How to set Windows desktop items as public or private

0724 primary

Tom Shea administers a PC with several users. Some of the shortcuts on his desktop also show up on other people’s desktops. He wants to control when that happens.

Desktop sharing and privacy is actually pretty simple, but it’s not well known. Unless you know the trick, you can’t control which items will appear only on your desktop, and which will appear on everyone’s desktop.

The shortcuts and other files that show up on the desktop do so because they’re in a Desktop folder. (And yes, shortcuts are files—small files that point to other files.) But your PC has more than one Desktop folder, and therein lies the trick of creating public and private desktop shortcuts.

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The shortcuts and files in your private Desktop folder will display only on your desktop. This folder is probably C:\Users\logon\Desktop, where logon is the name you use to log onto Windows—such as C:\Users\Tom\Desktop.

Everything in your PC’s public Desktop folder will appear on the desktop of every user account on the computer. If your spouse or kid logs on to their account, the items will be on their desktops. And if you have separate Administrator and Regular accounts (a good idea), they will show up on both of them. This folder is probably  C:\Users\Public\Desktop.

If a shortcut appears on everyone’s desktop, but you want it only on yours, simply move it from the public Desktop folder to your personal one. And, of course, if you want to share a shortcut with everyone, move it to the public folder.

But there’s another folder you need to know about: the default desktop. Adding or removing files from this folder (probably C:\Users\Default\Desktop) won’t change any existing account. But when you create a new account, Windows will copy the contents of this folder to the new account’s Desktop.

One more thing you should know: When you drag a file to the desktop, or create a shortcut there, Windows will place it in your private desktop folder. Therefore, being private is the default.

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