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How to get rid of app shortcut arrows on the Windows 10 desktop

We all have pet peeves. Some are rational, others may appear irrational to others. I am not sure where this registry trick falls into, but shortcut arrows on the desktop drive me crazy. There is just something about making an otherwise nice desktop icon busier with those arrow overlays.

This easy step by step guide shows you how to get rid of them!

What arrows?

In case you do not know what I am referring to let me explain. Since the days of Windows 95 whenever you placed a shortcut on the desktop for app or document, an arrow is placed on the lower corner of the icon. I get why it is there, at least for documents (you do not want to delete the original), but I think it makes less sense for apps. We just do not install apps to the desktop, so I am unsure why I need to be reminded "hey, this is a shortcut, not the real app".

Also since the days of Windows 95 there have been third-party apps to get rid of these arrows. Windows 10 is no different. Due to security reasons, we are not posting or linking some home-made .exe files that people have created to automate this task. There are some apps likes AVG PC TuneUp 2015 (opens in new tab), which I really like, that can do this and other things, in case you are interested.

Instead, we are going to show you how to do it the nitty gritty way through the registry. Truth be told, it is super simple and should take no more than 5 minutes.

Still, you are touching the registry so make sure you have backed up your PC just in case if you feel uncomfortable.

How to remove shortcut arrows in Windows 10

1. Open up regedit

(1) Type in regedit into the Cortana/search box and (2) select regedit at the top

2. Answer yes

When prompted Do you want to allow this app to make changes to your PC? Choose Yes

3. Navigate

Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer

4. Create Key

Right click on \Explorer and using the dialog menu choose New > Key and name it Shell Icons. Press Enter.

5. Create String Value

In the right pane of Shell Icons, right click on an empty area, and click/tap on New and String Value. Name it 29.

6. Modify String Value

Double click/tap on the 29 String Value to modify it. You should see a blank box called Value data.

7. Define String Value

In the Value data box enter (or copy and paste): %windir%\System32\shell32.dll,-50 and hit OK when done.

8. Restart

You can now either reboot the computer or log off and on back again to complete the changes.

Afterwards, you should have a nice, clean desktop with no arrow shortcuts. Of course, you could go more advanced and define your own shortcut arrows or even change your system icons, but that is for another day.

For now, if you want a purer desktop with less clutter, just take the five minutes and make this registry change!

For more resources, don't forget to check our Windows 10 help, tips, and tricks page. Or if you have any questions, you can always count on our Windows 10 Forums at Windows Central for more help.

Daniel Rubino
Executive Editor

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

  • This is an irrational one to me. But hey that's why options are a good thing right
  • Yet for me, it's my biggest nuisance. I hate those arrows.
  • Seriously I hate those arrows too no idea why :P
  • My number one complaint is that certain apps pinned to the taskbar clone themselves when you open them. File it for instance and skype right now. Also can't quit skype from the task bar.
  • To hide Skype from the TaskBar, you have to go under Tools->Settings->Advanced. And uncheck "Keep Skype on the taskbar While i'm connected".. One thing you have to know is that the names of options may differ, I'm using Skype in Spanish so I translated them to english.. So names on options may differ..  
  • Certainly one of my annoyances as well. It has consistently been one of the first things I would change on an XP (or newer) installation. The location / process for changing this in the registry has not changed since XP either. Too bad MS dosen't have a current version of the MS Powertoy Tweak UI for W10 to expidite this process. This process could also be used to create a custom icon overlay graphic.
  • It should be in the setting like toggle button
  • Icons on the desktop are like putting your cloths in the living room. I am so glad we have a start menu so i can pin my apps, they are so much better to look at. I never understand why people put icons, not to mention folders on their desktop, it makes it so ugly and chacka chacka ( untidy ). i was so happy when w8 came out with the start menu. Never the less removing those arrows really makes the icons look better but not like the start menu.
  • Because in of itself the desktop is a top-level folder
  • The desk top to me is like my living room, where I keep my self entertained. The desktop is where I open and used my apps not for pining icons. Also the wallpaper looks so good without all the junc I see some people put on there. Not even my recycle bin I have on my desktop. The start menu does it all. No wonder why some people have alot of duplicates and fragmented files caused by dumping every thing on their desktop. So untidy :(
  • Lol at chacka chacka. I'm guessing you're Jamaican?
  • Lol :-) takes one to know one right?
  • I hate icons and since Windows 7 I have removed every icon from the screen. In fact, rows of icons just reminds me of iPhones and iPads now.
    Live Tiles look so much better and tidier than icons and of course are informative.
    And with Hey Cortana on my SP3 I can find anything I want with a quick request.
    Each to their own, choices are the key here and W10 is abundant in choices :)
  • What other visual cue does it have to tell you it's a shortcut?
  • Well...since YOU are the one creating the shortcuts, one would expect that YOU know they are such. The arrows are the for unwashed masses. ;)
  • I absolutely hate those pesky little arrows. It's like spilling wine on a very nice collared shirt.
  • I always hated them, never thought there was something I could do about them. This is awesome!
  • FYI, you'll have to restart the computer after making the change, as this setting is in the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE registry hive.
  • There's that app WinAero shortcut editor that does the same
  • As I mentioned, there are plenty of apps that do this. However, I think it behooves people to learn what they can do on their own. Seems silly to me to install an app for something that takes < 5 minutes and for which you will likely never use again. But hey, it works for some people.
  • Didn't read the article properly! A lot of homework to do! 10min to 12am here I'm gonna get killed by the English teacher tomorrow :P
  • Wish me luck anyone... I'm leaving my work incomplete!
  • Pssh. I always do that. Sit in the library in the mornings before school finishing off any work
  • Yeah we've come along way I remember having to use login studio to skin vista whereas 7 had the option to do that
  • Hi Daniel, Thanks for amazing tip it was working great but right after 8 hour now my shortcut icon are invisible. Please help and I will be waiting for your kind reply. Thanks!!!
  • the same here.
  • Same thing happened to me. It was ok after the first or second restart, but then i just got black squares on all shortcuts in the desktop. I can't post a picture here... Any solution to that?
  • I have this problem too. Please can anybody advice on how to fix this
  • To remove BlackBox squares from icons. i did this. Go back to the shell icons 29 that you just made. Double click to bring up value data. DELETE VALUE DATA! Just leave that box empty. Okay. Restart. No boxes, no arrows. Just clean icons!
  • Wow you can do anything to Windows through the registry.
  • and that's not always a good thing, it's very dangerous to mess with the registry, I only do it for important things, and this arrows thing is not one of them, if there isn't an option in the settings, then I consider it's not meant to be. what this article teaches is a shameless hack.
  • Lol, get wreckt
  • If you want a dumb-system all locked down, go to OSX. Windows has always been about the freedom to mess with whatever your heart desires. If Microsoft didn't want people to be able to do these things, they wouldn't make registry so easily accessible. It is, therefore, NOT a hack. A hack implies that you broke some defence/barrier that was preventing you from doing something. This doesn't break anything. Just changes a behaviour.
  • Incorrect. A hack is way around the intended process of the program. This action does not necessarily involve security. A good example is the afoementioned registry procedure. A crack is meant to bypass security. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • ok, I agree it's nice to have the freedom to tweak the system as you desire, and I did a lot of it back in the 98/XP, but since the smartphone boom most new users are too "user" to do this safely. It's an age where options are being removed for the sake of simplicity, and that is bad in my view. By having to change the registry just to make some cosmetic changes to the OS, I feel that Microsoft don't want people to be able to do that, even though they are not explicitly denying the possibility.
  • Apologies, folks, for the joke. Clearly it was perceived as mean, even though it was more a jab at humor.
  • Make sure you watch what you say. Everything can be taken wrongly if it's through text. But it sure didn't sound like a joke...
  • no hard feelings, I know I can be harsh sometimes, I was just emphasising (maybe too much) how I think this kind of cosmetic changes, like the settings' dark theme, shouldn't need an registry editing.
  • I always here that it's dangerous I believe it but I also think you should learn how to use it. Clear instructions are presented in this article so I don't think the danger is that great, as long as you are able to follow instructions. Guns are dangerous but you can learn to use them so you don't shoot yourself or someone by accident. I always knew you could edit things in the registry and have done so many times before. I've never killed a PC that way, even when first starting out. I just never knew you could change something so miniscule as the arrow on an icon. It's like the registry has no limit to it's reach throughout the OS.
  • the registry is like a huge list where the OS stores all it's constants' values, so if you change anything the system will assume that new value as true and trust it, even if it ends up being rubbish, so you can do a good mess if you want.
  • Yeah I can agree. But was one of the best ways to force my dad to let me clean install 7(his previous install was full of registry problems he created trying to move software to other drives , not uninstalling properly) for the w10 upgrade
  • Don't need to log out. Just Task manager and restart exploler.exe
  • All MS needs to do is allow pinning small livetiles (at the minimum) to the desktop and we can get rid off all of these hotchpotch, ancient app icons and shortcuts altogether.
  • That will be nice... I also thought that.. And this will please Windows 7 gadgets lovers a bit.
  • Drag Modern apps from the app list to the desktop for a surprise. You can do this.
  • What does it do? Create a live tile or just an icon? [don't have W10 yet]
  • They had this... It's called windows 8.
  • That 'Yuck' picture is funny :D
  • A lot of effort for somehing I see only 3-4 times a month for a minute or two, I can't even remember the last time I actually clicked a desktop icon.
  • Define "a lot of effort". This literally takes a few minutes. I just explained it in detail for those new to the registry. I think doing a system backup is more effort.
  • Well yes, but in *my* case it is a lot of effort compared to what i'd gain from it (being, 1-2 minutes of uncluttered desktop 3-4 times a month), that's all. Someone who sees his desktop regularly and hates the little arrows would obviously be making a different calculation. I'm actually a little surprised that people still seem to be using those icons so much, with pinned apps o