How to change Desktop Icon Spacing in Windows 10

Did you upgrade to Windows 10 and suddenly all or most of your icons went missing? This is not an isolated issue; numerous reports have been received regarding the same predicament. After the upgrade, the user may just be left with two or three icons on the desktop with all the others simply gone. If this has happened to you the first thing you should do is relax – you haven’t lost any data; your important files and folders are just invisible. Upon clicking on one icon you may also see that the entire desktop gets highlighted. Furthermore, the space between the visible icons just happens to be one huge line at any one time. This is not a permanent error, it can be easily resolved.

Before doing anything you have to do a routine check first. Sometimes the icon desktop spacing error may be caused during changeover to and from the tablet mode. So ensure that the computer’s tablet mode is disabled. To do so, on the start menu click on Settings. Now click on System. In the window that appears, choose Tablet mode on the left hand side pane. A tablet mode submenu will appear. The option for enabling or disabling the tablet mode is available to you in the form of a toggle button. Under the phrase “Make Windows more touch friendly when using your device as a tablet”, push the toggle button to an off position. Tablet mode is now disabled. Can you see any immediate changes on your desktop? If not, follow the steps below to resolve the issue.

Using the Registry Editor for Icon Spacing Adjustment

In Windows 8 and 10, the option to set the desktop icon spacing is no longer available via the desktop as was the case before.  By default, the icon spacing in windows 10 should be set at -1125. However, when confronted with the problem above you may find an incongruous digit going right up to tens of thousands e.g. – 38275. The secret lies in adjusting this value back to the default setting or at least your preferred value.

Press the combination Windows + R on your keyboard. The run dialogue comes up.

Type regedit in the text area and click OK.

The registry editor will appear. If UAC prompts you, click yes.

Now navigate to the main folder HKEY_CURRENT_USER and click on it.

The folder opens down into sub trees. Unfold each of the sub trees as below:

\Control Panel\Desktop\WindowMetrics

Now you need to adjust the desktop icon’s spacing horizontally. Inside the pane on the right hand side of WindowMetrics, double click on IconSpacing so as to change it. It is important that while changing these values you stick to valid extents. Key in a preferred value between –480 and –2730 and then click or tap ok. If you like to have default settings, just have the horizontal spacing at –1125. –480 and -2730 are merely the extremes.

Now we have to also address the vertical spacing. Still on the right hand side of WindowMetrics, double click on IconVerticalSpacing. Yet again, key in a preferred value between –480 and –2730 (Where –480 is the minimum while –2730 is the maximum on the opposite end). You may also go with the default value of –1128.

Now restart your computer so changes can apply properly.

You have successfully adjusted desktop icon spacing.

desktop icon spacing

Adjusting Icon Spacing using the mouse

Most computer mice have the roller or wheel in between the left and right buttons. That is what you need in order to adjust desktop icon spacing. This is by far the easiest method but there is now way of telling the values of vertical and horizontal spacing. You simply see the changed settings and gauge whether they are suitable or not. The biggest disadvantage of this method is that once you have adjusted the desktop spacing this way, you cannot automatically revert to default settings. Anyway, if you don’t fancy digging around in the system registry then you should definitely try this.

Close all active windows on your PC.

To activate the desktop, left click on a blank space on the desktop (make sure no icon is selected or clicked).

Now press down the CTRL key on the keyboard. Without letting go of it, scroll upwards or downwards with the mouse roller/wheel. With every motion towards either side, you will see the desktop icons change in size as well as their spacing horizontally and vertically. Scrolling up enlarges the desktop icon spacing while scrolling downwards reduces them. Once you see the setting that you prefer, let go of the CTRL key.

Done, the spacing has been adjusted.


Kevin Arrows

Kevin Arrows is a highly experienced and knowledgeable technology specialist with over a decade of industry experience. He holds a Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) certification and has a deep passion for staying up-to-date on the latest tech developments. Kevin has written extensively on a wide range of tech-related topics, showcasing his expertise and knowledge in areas such as software development, cybersecurity, and cloud computing. His contributions to the tech field have been widely recognized and respected by his peers, and he is highly regarded for his ability to explain complex technical concepts in a clear and concise manner.