When installing an app, at least a reference to this app will be included in the Windows Start menu. Finding and starting an app via the Start menu simply requires three clicks and perhaps even a search.

One way to always have apps you use frequently at your fingertips is to add them to your desktop. Each app that you add to the desktop is provided with a recognizable icon, so that you can easily find each app again.

Putting an app on the Desktop: What really happens?

When we speak of adding an app to the desktop, we are not adding the entire app to the desktop. What we do is make a reference to the program file on the hard drive that starts the app.

Every app on our computer has such a program file with which the app can be started. This means that we can also manually start each app ourselves using File Explorer.

As an example, we will manually start the old web browser Internet Explorer via Explorer. However, in Windows 11, this will launch Microsoft Edge.

How to manually start an app via Explorer is as follows:

  • Start File Explorer by clicking the icon in the taskbar or press the Windows key + E key combination.
  • Click This PC in the left column of File Explorer.
  • Double click on Local Disk (C:)
  • Double-click the Program Files folder . This will open the folder where all the apps that are on your computer will be installed.
  • Double-click the Internet Explorer folder . This opens the folder containing all Internet Explorer program files.
  • In this folder, locate the iexplore.exe file and double click on it.

You will now see that the Internet Explorer app is launched and displayed on your screen. In Windows 11, this will supposedly be the Microsoft Edge web browser that starts up.

The same thing you just did manually via File Explorer, Windows will do for you in the background after you drop an app on the desktop and double-click the icon created when the app was placed on the desktop.

Adding an app to the Desktop: an Easy and a Hard way

When you look at the startup file iexplore.exe in Explorer, you will notice that a small icon is displayed before the name of the file.

An enlarged version of this small icon will be displayed on the desktop as soon as you place the app on the desktop. Putting an app on the desktop.

This knowledge will undoubtedly make putting an app on the desktop easier.

Because all you have to do once you find the startup file of an app in File Explorer is:

  • Right click on the app startup file (e.g. iexplore.exe)
  • In the shortcut menu that opens, point to Copy to , and then click the Desktop (Create Shortcut) option. In Windows 11, by the way, you will first have to click on the Show more options option in the opened shortcut menu to get the Copy to option displayed.

When you then show the desktop on your screen, you will see that the app you just created a shortcut has been added to the shortcuts on your desktop.

This was the difficult method of putting an app on your desktop. However, this method can still come in handy when, for example, you want to put an app on your desktop that for some reason isn’t listed in the Start menu .

The easy method for adding an app to the desktop

When you install an app on your computer, a reference to the app will usually be included in the Start menu . How to add an app to the desktop:

  • All apps on your computer are listed in alphabetical order when you open the Start menu in Windows 10. In Windows 11 you have to click on the All apps button after opening the Start menu .
  • In the list of all apps, find the app you want to put on the desktop.
  • Left click on it and hold down the left mouse button while moving the mouse pointer to the desktop. We call this dragging in technical terms. Release the left mouse button where you want the app on the desktop.

Again, an icon will be created on the desktop that will make it easy for you to recognize the app. An icon with a blue upward pointing arrow indicating it is a shortcut.

However, sometimes it happens that an app does not have its own icon. Windows will then provide the app with a global icon. Such an icon is of course less recognizable. But if you want, you can always decide to replace an icon with another that you find clearer.

Adding an app to the desktop can be done with one quick simple action. Whether this is possible depends on how the app is installed on the computer. Usually, as mentioned, a reference to the app will be added to the Start menu during installation .

If that is not the case, you can always manually add an app to the desktop via Explorer.


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