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     Show Desktop icon missing from Quick Launch bar - how to restore it (Windows 98 to Vista, not 7)     
In Windows 7, the Show Desktop icon was no longer a shortcut on a Quick Launch toolbar by the Start button, as in the preceding versions of Windows (see Fig 1).  Instead, it was a permanent button at the opposite end of the taskbar by the clock.  That new-found permanency meant, for Windows 7 users at least, the Show Desktop item could never accidentally go missing again.  It took Microsoft 11 years to come up with that simple improvement.

Be that as it may, since you are reading this page, it is probable you are using a version of Windows earlier than 7.  In which case, if it is your complete Quick Launch bar which is missing, you should go to our separate article about the QLB.  Or, if your QLB is present and correct, and just your Show Desktop icon is missing from it, please read on.

The single most important item on a bottom taskbar is, without doubt, the Show Desktop function.  One click on it instantly minimises all open windows down to buttons on the taskbar.  This is indispensable anytime you want to get to a standard shortcut on the desktop which is obscured behind several opened windows.  Another click on the Show Desktop icon will unminimise the minimised windows.  Hence, if a standard Quick Launch toolbar is in place, but the Show Desktop icon is missing from it, this is a serious inconvenience.

If the Show Desktop icon cannot be seen, on a pre-Windows 7 computer, that does not necessarily mean it has completely gone from the machine.  The icon may still be lurking on there somewhere.  The checks in items 1, 2 & 3 next will establish if that be the case and, if so, will explain how to return the icon to where it belongs on the QLB.  However, if going though items 1, 2 & 3 establishes the icon really has gone for good, or you already know that for a fact, then subsequent item 4 contains instructions for creating a brand new replacement icon.  Whatever your problem turns out to be, you will find it is, fortunately, in every case, quite easy to fix.

(1)  The absent icon might merely be hiding somewhere.  If you can see a double chevron at the right-hand edge of the Quick Launch bar, that means there are hidden icons on it.  Click the chevron and check if the Show Desktop icon is one of the hidden ones.  Icons can, unfortunately, be shunted from their normal, visible position on the QLB if a newly-installed program has inserted its own icon on the toolbar, or if a user has moved the icons about.  If clicking the double-chevron revealed the Show Desktop icon to be there, use the left-hand mouse button to drag the icon to its historical position next to the Start button.  If the icon is definitely not there, move on to item 2 next.

(2)  If the Show Desktop icon was not revealed by clicking the double-chevron, or there was no chevron anyway, the next possibility is that somebody might have accidentally dragged the icon off the Quick Launch bar onto the desktop.  Look carefully through all the icons on the desktop.  If you see the icon there, use the right-hand mouse button to drag it back on to the Quick Launch bar > when you see a vertical insertion bar appear, drop the icon > from the context menu, choose Move Here.  If you have trouble moving the icon see tip 1 in the tips' box in the RH column.

(3)  If the icon was not hiding, nor residing somewhere on the desktop, the next possibility is that somebody might have accidentally or maliciously deleted the icon and, with luck, it may still be in the Recycle Bin.  Double-click on the Recycle Bin icon to open the bin and look through the contents to see if there is a file in there called Show Desktop.  If there isn't, jump down to the next item (4).  If there is, right-click on it and click Restore.  This will move the icon back to whichever folder it was in at the time somebody deleted it.  Look to see if it has been restored directly to the Quick Launch bar.  If you can't see it there, click the chevrons as it may be hidden behind them.  If you see the icon there, use the left mouse button to drag it to its rightful place next to the Start button.  If the restored icon is nowhere to be seen on the Quick Launch bar, look on the desktop for it.  If it's not there either, do a normal file search of your computer's C: drive for 'Files and folder' named Show Desktop and, provided such a file is found, and is in a folder other than the Windows directory, use the right-hand mouse button to drag it onto the Quick Launch bar.
N.B. You should choose to unhide system files for the above file search to be effective.  If a file named Show Desktop was found, but it was inside the Windows directory, ignore it and jump down to Method B below to continue.

(4)  If, after carrying out the above checks, you are still minus the Show Desktop icon, that means the corresponding file has somehow been erased from your hard disk.  The icon is not an ordinary (.lnk) shortcut file but something called a 'Windows Explorer Command' (a .scf file).  The command file requires a special process in order to restore it.  It is no use looking in Windows' local Help for assistance either, as there is no mention in there of how to restore the icon.  An inexcusable omission.

We actually know of five different ways to restore a permanently erased Show Desktop icon and we cover the four most intrinsic ones in this article.  The four methods are quite varied in their means of approach, so we suggest you simply use the first one you come to that suits the way you personally like to go about things on Windows.  If you like using Notepad, Method A is good.  If you like downloading zip files, Method B is good.  Methods A and B will work for all versions of Windows from Windows 98 thru XP and Vista.  Methods C & D are only available to users of Windows 98 or Me.  The difference being, in the case of NT-based systems e.g. XP, you will have lost the icon's original file, so a new one will be needed.  But, in the case of DOS-based systems e.g. Win 98, the icon's original file will not have been erased, only a replica of it, so a replacement replica is all that is required.

Method A involves recreating the missing file from scratch.  But it only needs Windows Notepad to do so, and is really easy to do.  With Method B, we have already created the icon file (using Notepad) in a zip file - so it merely needs downloading from here.  Ideal if you like the really easy life!  Method C (98 or Me only) works by substituting a normal shortcut for the missing Windows command, but the end result will look and work just the same as if you had used Method A or B.  Also, Method C uses routine Windows' procedures that anyone except a complete beginner should find familiar.  Method D© is unique to this website (but 98 or Me only).  It is a super-fast variation on Method C which can have a substitute shortcut in place in 25 seconds flat.
Method A - Use Notepad to recreate a 'Show Desktop.scf' file - Windows 98 thru XP & Vista  
1.   Open Notepad and either type in or paste in the five command lines you can see in Fig 2.  The text needs to be exactly as shown - except that the capital letters are optional.  If you are using Vista, and prefer to have Vista's new icon design, change the middle line of text, after pasting it into Notepad, to read...
2. Save the Notepad file to your desktop as Show Desktop.scf.  To do so, click File > Save As... > at 'Save in', choose Desktop > at 'File name', type in Show Desktop.scf * > at 'Save as type', choose 'All Files (*.*)' > Save > close Notepad.
  * The file has to be named exactly as shown, including the white space and the capital letters.  This is because the name part (extension excluded) also serves as the hover label (tool tip) for the new icon.
3. After step 2, you will have acquired an icon on your desktop, the same as or similar to the example in Fig 1 right.  Using the right-hand mouse button, drag the icon over the Quick Launch bar, release the mouse button only when you see the insertion bar and, at the context menu which appears, left-click on Move Here.  If you have trouble moving the icon see tip 1 in the RH column.  Finally, use the left mouse button to drag the icon so it is next to the Start button, and that's it, finished.
  N.B. If you use Windows XP or Vista, you may find that adding a new shortcut to the Quick Launch bar causes the taskbar to double in height.  If this happens, right-click on the taskbar, untick 'Lock the Taskbar', and then you should be able to drag down its height.  If this fails to work, see our related article on the Quick Launch bar for more fixes (there is a link to the article at the bottom of this page).
Method B - Download a ready-made 'Show Desktop.scf' file - Windows 98 thru XP & Vista
1.   If you have already applied Method A, you cannot use this Method B as well, nor Method C or D, because Windows will only accept one working Show Desktop icon for the Quick Launch bar.
  To proceed with Method B, click on the appropriate zip file below, download it to your desktop and extract the content to your desktop.  Each zip file contains a slightly different text file called Show Desktop.scf.  When the appropriate file is on your desktop, use the right-hand mouse button to drag it to the Quick Launch bar, as shown in Fig 1, drop it only when you see the insertion bar, choose Move Here.  If you have trouble moving the icon see Tip 1.
ZipFile1          ZipFile2
Original-style icon   Vista-only icon*
*If you are using Windows Vista, and want to restore Vista's default style of icon, choose the RH file instead of the LH one.
Method C - Create a shortcut to the parent 'Show Desktop.scf' file
1.   Windows 98, 98SE & Me only:  Double-click the My Computer icon > View > Details (this changes My Computer's window from an iconic view to a logical list) > View > Folder Options > View tab > at 'Advanced settings' select 'Show all files'  > untick 'Hide file extensions for known file types' > OK.
2.   Click the Start button > Find > Files and Folders > at 'Named', type in the words: show desktop > at 'Look in', select the C: drive > Find Now button > wait a few seconds for the full list of files to be generated, then click once on the column heading called 'Name' to put the list in alphabetical order > scroll all the way down to the file named Show Desktop that is listed as being in the WINDOWS \ SYSTEM folder > right-click on the file > Create Shortcut > Yes (to place the shortcut on the desktop) > close the Find window.
3.   At the desktop, a writing pad icon will have appeared there.  Use the right-hand mouse button to drag the icon to the Quick Launch bar (as seen in Fig 3) > Move Here.
4. Finally, if other people share your PC, consider reversing any Folder Options that you changed during step 1 of this Method C.  To Method D in RH col. >>
Fig. 2
Fig 1 (above)  After creating a replacement Show Desktop icon on the desktop, as per Method A or B in the LH column, it is a simple matter to use the mouse's right-hand button to drag the icon onto the Quick Launch bar, as indicated above.  Drop the icon on the QLB when the cursor shows a vertical insertion bar.
 Untitled - Notepad
  File     Edit    Search    Help
Fig 2 (above)  The above screenshot of Notepad is relevant only if you are using Method A in the left-hand column.  If you are, drag your mouse across the five lines of code to highlight them, press Ctrl+C to copy them to the clipboard, then return to Method A.

Fig 3 (above)  If you have used Method C or D in the left-hand column, to get to this stage, you would then use the mouse's right-hand button to drag the writing pad icon from the desktop onto the Quick Launch bar as indicated above.

If you hover your mouse over some of the icons in Fig 3, you may see tooltips saying what they are.  We're really dating ourselves by still showing this old desktop snippet.  It's Windows 98, with shortcuts to WordPerfect for DOS, Netscape Navigator and an Iomega Zip 250 drive.  All state of the art once upon a time but nobody's even heard of them anymore.  Nothing lasts for ever - except for evolution.  It's as true of computers as it is of life.

Continued from LH col.

Method D - Use a command line instruction© to create a shortcut to the parent 'Show Desktop.scf' file
1.   Windows 98, 98SE & Me only:  Drag your mouse across the following command line so as to highlight it, and press Ctrl+C to copy it to the clipboard:-

2. Right-click on an empty area of the desktop > New > Shortcut > press Ctrl+V to paste in the command line > Next > Finish.
3. At the desktop, use the right-hand mouse button to drag the writing pad icon, which will have appeared there, to the Quick Launch bar (as shown in Fig 3) > Move Here.  There, a 25-second fix for Win98 or Me users - exactly as promised earlier!

About the Show Desktop icon

What the Show Desktop command actually does is cause all open windows to be minimised to the taskbar.  Clicking the icon again will unminimise the same windows simultaneously.  In Windows 95, you could do this but only with keyboard commands, namely the WindowsKey+M to minimise all windows, and the WindowsKey+Shift+M to restore all windows.  From Windows 98 on, you had those same shortcut keys, also the WindowsKey+D toggle, plus, of course, the Show Desktop icon.  The icon saved people from having to remember or use any of those antiquated keyboard options.  In any case, they can be very temperamental on some XP systems, making the Show Desktop icon all the more important.  For anyone with XP or Vista, with the QLB disabled, there is a two-click alternative i.e. right-click on an empty part of the taskbar, or on the time, and, from the context menu, click 'Show Desktop'.

  Tips  (Windows 98 to Vista, not 7)  
  1   How to transfer a Show Desktop icon from the Desktop to the QLB

If you experience difficulty trying to drag a new Show Desktop icon from the desktop onto the Quick Launch bar, here are two methods.  If you can't make the first one work the second one definitely will.

1.1  Drag and drop directly

Use the mouse's right-hand button to drag the Show Desktop icon from the desktop until it is hovering over the Quick Launch area on the left-hand side of the first icon on the QLB > drop the icon only when you see it becomes overlaid with a thin, grey, vertical insertion point > from the menu which pops up, choose 'Move Here'.  Do not drop the icon until the insertion bar is visible.  If you do, you will not receive the menu to tell the icon to move, and you will have to try again.

1.2  Drag and drop indirectly

Open the actual folder called Quick Launch.  To do that, if XP or Vista is being used, right-click on an empty bit of the QL bar > from the context menu which pops up, choose Open Folder.  Or, for earlier Windows' versions, typically, do a search for 'Files and folders' called 'quick launch' and, if more than one QL folder is found, open the one for your specific user account.  With the correct QL folder open, use the right-hand mouse button to drag the Show Desktop icon from the desktop > drop the icon on the open window > choose Move Here [or use Cut and Paste operations to achieve the same result].  If moving the icon directly into the QL folder does not immediately result in the icon appearing on the QL bar, click View on the window's standard toolbar [in Vista, you may first need to press Alt to see the toolbar] > from the menu, choose Refresh.  Or, if necessary, try a right-click on the desktop > from the menu, choose Refresh.

When done with 1.1 or 1.2, close all windows and do a normal restart of the computer.
  If you copied the Show Desktop icon inadvertently, instead of moving it

If you are left with a Show Desktop icon on the desktop as well as one on the QLB, it means you copied the new icon over instead of moving it.  Right-click on the copied icon on the QLB and delete it. Then use the right-button to drag the original icon from the desktop to the QLB.  If done the other way round i.e deleting the original and keeping the copy, we have heard of instances where this has then resulted in the copy on the QL bar disappearing after restarting the computer, meaning the whole process has to be repeated again from scratch.
  Save the new settings

Any time you change, move or delete any shortcuts on your desktop or taskbar, carry out a normal restart of your PC, while the change is still fresh in your mind, so Windows will know to preserve the new settings.  If the computer were to hang or crash before doing such a restart, the new arrangement could be lost.
  Opening a Show Desktop.scf file

The Explorer Command method (Method A) works because, if you open Notepad and use its File > Open function to browse to and open an actual Show Desktop.scf file, you will see the self-same syntax you can see in Fig 2.

   Related topics  
  Quick Launch bar - fix all Quick Launch bar problems.  
  Taskbar - fix all taskbar problems.  
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First posted 9.7.03 (dmy)    Last amended 10.6.12    Copyright (C) 2003-2012 PM Designs    All Rights Reserved
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