Hide Desktop Icons with an AutoHotKey Script

Buried under the heaps and stacks of shortcut icons lie the often neglected wallpaper. You keep telling yourself you will clean out the desktop one day, but let’s face it, that is never going to happen. Wouldn’t it be nice to have something in the taskbar similar to the “show desktop” feature that will instead hide icons? AutoHotKey makes this possible.

Now I realize you can right click the desktop, point to View > uncheck Show Desktop Icons to accomplish the same task, but that takes too long! Plus, you will get a brief overview of how to work with AutoHotKey scripts in the process. By the end of this tutorial, we will have created a program (which you can place in the taskbar) that will hide desktop icons in just one click.
^ Image Credit: Messy Desktop

AutoHotKey 101 – A Brief Intro

AutoHotKey is a free open source utility which allows users to automate repetitive tasks; through the use of scripts (with .ahk extension). These custom scripts can be coded to send keystrokes, mouse clicks, create hotkeys and more to accomplish many types of tasks. I won’t go into the nitty gritty, because there is already an awesome guide about AutoHotKey written by Locutus over at dotTech. However, it is not necessary to know all this for what we are about to do.

What we will be doing is using the AutoHotKey Compiler to transform a pre-written script into an .exe file (otherwise known as a program) that will hide desktop icons. This .exe file is portable, and only runs on demand so it does not constantly eat up system resources.

(skip to the end for the HideIcons.exe file if you want to skip this process)

  • Download and install AutoHotKey.  (portable version works too)
  • Download the HideIcons script archive.  (full credit goes to UberUllu.com)
  • Extract the archive to the desktop.  (it should contain the script and an icon)

  • If you installed AutoHotKey from the first step, go to your start menu and open “Convert .ahk to .exe” – it should be under the AutoHotKey folder. For the portable version, navigate to the Compiler folder and open Ahk2Exe. It should look similar to the following:

  • Under “Source (script file)” click browse and search for the “HideIcons” script (this contains all the code that hides our desktop icons, which you can open with notepad to examine), which is in the HideIcons folder you extracted earlier.
  • Under “Custom Icon (.ico file)” click browse and search for the icon file; this is also under the same HideIcons folder.
  • Leave everything else untouched and click Convert.
  • You should now find a new HideIcons .exe file in your HideIcons folder.
  • Finally, pin this program to the taskbar, or add it as a quicklaunch shortcut.

  • Because this program you just created is portable, the HideIcons folder is not needed anymore and thus you can delete it. Just be sure to store the .exe file somewhere safe.

Conclusion and Download

I have put up a download link here so you can grab the HideIcons .exe program if you prefer to skip the above process. Personally though, I think it is better to just go through the steps because you learn about how programs can be made, and you get to see the code behind it all. With one click, all desktop icons will temporarily disappear. Another click will unhide them and bury your wallpaper once more. Now go show your wallpapers some appreciation dammit.

Note: Do not store the HideIcons.exe file in a main system directory, like the Program Files folder, because this will trigger UAC and not work properly. You can store it in locations such as My Documents, or a folder you created on the Desktop.

[via UberUllu]



  1. Looks interesting. Might try it out.

  2. I've been looking for something like this but with an extra feature, is that once that you click on an Icon they hide back again, that's because when you need an icons it's just for launching an application but once you have it running, you want the desktop wallpaper back, right? can you do that?

  3. @Viko: I don't think that is possible because what you are asking for is very specific. However, you can always use the quick-launch bar in all versions of Windows if you hate dealing with the desktop.

  4. Actually you can, so do you want to run an application and then automatically hide the icons again, isn't it?

  5. @tomoe_uehara: How so? Please elaborate because I am curious, and yes I believe that was what he was asking for.

  6. Anonymous

    Doesn't work anymore as UberUllu.com is down and you linked directly to it :(

  7. @Anonymous: Sorry about that! The script is now hosted through MediaFire.

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