How Do I Get Missing Icons to Reappear on a Mac Desktop?

Missing desktop icons can occur as the result of incorrect permissions, corrupt system files or icons piling up on top of each other. Adjusting how the Mac OS X Mavericks Finder displays desktop icons can also affect the ability to view certain types of icons. In most cases, you can correct the issue by adjusting your settings and running scans to repair your computer. Additionally, removing desktop icons that you don't need can marginally increase the performance of your computer by freeing up memory since each icon refreshes when you access your desktop.

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The Mac desktop provides convenient access to frequently used files and folders.
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Desktop Organization

Keeping several icons on your desktop can create instances where icons end up on top of other icons. This results in the appearance of missing icons. By setting up your desktop to align icons to a grid and sorting them automatically, you can find missing icons and prevent this issue from occurring again. Right-click on a blank area of the desktop, select "Sort By" and choose "Snap to Grid" to keep each icon in its own space. Apply the settings by right-clicking the desktop again and selecting "Clean Up." The Clean Up option only displays if icons currently appear on the desktop.

Finder Settings

The Finder preferences control the type of desktop icons that appear. If you find only some icons missing from the desktop, adjust the settings to correct the issue. Click on a blank area of the desktop, select the "Finder" menu and choose "Preferences..." from the drop-down menu. Under the General tab, check the "Hard Disks," "External Disks," "CDs, DVDs, and iPods" and "Connected Servers" boxes. Connected servers, external disks, CDs, DVDs and iPods only display on the desktop when connected to your computer. When you remove a device, the icon disappears.

Disk Utility

Permission errors could prevent you from seeing icons on your desktop. These errors can result from improperly shutting down your computer or because an application has altered some of your settings. Click a blank area of the desktop, select the "Go" menu and choose "Utilities" from the drop-down menu. Launch Disk Utility and select your hard disk from the sidebar. Select the "First Aid" tab and choose "Repair Disk Permissions." If you can't select this option, click "Verify Disk Permissions" first, then attempt to repair the disk permissions.

Repair Mac OS X

Mac OS X Mavericks contains an option to repair your installation disk and restore corrupt or missing system files without losing any of your applications, data or files. Press "Command-R" while starting your computer and release the keys when the OS X Recovery console displays. Select the option to "Reinstall OS X" and follow the prompts to reinstall the files on your system. You may need to connect to a network before reinstalling your operating system.