How-To Geek

Create a Keyboard Shortcut to Access Hidden Desktop Icons and Files

This is a guest post by Joel Thomas (Mr.Byte) from, where he writes How-to tips about Windows, Office and Internet Applications.

Most of us like me love to keep the icons and some files in the desktop for quick access but ironically I love a clean desktop too. But there is a simple tweak without any additional tool to get the best of both worlds, you can hide the desktop icons & files and create a custom keyboard shortcut to access those icons and files.

Step 1: Hide the desktop icons and files.

Right click on the Desktop, go to View and uncheck the option Show Desktop Icons. Now you will have a clean desktop.

Hide Desktop Icons

Step 2: Create a Desktop shortcut to open Desktop Folder.

All the items in the desktop are stored in the folder under your user name.  Click on Start button –> (your username) –> Desktop folder.

Desktop Folder

Right click on the Desktop folder and click Send to -> Desktop (Create Shortcut). This will create a desktop shortcut to open desktop folder.

Send to Desktop

Desktop Shortcut to open desktop folder

Step 3: Assign a Custom keyboard Shortcut to open Hidden Desktop Icons and Files.

Now open the desktop folder like mentioned in step 2.

Right click the keyboard shortcut for desktop you have created just now and click Properties.

Open Shortcuts tab and click on Shortcut Key box. Now click ALT + CTRL + any letter key to create a custom shortcut and click OK. I usually use ALT + CTRL + D to open desktop folder and Win + D to show desktop.

Custom Keyboard Shortcut to Open Desktop Folder

Now you can open all the hidden icons and files in the desktop in a folder to have a quick access at the stroke of a custom keyboard shortcut.

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Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 06/21/08

Comments (16)

  1. Michael

    This is pretty good tip! Thanks!

  2. shelded

    Unless I did this wrong, all it does is open Explorer aimed at the Desktop? Wow, for the past ~13 years I thought the point of the Desktop was to have a graphic way to remember where I had placed random temporary stuff. Give us a keystroke to toggle the icons ON/OFF and I’ll consider this of some value. Don’t we already have Desktop on our Quick Launch?

  3. Joel Thomas

    Thanks Michael!

  4. Tabitha

    hey this is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks!

  5. The Geek


    I’ve got that exact article coming up in a few days, so stay tuned :-)

  6. Joel Thomas

    @shelded, That would be a nice tweak and should be able to do with some registry tweak. And thanks to @The Geek for creating that.

  7. abhishek

    I have a confusion around this…does these shortcuts created always works?…as there was a time when i have created a keyboard shortcut for a desktop icon which sometimes works and sometime does not work.

  8. sammie

    wow. even though i have windows xp and it took me a while to figure out . . . this is quite cool!

  9. abhishek

    you can also go to :\Users\vista-username\Desktop to access the files on the desktop ifd they are hidden

  10. Joel Thomas

    @abhishek, it has worked good so far me and I have not faced any issue yet.

  11. Joel Thomas

    @sammie, Thanks.

  12. zach

    i think it’s great!thank.

  13. VM

    Do you know how to cut & paste an icon from an internet website onto the desktop using Vista i.e. ebay icon, etc. I have tried to right click on the webpage and create shortcut but the only thing that shows up on the desktop is a page with a small window in it with the name of the website. It does go to the site if you click it but does not use the logo of the website like it used to. Any suggestions? Thanks. v

  14. Deeps

    Great, i found the exact tip for what i was looking :)

  15. Line51

    It cant work : (

  16. goofyballs

    while this is neat… I guess I’m an old dog set in my ways.
    I like the clean desktop and have been using the Desktop Toolbar for too long.
    One click shoots the menu straight up from the task bar. It starts out alphabetical and adds new shortcuts to bottom of list. So every once in awhile it’s necessary to remove it then reinstall it in about 10 seconds.

    This is a great site

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