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Delete a Desktop Shortcut

Delete a Desktop Shortcut

Desktop Shortcuts

At times your desktop can get cluttered with desktop shortcuts and program icons making it hard to find things on the desktop and generally makes it cluttered.

When your desktop gets to a point where it is suffering from “desktop clutter” it’s time to delete a desktop shortcut or two.

Deleting a Program Desktop Shortcut

Deleting a program desktop shortcut does not remove the program from your computer. Moving the shortcut to the recycle bin only removes the program shortcut from the desktop.

Windows will remind you of this as you move the shortcut to the recycle bin:

Deleting the shortcut to (program name) only removes the icon. It does not uninstall the program…

Reference: Windows message window as you drop the program icon over the Recycle Bin

Deleting a File or Folder Desktop Shortcut

When you delete a desktop shortcut for a file or folder, unlike a program shortcut, you do not get a message from Windows.

Deleting a file or folder desktop shortcut which you created yourself does not remove the file or folder. It only removes the shortcut from the desktop.

If you downloaded something from the Internet to your desktop, then when you delete the shortcut, you will loose the program or file. See our Saving Downloads article for a better way to do this so you can include the file or program in your backup routine.

How to Delete a Desktop Shortcut

There are several ways to delete a desktop shortcut from the desktop in Windows.

Method 1

This first method to delete a desktop shortcut is quite simple:

  1. Move your mouse over the desktop shortcut you wish to delete and press the left mouse button.

    The icon will become selected and highlighted.

  2. With the icon still selected and the left mouse button still down, drag the desktop shortcut over to and on top of the Recycle Bin icon on the desktop.
  3. Release the left mouse button.

    If it is a program shortcut you are deleting, Windows will show a message (as explained above) and ask for confirmation.

    No message appears if the desktop shortcut is for a file or folder.

That’s it! You are done!

Missed the Recycle Bin? Then just repeat the instructions above, making sure this time you dragged the desktop shortcut over the Recycle Bin.

Method 2

  1. Left click the desktop shortcut to select it.
  2. Right click the desktop shortcut.

    A menu appears.

  3. Left click the Delete item on the menu that appeared.
  4. Windows will ask you to confirm deleting the shortcut.

    Just like our first method, you will get a message from Windows about deleting the shortcut if it is for a program. See the beginning of this article if you missed what the message says.

    For a file or folder shortcut, you will see a message from Windows asking for confirmation.

That’s it for method number 2.

Method 3

  1. Left click the desktop shortcut you wish to delete.
  2. On your keyboard, press the Delete button.

    The delete button is in the bottom left corner of the bank of buttons above your arrow keys, if you are using a desktop computer.

  3. You will get a message from Windows asking for confirmation.

    The messages for this method are the same as the ones for method 2 above.

Now that you know how to delete a desktop shortcut, there’s no excuse for your desktop to become cluttered with unwanted shortcuts.

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23 Responses to “ Delete a Desktop Shortcut ”

  1. Sardinien Ferienwohnung says:

    Wow this really will help me organize my files and get to access them easily thanks for your post its really a great help for me who don’t know nothing about deleting other shortcuts to the folder desktop.

  2. kris says:

    How about a list of the kinds of things people have on their desktops because they’re afraid to get rid of them, like installer icons (once the plug-in has been installed) or setup icons (once it’s been run)? what about those? And other things I’m forgetting to mention. What is it safe to get rid of on the desktop?

  3. kris,
    I would make sure that you have a backup copy of your plug-ins and programs that the setup icons are for before deleting them.

    The problem of these icons being on the desktop is quite common. When downloading programs and plugins, save the downloads in a folder instead of saving to the desktop.

    If you have removed a program from your machine, sometimes the removal doesn’t rdelete the desktop shortcut. These would also be safe to remove.

  4. Building Computers says:

    There is simple way to identify a shortcut from an executable file (.exe) in windows. A shortcut always has a small arrow on the bottom left.

  5. Janitorial Services says:

    Very useful, practical tips and step by step instructions. Finally! Quality content on the Web!

  6. You know…it is these simple things many of us take for granted. I do a lot of work with older folks that believe it or not…some barely know how to use the web. And sometimes I really have to slow down and go over something as simple as deleting a shortcut with them. We sometimes forget that some really have never do that before. Checking email is fun to teach someone who has never really done it.

  7. bob says:

    This is all easy stuff,how do you delete a shortcut in Vista,when the program is already deleted?It keeps saying cannot delete because the file does not exist.I have tried everything and cannot delete several icons,because the poor programs did not delete all the files as usual.

  8. Mike says:

    When I try to delete shotcut from desktop I get:

    “Could not find this item ”

    “This is no longer located in c:\users\Public\public desktop. Verify the items location and try again”

  9. Syaz says:

    Hello, i was just wondering, i deleted ALL my shortcuts that was on my desktop and defragged my pc using Auslogics Disk Defrag. After the reboot, i found out quite a number of applications/softwares being corrupted such as microsoft excel/word starter, tune up utility, and few others. Im 100% sure that everything i deleted was a shortcut. i Did system restore but to no avail. same problem occurs.. I doubt that deleting the shortcuts will cause problems and be detected as fragments using the defragging software?

  10. rodney says:

    followed your instructions for removing desktop icons but still cannot remove them. Their are 3 which denie me access to the file and requests confirmation. skype short cut tspro short cut and adobe x sortcut

  11. Brrenda says:

    I restored quite a few file from my recycle bin. Now, every time I start my computer, it loads all the shortcuts to the desktop. I tried deleting the shortcuts back to the recycle bin but upon rebooting, they all show up on my desktop again.

    How can I prevent them permanently from showing up on my desktop?


    • Try emptying the recycle bin before shutting down.

      • Brrenda says:

        I would really like to do that but how do I restore something if I accidentally delete it, if I delete my recycle bin?

        I also have a program that cleans my registry etc., and I notice that afterwards I have more in my recycle bin and I have had to restore some things that I didn’t want deleted. That is why I am hesitant to delete my recycle bin. If there are any alternatives, I would really appreciate knowing about them.


        • I would figure out how to stop the program you are using for cleaning purposes from removing the stuff you want to keep myself.

          Have you tried deleting the desktop shortcut, empty the recycle bin then running the cleaning program?

  12. JM says:

    I want to delete a shortcut on my desktop that is a file I made myself. Since the file is to big for the recycling bin, Windows asks me if I want to permanently delete it. Will that make in not available on my computer anymore?


    • Yes once you reboot the computer. However a computer forenstic person could probably find it. Do you use anything to wipe your free space?

      This article is about computer disposal but is also relevant to your question:

      First, you should understand that deleting files, and even formatting your hard drive, are not sufficient. Both processes really just remove the information the hard drive needs to find the data, not the data itself. Deleted files can be undeleted and formatted hard drives can be recovered.

      To be sure that your data is removed beyond all practical ability to recover it, you should use a wiping or erasing utility. These tools overwrite every sector of the hard drive with binary 1’s and 0’s. Those that meet government security standards even overwrite each sector multiple times for added protection.

      Erasing Your Personal Data Before You Sell or Trash Your Hard Drive

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