All of a sudden you find your Windows XP Desktop icons missing just when you were in the middle of something on your computer. Ever been in that situation ?
This Windows XP tips and tricks article explains what you can do when you find your Windows XP Desktop icons missing.
It's pretty annoying, because usually when this happens, your taskbar and start button are gone too. That leaves you with nothing much to click on. The only thing that's left to look at is your desktop wallpaper.
The best way to get back on your feet is by pressing ctrl-alt-del. That will bring up the Task Manager. (In some cases it brings up the Windows Security dialog, but you can click on the Task Manager button from there to go where we need to be.)
Once in the Task Manager, make sure you are on the "Processes" tab and then click on "File" in the Task Manager menu. Then select "New Task (Run...)" and type "explorer.exe" (without the quotes) in the "open" field. Then click ok and watch a new incarnation of your desktop come to life in front of your eyes.
In a lot of cases you can elaborate this technique a bit and use it to avoid a reboot when you have made modifications in the registry. Generally you have to reboot your computer for registry changes to take effect. Now you can avoid reboots by killing and respawning the explorer.exe process.
After you have made modifications in your registry, make sure to save and close all documents that you are working on. Then bring up the Task Manager with ctrl-alt-del. Click on the "Processes" tab and look for the explorer.exe process. Single-click this process and click on Task Manager's "End Process" button.
That will make your desktop icons, task bar and start button go away, the only thing that remains is the Task Manager. That allows you to select "File"->"New Task (Run...) from the Task Manager menu. Again, type "explorer.exe" in the "open" field and click ok.
That will cause the new registry settings to be loaded without the necessity of a reboot.