To add apps to the Windows 11 desktop, either drag and drop the app from the Start menu to the Desktop or create a shortcut by right-clicking on the app in the Start menu folder, selecting 'Open file location', and sending it to the desktop. You can also use the Applications folder or the Installation folder.

Adding desktop shortcuts will allow you to quickly access any important file and applications you use frequently. Shortcuts are useful little icons that you can put on your desktop to eliminate the need for searching for an application in the Windows search and opening them again and again or digging through folders on the computer to launch an app.

Besides, some third-party application doesn’t integrate well with the Start menu and you won’t be able to find it even in Windows search. And you will end up hunting through File Explorer to find where it is installed and launch the app. So, in such cases, you will need to create shortcuts in the Desktop to quickly access it.

If you are accustomed to Windows 10 or earlier versions, you may find it challenging to add apps or add shortcuts to Desktop in the new Windows 11 user interface. If that’s the case, we will show how you can add apps or icons to the desktop in Windows 11.

Add App Shortcuts to the Desktop in Windows 11

There are several ways you can create or add desktop shortcuts for applications in Windows 11.

Add App Icons to Desktop using Drag and Drop

The easiest and simplest way for adding a desktop app shortcut in Windows 11 is by dragging and dropping the application from the Windows Start menu. Follow these steps to add an app icon to the desktop:

First, click the ‘Start’ button on the taskbar to open the Start menu. Then, click on the ‘All apps’ button at the top right corner of the Start menu.

Under All Apps, locate the application for which you want to make a desktop shortcut. Now, click on the app and drag it onto the desktop.

Now the application’s shortcut will appear on the Desktop.

Add Application Shortcut from Start Menu Folder

When you install the third-party application from any external source other than the Windows Store, the application will be created in the Windows Start-up folder. With these shortcuts, you can create desktop shortcuts. Follow these instructions to create shortcuts from the Start-up folder:

To start with, click the ‘Start’ button in the taskbar. Then, search for the application you want to add to the Windows 11 desktop, right-click the app on the Best match and select ‘Open file location’. For instance, we are searching ‘Notepad++’ in the Windows search here.

Alternatively, you can also click the ‘All apps’ at the top right corner.

Now, from the list of apps, find the app that you want to create a desktop shortcut for. Then, right-click on the app, expand ‘More’ and select ‘Open file location’ from the sub-menu.

This would open up the Start Menu folder. Now, right-click the program icon and select the ‘Show more options’ option to expand the classic context menu.

You should now see an old classic context menu. Here, click the ‘Send to’ and then select ‘Desktop (create shortcut)’ from the sub-menu. You can also click on the ‘Copy’ button in the new context menu or press Ctrl+C to copy the file and paste it into the Desktop.

This will add the selected application icon (shortcut) to your Windows 11 desktop.

Add Application Shortcut Through Applications Folder

The above methods can help you create shortcuts for third-party applications but not for Windows Store programs or built-in Windows apps. This method can help you create shortcuts for third-party apps as well as Windows Store programs. Here’s how you do this:

Open Windows search, type ‘CMD’ and click Command Prompt from the search results. Alternatively, press Win+R and then type ‘CMD’ and press Enter to open the command prompt.

In the Command Prompt, type the following command and press Enter to run it:

explorer shell:AppsFolder

This will open the Applications folder where you can find all the pre-loaded Windows applications, Windows Store apps, and third-party programs. Now, find the app for which you want to make a desktop shortcut. Then, right-click on the app and select the ‘Create shortcut’ option.

Now, click ‘Yes’ to the Shortcut confirmation window.

Now, your shortcut will be visible on your Windows 11 Desktop.

Create Application Shortcut from Installation Folder

However, for some applications such as portable applications, experimental apps, or others, you cannot create shortcuts using any of the above methods. For those apps, you have to add apps to the desktop from the installation folder.

First, navigate to the folder where the app is installed or stored (for portable application), right-click the app (.exe), and select ‘Show more options’.

Then, select ‘Send to’ and click the ‘Desktop (create shortcut)’ option. By default, most of the applications are installed in the ‘Program Files’ or ‘Program Files (x86)’ folder in the C Drive. You can find your apps there.

Alternatively, you can right-click an empty area in the Desktop, click ‘New’ and select ‘Shortcut’

In the Create Shortcut dialog window, click the ‘Browse’ button.

Then, navigate to the location where your software is installed and select the application (.exe file) and click ‘OK’.

Then, click the ‘Next’ button to continue.

Next, you can rename the shortcut with the desired name or leave the default name and click ‘Finish’.

Your new shortcut is now available on the desktop for use.

Change/Display System Icons on the Windows 11 Desktop

When you freshly install Windows 11 or upgrade to Windows 11, it doesn’t display any necessary system icons except ‘Recycle Bin’. But you can show various other system icons such as This PC, Control panel, Network, and User profile folder (That includes documents, downloads, pictures, videos, music, etc.). Not only you can display these icons, but you can also change their appearance. Here’s how to do it.

First, open Windows 11 Settings app by right-clicking the Start button and selecting ‘Settings’.

Next, click on the ‘Personalization’ tile on the left sidebar and select ‘Themes’ on the right-pane.

On the Themes page, scroll down and click the ‘Desktop icon settings’ option under the ‘Related settings’ section.

Now the ‘Desktop Icon Settings’ dialog window will appear. Under the ‘Desktop Icons’ section, check or tick the boxes next to the icons you’d like to show on the desktop. By default, only the Recycle icon is selected. The ‘User Files’ option shows the User profile folder while the ‘Network’ option shows the Network drive folder.

Here, you can also change system icons with Windows stock icons or your own icons.

To change a desktop icon, select the icon you want to change and click the ‘Change icon…’ button.

Next, select an icon from one of the stock icons and click ‘OK’.

However, if you want to set your own custom icon, click the ‘Browse…’ button.

Navigate to your custom icon, select it from the local drive and click ‘OK’.

Then, click ‘OK’ again in the Change Icon box.

You can also allow the themes to change desktop icons whenever you change themes by checking the ‘Allow themes to desktop icons’ check box at the bottom of Desktop Icon Settings. Once, you’re done, click ‘Apply’ and then ‘OK’.

Add Any Application to the Desktop/File Explorer Right-Click Context Menu

If you feel that Windows Desktop is cluttered with too many app shortcuts, icons, and other files, you can add apps to the desktop right-click context menu for easy access. Adding frequent apps to the right-click context menu helps you launch apps much faster without adding clutter on your desktop or taskbar. Follow these steps to add apps to the desktop context menu with a simple registry hack:

To begin with, open Windows Registry Editor by pressing Windows+R and typing regedit in the Run command box, and then hitting Enter. Alternatively, you can search for ‘Registry editor’ in the Windows search and click the Registry editor app from the search result.

In the Windows Registry editor, navigate to the following folder using the left sidebar:


Or you can also copy-paste the above code in the address bar of Registry Editor and press Enter.

Next, you need to create a new key (folder) under the ‘shell’ key. So, right-click on the ‘shell’ key or right-click on the right pane and then select ‘New > Key’ from the menu.

Now, rename this newly created key with the name of the app you would like to appear on the right-click context menu. For instance, we want to name this key ‘Firefox’ because we want to add the Firefox app to the desktop and file explorer context menu.

After that, we need to create a ‘command’ key under that app key to include the command which will be used to launch the application. To do that, right-click on the new ‘Firefox’ key, and then select ‘New > Key’ from the pop-up menu.

Then, rename the newly created key as ‘command’ in lowercase.

Now, you need to specify the path of the application that you want to add to the context menu. You can copy the path of the application from the installation folder of the application.

To do that, navigate to the installation folder of the application that you want to add to the context menu, right-click the application (.exe file), and click the ‘Copy as path’ option.

Now, go back to the Registry Editor and select the ‘command’ sub-key you created earlier. Just double-click on the ‘Default’ string on the right side of the ‘command’ sub-key to edit its value. Now, paste the copied path of the app in the ‘Value data’ field and click ‘OK’.

Remember you will need the correct path of where the application is installed.

Now, right-click on any empty place on the desktop or in File Explorer and select ‘Show more options’. On the old context menu, you will see a new option there, Firefox (as shown below).

When you click the Firefox option, it will launch the app.

Change Size of Desktop Icons in Windows 11

You can resize your desktop icon to four different sizes: Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large. By default, Windows 11 shows medium-sized icons and shortcuts.

You can change the icon size by right-clicking on an empty space on the desktop, hovering over the ‘View’ option, and then, choosing one of the sizes from the sub-context menu.

Alternatively, you can also use the below keyboard shortcuts to change the size of desktop icons and shortcuts.

Icon Size Keyboard Shortcut
Extra Large IconsCtrl+Shift+1
Large IconsCtrl+Shift+2
Medium IconsCtrl+Shift+3
Small IconsCtrl+Shift+4

Hide/Display Desktop Icons in Windows 11

If you feel your desktop is cluttered with so many icons and shortcuts, you can hide them all with two mouse clicks.

To hide or disappear all of the desktop icons, right-click on an empty space of the desktop. Then, hover over the ‘View’ option and uncheck (click) the ‘Show desktop icons option’ from the sub-menu.

This will hide all the icons from the Desktop.

To show or display icons on your desktop, right-click on an empty space of the desktop. Then, hover over the ‘View’ option and check (click) the ‘Show desktop icons option’ from the sub-menu.

The hidden icons should be visible now.


Creating desktop shortcuts for your frequently used apps in Windows 11 offers quick access, making your workflow more efficient. While the process may seem slightly different compared to earlier versions of Windows, there are various ways to achieve this, such as dragging and dropping, creating shortcuts from the Start menu folder or Applications folder, and using the installation folder.

Additionally, you can customize the appearance of your desktop by displaying or hiding icons, changing their size, and even altering system icons. By following these simple steps, you can optimize your Windows 11 desktop for a more streamlined user experience.

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