How to save the layout of Desktop icons (Windows 7 and XP)

(Updated to include Windows 7 solution)

We’ve all been there. Your Desktop icons have been lovingly and painstakingly placed into specific locations –  work spreadsheets top-left, links to cat videos bottom-right – then BANG, your screen resolution gets changed and they all get mashed together into the corner of the screen. There are a number of free methods available to save your desktop layout (and restore it again if your icons are moved) – below are a couple I have used successfully.

Windows 7

The Desktop Restore (64-bit) utility is simple to install and use, and allows you to store multiple desktop layouts, depending on different monitor configurations. The developers claim it can also be used for Windows 98/ME/2000/XP/Vista – but I have only verified it on Windows 7 personally.

Windows XP

On my previous Windows XP system, I used Microsoft’s Layout.dll file, which is included in the Windows NT Resource Kit.  This should also install successfully on Windows 2000 and Vista systems – but I have not tested this.

Installing the Layout.dll shell extension

  • First, download and save it to a folder.
  • Extract the files to your Desktop.
  • Move the file LAYOUT.DLL to the C:\Windows\system32 folder.
  • Right-click LAYOUT.REG and choose Merge. Click Yes when asked for confirmation.

Using the Layout.dll shell extension

After installation, you should now have two new menu options when you right-click on an empty part of your Desktop.  To save your layout, simply select the Save Desktop Icon Layout option (see below).

If the save has been successful, you should see the following message:

Then, to restore your saved layout at any time, simply follow the same steps and select the Restore Desktop Icon Layout option.

Uninstalling the Layout.dll shell extension

To uninstall, right-click the file Uninstall.reg (also available in and choose Merge.  Then manually delete the file LAYOUT.DLL from your C:\Windows\system32 folder.

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