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What effect, if any, does the number of icons on a user's Windows XP desktop have on system performance? Can a large number of desktop icons slow down a system?

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closed as off topic by MDMarra, Chris S Apr 17 '12 at 20:04

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This question should be reopened and migrated to Superuser. It might be worth clearing this myth up. – Bigbio2002 Apr 17 '12 at 20:53
@Bigbio2002 Not all questions deserve to be migrated. There's nothing stopping you or the OP from asking there, but this really shouldn't be reopened and migrated. – MDMarra Apr 20 '12 at 1:19

According to Raymond Chen (who should know) the Desktop is just an Explorer window like any other one, so in theory it should be no different than the number of icons in any other Explorer window that's open.

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I'm really late to this party, and am posting for posterity :-)

The only answer that you can give is 'It depends', and to define better what you mean by performance.

Consider: An icon file by itself is small and if you have a few, then desktop loading and refresh takes no time. If you have (extreme) thousands, then loading the desktop, or repainting after a refresh with all of those icons will take time. Time means performance.

To test this, measure startup time, and launch time of applications. Then, create 1000 files in your temp directory (at a cmd prompt type: for /l %a in (1000,1,2000) do @echo: > file_%a.txt , and then create 1000 shortcuts on your desktop. Re-log in. Run some apps. Log out. Any part slower? Acceptable?

An icon represents something. Sometimes it is a pointer to a file someplace else on the hard drive. Sometimes it is the file. You can test this as well. Create 3 1gb files on your desktop.. Re-log in. Run some apps. Log out. Any part slower? Acceptable?

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Yes it affects. And you the load will be higher if you have an antivirus. Each icon image has to be retrieved from the file. If it is just a shortcut it is not much, but if it is an executable file and you have an antivirus installed that scans the files on access, the load can be high. It will also pollute the OS file cache with non important stuff.

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That's why Windows has an icon cache - precisely so this kind of thing doesn't happen. – Le Comte du Merde-fou Feb 12 '10 at 19:12
And that cache is not using resources on the computer? – Mircea Vutcovici Feb 12 '10 at 19:24
No worse than the resources it's using for icons in any other Explorer window or any running apps. Desktop == no different. – Le Comte du Merde-fou Feb 12 '10 at 19:36
I've experienced a performance hit. The extent depends on the nature of the files on the desktop, their quantity, and the behaviour of the AV program. For a really unpleasant experience, imagine several 100 GB of compressed files that the AV will try and decompress to scan. That can take a couple of hours. – xenny Feb 12 '10 at 20:11
That sounds more like a "shitty AV" problem, though. – ceejayoz Apr 17 '12 at 17:02

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