How to use multiple desktops in Windows 10

How to use multiple desktops on Windows 10
How to use multiple desktops on Windows 10

Windows 10, now enjoying the October 2020 Update, continues to make it extremely easy to set up and use multiple virtual desktops in Windows 10. Multiple desktops are great for keeping unrelated, ongoing projects organized, or for quickly hiding from the boss that browser game you can't stop playing. And if you've not yet upgraded to Windows 10, be sure to have a look at our collection of the best Windows laptop options with the latest OS.

Ready to tackle the day with multiple desktops? Let's go!

How to create a new virtual desktop in Windows 10

Creating a new virtual desktop can be done with a couple of clicks or with a keyboard shortcut.

  1. Click the Task View button in your taskbar.
    • You can also use the Windows key + Tab shortcut on your keyboard, or you can swipe with one finger from the left of your touchscreen.
  2. Click New Desktop. (It's located in the top left corner of your screen.)

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

That's it. Easy, right? There's also a Ctrl + Windows key + D keyboard shortcut that will immediately create a new virtual desktop.

How to switch between virtual desktops in Windows 10

Now that you've created a new virtual desktop, you can quickly switch a few different ways.

  1. Click the Task View button in your taskbar.
    • You can also use the Windows key + Tab shortcut on your keyboard, or you can swipe with one finger from the left of your touchscreen.
  2. Click Desktop 2 or any other virtual desktop you've created.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

You can switch back to your original desktop at any time by following the above steps but choosing Desktop 1. There's also a Ctrl + Windows key + Left and right arrow keyboard shortcut that you can use to switch between virtual desktops. Using a device with a touchpad? You can perform a four-finger swipe left or right to switch between virtual desktops.

How to move windows between virtual desktops in Windows 10

There are two ways you can move windows between virtual desktops. First, you can click and drag windows; second, you can right-click the window and use the menu.

Click-and-drag method

  1. Click the Task View button in your taskbar.
    • You can also use the Windows key + Tab shortcut on your keyboard, or you can swipe with one finger from the left of your touchscreen.
  2. Click and hold the window you want to move.
  3. Drag and release the window on an alternate desktop.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Right-click menu method

  1. Click the Task View button in your taskbar.
    • You can also use the Windows key + Tab shortcut on your keyboard, or you can swipe with one finger from the left of your touchscreen.
  2. Right-click on the window you'd like to move to another desktop.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Hover your cursor over Move to.
  2. Click the desktop to which you'd like to move the window.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

You can move windows back and forth between desktops to your heart's content.

How to duplicate windows across virtual desktops

Certain windows or collections of windows from one app can be duplicated across all virtual desktops.

  1. Click the Task View button in your taskbar.
    • You can also use the Windows key + Tab shortcut on your keyboard, or you can swipe with one finger from the left of your touchscreen.
  2. Right-click an active window.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click Show this window on all desktops to duplicate a single window.
  2. Click Show windows from this app on all desktops to duplicate all windows from one app.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

How to remove a virtual desktop in Windows 10

Want to get back to just one desktop? No problem.

  1. Click the Task View button in your taskbar.
    • You can also use the Windows key + Tab shortcut on your keyboard, or you can swipe with one finger from the left of your touchscreen.
  2. Hover your cursor over the desktop you'd like to remove.
  3. Click the X in the top-right corner of the desktop icon.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Open and running windows in a desktop you close will be moved back to your original desktop. You can also use the Ctrl + Windows key + F4 keyboard shortcut to immediately close the virtual desktop you're currently viewing.

Cale Hunt
Senior Editor, Laptop Reviews

Cale Hunt is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on laptop reviews, news, and accessory coverage. He's been reviewing laptops and accessories full time since 2016, with hundreds of reviews published for Windows Central. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user, and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.

  • I actually didn't know this. Very nice tip. Not sure I would use it....but knowledge is powder! ;0
  • how?
  • Powder?
  • A type gone haywire!
  • I'm sure the ancient Chinese who invented gunpowder would agree with you
  • That made me laugh. Quote of the day.
  • Made my day too!
  • I had hoped it would have been true multiple desktops, so that icons on the desktops were different.  I have a habit of saving/creating files on the desktop for work while im using them so i know where they are, for example pasting chunks of text into notepad while i edit, as well as multi tab browser sessions in the work webapp.  At the end of the work day, I would have hoped to be able to switch desktops and the icons/files go with it so my person desktop would be clear of work stuff, ready to return the next day.
  •  yeah well like headline said ,it's virtual desktops,i get what you're saying though , not sure if they'll implement such
  • That will come.
    They haven't figured it out yet but it's the next logical thing to do
  • Yeah, they seriously have to continue to complete the feature-set that virtual desktop deserves. Windows 10 virtual desktop is severely limited and unpolished. It lacks the necessary power user-features which virtual desktop is for anyways (most computer users don't need virtual desktop), and it lacks polish that it lacks animations on other actions, very static. Since they first introduced Task View and finalized it on first Windows 10 release, they never bothered to finish things in Task View, despite some wonderful ideas that are useful submitted on Feedback Hub ages ago. Now they are buried somewhere, waiting to be noticed by Microsoft.
  • A nice feature which can be leveraged for using different desktops for official and personal use. But following limitations are big spoilers. 1) Cant have different backgroud image for different desktops 2) Cant have different set of icons on each desktops A feature with a great potential. 
  • Did they implement the different desktop on start? If not, I think it's missing that you can save them
  • I want to add more too:
    - Ability to rename virtual desktops. This is super useful for organizing your workflow.
    - Move windows between monitors using Task View. Super useful for
    multi-monitor setup, and moving windows using Task View would be easier and less clunky than the traditional method. We still can't do this.
    - Drag and drop files/objects from an app/window to another app using Task View. Dragging the object to Task View button and dropping it to the thumbnail window.
    Power user features:
    - Ability to automatically open an app to specific desktop only (power-user feature)
    - Keyboard shortcut to automatically switch to specific virtual desktop
    Lastly about non-functional thing about Task View is it doesn't even fully polished in terms of animations. When you click those virtual desktop, there is no exit animation on Task View, which only works when you hover first and click the thumbnail of virtual desktop. There is no animation when you hover those desktop thumbnails too, its all static. It seems they forgot that one of the aspect that they aim for the Wave 1 of Fluent Design is Motion.
  • Maybe this is for you: Let's you rename desktops, switch between desktops via shortcut (very helpful!) and even move windows to another desktop via shortcut, which is really great. Full feature list:
    Extra customizable keyboard shortcuts to switch or move a window to a different desktop
    Customizable keyboard shortcuts to pin a window or a program to all desktops
    Setting a custom wallpaper for each virtual desktop (either a picture or a solid color)
    An indicator in the tray area customizable with various icon packs showing the number of the current desktop
    Assigning custom desktop names to each desktop
    Fully customizable tooltips showing the desktop name when switching desktops
  • Hmm... Back in Windows 7, I had two user accounts for me. One for work. One for personal usages. That was my multiple desktop solution. :p
  • Having multiple desktops can be very powerful...basically extending the "size" of your computer's monitor greatly. With Mac, you merely put four fingers on the trackpad and swipe left or right...and the screen quickly flicks over to the desired desktop.   It's as fast as glancing right or left to look at something....super quick. The Widows 10 method is far, far slower and requires a total interruption in your flow.   I love Windows 10, but I have found so many uses for the quick multiple desktops, that I'm hesitant.  I bought the Surface as soon as I heard Windows 10 had multiple desktops, but the clunkiness made it only occasionally useful. I have heard that there is an aftermarket solution that will put the "quick swipe" into the Windows 10 world.
  • I thought Windows 10 already had a quick swipe if you have a precision touchpad*. I remember reading (on this site I think) that the swipe to change desktops is now built into Windows 10. But you have to install a windows 10 compatible touchpad driver first. *You can check if your PC has a precision touchpad by opening the Settings -> Devices -> Mouse & touchpad. If you see the line “Your PC has a precision touchpad” under the “Touchpad” heading, your laptop should work swipe to change desktops once you update your touchpad driver. Oh, and your touchpad MUST be one certified by Microsoft. Like Apple, only certified touch pads get this feature. All others do not.
  • Go in to the feedback hub and suggest it or if it's already there upvote it.. In fact I just searched virtual desktop swipe in the Windows Feedback and it came up with suggestioins like that. This is how they prioritise things..
  • With the surface or any touchscreen device you can swipe in from the left side of the screen to bring up the desktop view.
  • That's not what he/she meant though. Swiping trackpad left/right to switch to another virtual desktop is different from just swiping from left edge or three-finger swipe up to open Task View. It only opens the Task View, not switch to another virtual desktop directly.
  • If you want speed try using the keyboard shortcuts
  • Some 3rd party manufacturers added this with their touchpad drivers.
    But good news!!!! It's coming to all windows with precision trackpads in the anniversary update in a couple days!! Been running the preview and it works fantastic. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • what?
  • I believe that is spelled, "WHAAATT?!?!?!" Question mark first if it's a question word. Exclamation first if it's just a statement in disbelief. So maybe the marks are off...I could be wrong.
  • I use it allot during work.
    1 desktop containing everything related to my job and the other, contains every thing related to my personal life, such as facebook app, spotify, personal e-mail, skype, web pages and so on. The most productive way is to use it with the keyboard shortcuts. By the way, you can close a virtual desktop using Ctrl + win + F4
  • I think it's nice to have this option but I've yet to find a usage scenario for it. I run a 3 monitor setup and it works great on Windows 10, much better than in 8.1. But I've never had a need to have a different layer of windows open. What do people use this for? I'm curious.
  • I think it's less useful when you have 3 monitors, because those are actual different desktop's.
    I use it a lot at school when on one or two monitor setup for programming (although we use Linux, but that distribution has essentially the same feature). I use it to have programming applications open on one desktop and then Google searches and manuals open in another desktop.
    You could probably just alt+tab everything, but desktops keep everything physically and mentally separated. And one key press rather than multiple alt+tab can help too.
    But it's mostly personal preference. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • For us with a multi-monitor setup, not much. Still, it's useful for the scenario when you treat virtual desktop, not as a "desktop extender" but treating it as separate workflow. Think about you are working on Desktop 1 for working on something like video editing, for 3 monitors. Desktop 2 will be separated for your documents. Desktop 3 is maybe your random stuff like web browsing. Using virtual desktop I think is best if you want separate different workflow, hiding other unrelated stuff having fewer windows on that monitor. Having multiple-monitors are best for having multiple windows visible to you at the same time without needing to switch something.
  • I use virtual desktop everday, never have to keep opening..cmd, ps, and or explorer, etc. every time, just leave it open.
  • wish virtual desktops could be restored over logins. As it is implemented, they have to manually be set up each time  
  • No you set it once.
    If you want a program to remain open after restart, that's something else.... that doesn't happen even on single desktop.
    Unless you hibernate
  • Maybe he meant the latter? Though we can always do this on Hibernate, or maybe actually automatically restore all apps/windows after improper shutdown, that includes to their respective virtual desktops. Maybe something like apps/windows remained on their respective virtual desktop next-time you opened them. I think that can be used more for power-users. 
  • Yes. Especially for browsers. Tabs are remembered when opened after restart but all load on first desktop. They then have to be moved manually back to their previous virtual desktops.
  • Awesome tip, thanks.
  • hey, has 100% disk usage bug gone now when using multiple desktop
  • I concur.
  • Nothing beats dual monitors.
  • Good news for new comers!! But, I used it on Ubuntu since 7 years.
    And i liked it when I was trying to discover the w10 on first day of my laptop.
  • In case if you are using precision touchpad, you can set in Touchpad settings to navigate between virtual desktop using fingers. By default, 4 fingers swipe to move left or right between the Virtual desktops.
  • It would be nice if multiple desktops could work in tablet mode as well allowing the user to quickly switch between two sets of snapped apps
  • They are great is you have a smaller than 14" laptop and no access to an external monitor. One thing you have to be careful of is the shortcut keys to switch desktops. If you press the wrong keys you can flip your screen by mistake.
  • Linux had this a long time ago and personally I never could find a use for it, I accidently found it after updating to Windows 10, again no practical use for me. Cool feature I guess, but seems easier to keep everything on one desktop.
  • At my job, task view and the big ugly search bar are the first things I hide on all employee computers.
  • I use this feature all the time at work. It's a must for multitaskers.
  • Only way I have a use for this is if they upgrade it to allow having different shortcuts/wallpapers on different Desktops, just like Dexpot used to offer on earlier versions of WIndows. That way, I can have 1 Desktop for General tasks, 1 for photos tasks, and 1 for gaming. As it is now, it's useless to me.
  • Sadly Microsoft almost forgot this feature and the only recent update of this is to rename desktops, that's it. This still lacks basic things like ability to re-arrange desktops which currently don't. Also they missed opportunity to use Task View to move windows between monitors which would be handy instead of dragging windows on regular desktop mode between monitors.
  • You can now name the desktops rather than them having the generic "Desktop 1", "Desktop 2" etc... would that help?
  • Been using this quite nicely for weeks. Now all of a sudden, with no reason (i shut dowsn, I started up my Surface) the Add new desktop button has disappeared when I click task view. Also, I notice my show desktop square at the end of the taskbar has gone too. Why is Windows such a random bag of fuckery at times?
  • Dexpot virtual desktops
  • Does anyone know of a similar function, first-party or otherwise, for tablet mode? Would love to have something similar to the iPad behavior where if you put two programs side-by-side (let's say App 1 and App 2) and switch away to App 3, when you switch back to App 1 it shows it next to App 2 the way you had it before. The default behavior for me is that either App 1 or 2 will switch back to full-screen and I have to re-split the screens, which is frustrating when you use the two apps side by side to build a good workflow.
  • Great question. There's no first-party solution. For some stupid reason, there's no virtual desktops in tablet mode. (There's also no native gesture for the Start menu, but I digress.) I'm a heavy tablet user (lots of PDF markup and OneNote). My solution is to use a frankly sketchy third-party gestures engine called TouchMe Gestures. You can get the setup software in the Store and you have to download and install the engine separately. What I do is leave tablet mode off forever (ha!) and create a gesture (in my case, two finger horizontal swipe) that allows me to move between virtual desktops. It works pretty well, though a native gesture system would be better.
  • Oof! That sounds pretty cumbersome. I'll give it a try though! Thanks!
  • They need to further improve this virtual multiple desktop feature, which is still barebones that many power users may not able to use it since its too basic and average users don't need to use multiple desktops or simply can't find a workflow for this. This needs several things which some have been frequently requested:
    - Rearrange desktops in Task View. This has to be one of the basic feature still not implemented.
    - Ability to assign each desktop with their own wallpaper.
    - Assign specific desktop as a default desktop, similar to how Android homescreen works. So when user logs in for the first time from shutdown, if you assign Desktop 2, it will logs in to Desktop 2.
    - Better management on assigning apps to specific desktop and will only open there regardless if you moved it and close on another desktop.
    - Ability to drag-and-drop files or objects between desktops. Let's say I drag a file from a File Explorer to another desktop. Dragging it through Task View/Timeline button on the Taskbar which will invoke Task View/Timeline and then continue dragging to another desktop, then will switch to that desktop and there drop it on another app or File Explorer window. ---------------------------------------------------
    Not virtual desktop related suggestions:
    - For Task View (not multiple-desktop related), use the thumbnail to drag around between monitors, which should be useful for multi-monitor users. I find this better way than just dragging the regular size windows between monitors.
  • One of the things that made me enthusiastic about jumping to W10 from KDE-based GNU/Linux was the fact that virtual desktops were supported natively. It was bare bones to begin with, but I had high hopes that the features you mentioned would roll in eventually. Nope! It's pretty basic still. Worse still is how clunky Timeline can be, especially with Office documents that are saved locally and synced to OneDrive (Timeline gives you completely useless web links to those files). Timeline is a great idea, but pretty weakly executed for MS's own headline productivity suite.