Windows XP Desktop Grid

Note: I found this somewhere on the internet … but I can’t remember where.

Sometimes there just isn’t enough room for the all the text underneath those icons. Or, you maybe you are having some kind of overlapping problem. You can fix this by adjusting the space between your icons.

There is an invisible grid on your desktop the computer uses to place icons and associated text in to. This grid sort of looks like a checker board. You can adjust the size of the boxes. Here’s how:
Right click on any empty spot on your desktop. Click Properties, and then click the appearance tab. Next click the advanced button and you should find yourself in the “Advanced Appearances” window. Click on the pull-down window under “Item” and select “Icon spacing (horizontal). Note there is also an “icon spacing) vertical too. Click on the size arrows to adjust icon size. Do the same with Vertical. You will need to work at this some until you get the size/spacing you want. Click ok.

Note: You may have to uncheck and recheck the “Align to grid” option before your icons will move into place. Here’s how: Right click on any empty spot on your desktop. From the menu select “Arrange icons by” and click on “Align to grid” to uncheck it and then click to option again to recheck it. Once you do that your icons will move to your new grid settings.


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    • Pete Johnson on 15 Jul 2012 at 6:36 pm
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    Malware or virus is capable of wreaking havoc with your icons. I was using align to grid ti keep icons situtated around the perimter of the screen, and immediately knew something was amiss when they congregated on the left side the same time my virus protection was disabled. Although the infection was removed the registry must have been altered since the icon issue remained afterwards. IconRestor (mentioned previously) is an acceptable freeware patch but it is not automatic and has to be utilized daily.

    • Karim on 30 Jun 2009 at 4:16 pm
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    What I actually would like to do is to displace the grid in order to leave a space between the first row of icons and the top of the screen. This may be useful when one places the task bar on top of the sreen. Acting on the spacing of the icons has no effect on the space between the first icon row and the top of the screen.


    • mohamed on 16 Sep 2008 at 12:53 am
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    thank you sooooooooooo much

    • EH on 31 Jul 2008 at 10:57 pm
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    • NotDrew on 30 Oct 2007 at 4:32 pm
    • Reply

    Great work and easy to follow.

    • Dcyphyr on 03 Oct 2007 at 11:08 am
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    Thanks so much! Saved me alot of frustration!

    • Kazzaboy on 26 Sep 2007 at 1:52 am
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    This didnt do anything for me but i am wondering if you knew how to be able to place your icons anywhere on your screen? please tell me how if you know

    • disneyfan on 29 Aug 2007 at 10:43 am
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    It works for Microsoft Vista, too!

    • AreaOfEffect on 07 Aug 2007 at 12:21 am
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    Thank you very much.! I didn’t know this.!

    The VTP7 has just adjusted my icon spacing to 150, finally i fixed this.!

    Thanks again.!

    (Sorry for crap english.)

    • JW vanLohuizen on 15 Jul 2007 at 7:31 am
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    I appreciate the info but I have a further problem.

    “Align to Grid” won’t be checked after rebooting.

    Any ideas???


    • Ollie on 04 Apr 2007 at 7:37 am
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    Perfect! Thanks

    • Ale on 12 Oct 2006 at 8:52 am
    • Reply

    The most useful tip of the Net … Thanks a lot!

    • Le Jiang on 05 Sep 2006 at 8:40 am
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    You are my God! I’ve been trying to fix this problem on my laptop for hrs with all the files crowed on my desktop. Thanks so much for the nice instructions!!!

  1. Thanks for the great tip! It worked perfectly.

    • Me_Oh_My on 07 Apr 2006 at 1:13 pm
    • Reply

    A breakthrough: the icons move from my right monitor to my primary monitor only when I do a “switch user” (Fast User Switching). If I log off, restart, or turn off/on, everything’s okay. It’s as if the switching requires the screen to readjust itself. Here’s more on Fast User Switching

    This doesn’t help me alot, as I like to leave both users logged in, but at least I know I have the option of saving my icon locations first (using IconRestore) or logging off and foregoing the problem.

    • Me_Oh_My on 07 Apr 2006 at 12:41 pm
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    Thanks, David. Despite unselecting “align to grid”, the icons still jump back to primary monitor whenever I switch users and then go back to original user. It reapplies grid settings (resolution settings, checking for off-desktop icons, whatever) everytime I restart this user from having been logged on as another. I may try Ultramon but it’s $35.

    I am using nVidia Desktop Manager on, but have grid settings off. Luckily I’ve found some utilities including this free one (but not automatic):


  2. I think the grid starts on the primary monitor … when you selecdt “align to grid” it puts everything on the primary.

    Unselect the align to grid option and you should be able to put the icons anywhere you want.

    You might also want to look at UltraMon. It’s a nice tool that helps you manage multiple monitors.

    • Me_Oh_My on 07 Apr 2006 at 8:04 am
    • Reply

    This icon spacing trick didn’t help my problem…the icons on the right monitor of my dual monitor system keep jumping over to left (primary) monitor whenever I turn on “align to grid”. It’s as if the grid doesn’t extend over to my 2nd monitor. I’ve tried upgrading to latest video drivers, but no luck. Worse yet, this occurs whenever I switch users (Windows XP Pro). Help!

  3. I didn’t know this! I’m a computer tech, but that doesn’t make me a Windows expert. I had a problem with a client whose grid was very widely spaced. The icons took up the entire desktop. This post bailed me out. Thanks

    • Chris Hall on 05 Feb 2006 at 9:35 am
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    Exactly what I wanted to do. Thank you for the clear, concise instructions

    • Lt_Omega on 16 Oct 2005 at 9:27 am
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    Great Find
    It was just what I was looking for. Updating video drivers and changing font sizes caused icon sizes to be auto-changed.

    Now if only I could find a way to stop the text, underneath the icons, from over-lapping each other.

  1. […] the unseen desktop grid that is available for alignment of icons, here is a little tip I found at Geeky Ramblings: Sometimes there just isn

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