to find a hidden desktop folder. You can also open File Explorer and go to the desktop folder to see it listed with everything else on the desktop.
Why You Might Want to Hide Your Desktop Icons
We can think of a few reasons why you might want to hide desktop icons: to see your cool desktop wallpaper better, to make your desktop look cleaner, or to hide sensitive data that you still want to be easy to get to.
We do recommend that you actually clean up your desktop by putting documents in your Documents folders and making desktop shortcuts so you don’t delete original files by accident.
Also, as tempting as it is to hide important files on your desktop, it’s not safe to do so, especially if you share your computer with other people. As the last section showed, it only takes a few seconds to show desktop icons that have been hidden. Putting a password on your files makes them much safer.