Hack 13 Remove 'Unremovable' Desktop Icons


To create your own customized XP interface, you need to be able to remove certain desktop icons. A Registry hack lets you remove any you want, including those apparently protected by XP.

Creating the perfect, customized XP interface doesn't only mean changing icons; it also means removing them. For example, many power users look down their nose at America Online, and yet, on many systems, that icon can't be removed easily.

America Online isn't the only icon protected this way; many others are as well. Which desktop icons are protected on your system will depend on your exact version of XP (for example, SP-1) and the manufacturer of your PC. The Recycle Bin is protected on all versions, but the America Online icon is protected on some systems, and not on others.

To customize XP to your liking, you'll want to be able to delete these protected icons. To do so, you'll need a Registry hack. Run the Registry Editor [Hack #68] and go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Desktop\NameSpace. Here's where you'll find various special desktop icons. They're not listed by name, but instead by CLSID?for example, {645FF040-5081-101B-9F08-00AA002F954E} for the Recycle Bin. Table 2-3 in [Hack #12] lists CLSIDs of common desktop objects, so use it to find the CLSID of the icon you want to delete.

To remove an icon from the desktop, simply delete the key of the icon?for example, {645FF040-5081-101B-9F08-00AA002F954E} for the Recycle Bin. Then exit the Registry, go to your Desktop, and press F5 to refresh the screen. The Recycle Bin icon should now be gone.

On some systems, the icons may not be deleted immediately. Instead, after making the Registry change, you might have to right-click on the icon and choose Delete.

Some CLSIDs in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Desktop\NameSpace can be deleted from the desktop without having to go through this procedure, but when you try to delete them they may give you a special warning message. For example, when you try to delete Microsoft Outlook from the Desktop, you get the warning message "The Outlook Desktop icon provides special functionality and we recommend that you do not remove it." If you'd like, you can edit that message to display whatever you want. In the CLSID's subkey?for example, {00020D75-0000-0000-C000-000000000046} for Microsoft Outlook?you'll find the value Removal Message. Edit this value to whatever text you want, and your warning message will appear whenever someone tries to delete the icon.

Keep in mind that when you remove desktop icons you're removing only icons, not the underlying feature or program. So, the Recycle Bin still works even if you remove its icon. To open the Recycle Bin, go to C:\RECYCLER and open the folder inside it. To restore an item that's been deleted, right-click on it and choose Properties Restore. Delete items as you would any other item.

Some manufacturers make America Online an unremovable desktop icon. If that's the case with your PC and you want to remove it, delete the CLSID {955B7B84-5308-419c-8ED8-0B9CA3C56985}. America Online will still work, but its icon will no longer be on the desktop.