Preserving Your Vista Desktop

March 2, 2009

in applications,computer performance,Vista

by Ross M. Greenberg

I’ll be the first to admit it: Vista is not perfect. There. I said it. As much as I admire the product, it has some warts that really bug me. Programmers who worked for me would have been fired if they ever let a product ship with these kinds or this quantity of bugs. Things have certainly gotten better of late but still…

For example when installing a new product — perhaps a flaky one — there is a good chance that my desktop will be screwed up. Some of those carefully placed icons magically shift or disappear or randomly transpose. What should be a quick and easy no-brainer turns into a frustrating humbling and painful experience, annoying to recover from.

Capturing the current placement of the desktop’s icons for later is easy — and free — through two and useful utilities: the first is available through at It’s a small — just over 4K — archival download that expands out to a folder (when did directories start being referred to as “folders,” anyway?) that contains two files; first copy the layout.dll file to the C.:\Windows\system32 directory and then double-click the layout.reg to install the registry entries. Together they cause two new entries to appear on the right-click/context menu that appears when you right-click on the desktop: to save/restore the desktop icons.

The other free utility is called Iconoid, available for download at, providing a bunch more than simply saving/restoring desktop icons, such as being able to select the color of the icon backgrounds and the icon text labels, being able to hide all application windows, and a few other things the Microsoft programmers seem to have forgotten when programming Vista.

You can witness this on the right-click/context menu seen below. Just saving and restoring the desktop icons and their placement regardless of screen resolution is a lifesaver, especially if you have multiple screens installed or do many install/uninstall operations.

Vista desktop

Vista desktop

Ross M. Greenberg is a software developer, writer, and a webpage designer — in that order. He’s been using Vista since forever, initially as an MSDN user and has dutifully upgraded it as it matured. It is currently his favorite operating system; starting off with CP/M through DOS and its various incarnations and Windows with its various incarnations. If you are new to Vista he promises it will grow on you. He loves being on the cutting edge ..