Control your desktop, or Windows will control it for you

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Al Nagy asked how to stop Windows from rearranging the icons on his desktop.

Windows likes a neatly-arranged desktop. It wants to snap everything into a grid that starts in the upper-left corner of the screen. Unfortunately, the program's idea of "neatly-arranged" may not coincide with yours.

[Have a tech question? Ask PCWorld Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector. Send your query to]

To gain control of your own desktop, right-click that desktop and select View. You'll find several options there for controlling how the desktop looks.

The one you probably want to turn off is Auto arrange icons. For complete freedom of placement, uncheck Align icons to grid as well.

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I have some other suggestions you should try:

You might want to simply avoid putting stuff on your desktop. If you want easy access to a program, pin it to the Taskbar or the Start menu. They'll be easier to get to there, since items on the desktop tend to be obscured by application windows.

Documents and other data files don't belong on the desktop anyway. These belong in your libraries. If you want quick access to a particular document, pin it to the application by dragging the file to the Taskbar or Start menu.

One more suggestion: if you still want to have lots of items on your desktop, try Stardock's Fences. This little utility allows you to organize the stuff on your desktop by creating little boxes (called fences) and dragging icons and files into them. You can then resize and rearrange the boxes.

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It's all extremely easy. You just drag the mouse across the desktop to create a fence, then name it. You can even create "Folder Portals" that make the contents of select folders visible on the desktop.

Fences costs $10 after a 30-day trial. But be careful when you install it. The wizard will try to install another Stardock program, ObjectDoc.

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