How to Use Desktop Shortcuts in Windows 10

By Andy Rathbone

As you work in Windows 10, you’ll constantly find yourself traveling between the desktop and the Start menu. You need a shortcut. When you grow tired of meandering through the woods to find a program, folder, disk drive, document, or even a website, create a desktop shortcut — an icon that takes you directly to the object of your desires.

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Because a shortcut is a mere icon that launches something else, shortcuts are safe, convenient, and disposable. And they’re easy to tell apart from the original because they have a little arrow lodged in their bottom-left corner, as you can see on the folder shortcut shown in the margin.

To skip the Start menu, follow these instructions to create desktop shortcuts to your oft-used items:

  • Folders or Documents: From the desktop’s File Explorer, right-click a favorite folder or document, choose Send To, and select the Desktop (Create Shortcut) option. The shortcut appears on your desktop.

  • Websites: On Internet Explorer, see the little icon in front of the website’s address in Internet Explorer’s Address bar? Drag and drop that little icon to your desktop for quick access later. (As of this writing, the Microsoft Edge browser doesn’t let you create desktop shortcuts.)

  • Control Panel: The desktop’s Control Panel contains eight sections, each with links beneath it. Every icon and link in Control Panel can be dragged onto your desktop to create a shortcut. (An easy way to access the Control Panel from the desktop is to right-click in the screen’s bottom-left corner and choose Control Panel from the pop-up menu.)

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  • Storage areas: Open File Explorer with a click of its icon on the desktop’s taskbar. From the Navigation Pane along File Explorer’s left side, drag and drop any storage area you want to the desktop. Windows immediately places a shortcut to that drive on your desktop. (This works for your main OneDrive folder, This PC, flash drives, disc drives, and even network locations.)

Here are some more tips for desktop shortcuts:

  • For quick CD or DVD burning, put a shortcut to your disc drive on your desktop. Burning files to disc becomes as simple as dragging and dropping them onto the disc drive’s new shortcut. (Insert a blank disc into the disc drive’s tray, confirm the settings, and begin burning your disc.)

  • Want to send a desktop shortcut to the Start menu? Right-click the desktop shortcut and choose Pin to Start; the item appears as a tile on the Start menu, as well as in the Start menu’s All Apps list.

  • Feel free to move shortcuts from place to place, but dont move the items they launch. If you do, the shortcut won’t be able to find the item, causing Windows to panic and search (usually in vain) for the relocated goods.

  • Want to see what program a shortcut will launch? Right-click the shortcut and click Open File Location (if available). The shortcut quickly takes you to its leader.