Enable or disable Auto Arrange desktop icons in Windows 7
Windows 7 will by default let you place desktop icons wherever you want: based on your Align-to-Grid settings, each icon may be aligned or not, but they are not automatically sorted. While you can manually sort your desktop icons (right-click, choose "Sort by", and choose to sort by Name, Size, Item type, or Date modified), Windows also includes a feature called "Auto arrange icons", which will automatically sort your desktop icons without intervention needed on your part. This tutorial explains how to enable or disable auto-arrange desktop icons in Windows 7.
Enable Auto-Arrange desktop icons
Since Auto-Arrange is disabled by default, here are the steps you need to follow to enable the feature:
- Right-click on the desktop (between icons to get the desktop context menu, not on an icon itself)
- Click on the View submenu
- Choose "Auto arrange icons" on the menu
- Windows 7 will place a checkmark next to the Auto arrange icons menu item, to let you know that it is currently enabled, and will now sort all your desktop icons.
Now that auto-arrange is enabled, any new icon (file or folder) created on your desktop will automatically be sorted in its rightful position, based on the last sorting option you picked for desktop icons (Windows remembers it all the time).
Disable auto arrange (Prevent Windows from auto sorting desktop icons)
Just pick the opposite setting to disable Auto Arrange:
- Right-click on an empty area of your desktop to show the context menu
- Choose the "View" submenu
- Click on "Auto arrange icons" (which should have a checkmark next to it if the feature is currently enabled - if not, this means that auto arrange is turned off, and you can stop here).
- Windows 7 will disable Auto Arrange desktop icons, and remove the checkmark from the menu.
While Auto Arrange is now disabled, Windows 7 will not randomly shuffle your desktop icons: it will leave them exactly the way they are, but will not force an automatic sort next time you save or create a file / folder on your desktop.
Tip: you can always open your desktop in Windows Explorer, and from there sort your icons differently, without affecting the desktop you see when all windows are minimized. Click on the start menu, type "desktop", and hit Enter.
Pros and cons of Auto Arrange desktop icons
The advantage of having auto arrange enabled is that all your desktop files will automatically be sorted in a predictable way, all file types sorted together for example (this is the most common setting).
The disadvantage of auto arrange is its inflexibility: you cannot place your icons anywhere you want them on your desktop (like grouping work files on one side of the desktop, and program icons on the left), because Windows will automatically put desktop icons together, in columns, from top left to bottom, and back up. This can be quite annoying!up ↑