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Have you ever logged into your Mac to find that all your desktop items have disappeared? This can be a very frustrating experience, especially if you don’t know the cause or how to get your files back.

There are a few reasons why your desktop items might disappear. In most cases, it could be a simple mistake that can be fixed almost immediately.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the most common reasons why desktop items disappear on a Mac. We’ll also show you how to fix the problem and get your files back.

Related: Essential Maintenance Tips for Keeping Your Mac in Top Shape

Why did Everything on my Mac Desktop Disappear?

Here are the potential causes why everything on your Mac desktop disappeared:

  • Accidental Deletion: It’s possible to delete a file or icon by mistake. This can happen through keyboard shortcuts, drag-and-drop actions, or mistaken selections.
  • Dock Settings: The disappearance could be due to the dock’s modification. Sometimes, settings can be altered, causing icons to become hidden or removed.
  • Third-Party Apps: Some third-party applications change desktop settings to achieve specific functionalities. If one of these apps is misconfigured or malfunctioning, it could lead to the disappearance of items on your Mac.
  • System Changes: System updates or repairs can modify settings. Sometimes, these changes might not be well configured and cause unexpected behaviors such as missing desktop items.
  • Display Settings: Changes in display resolution, arrangement, or multiple monitor setups can sometimes lead to icons appearing off-screen or not being displayed correctly.
  • Conflicting Processes: Problems with the core firmware or tampering with the macOS can disrupt normal functioning. In some cases, conflicts between these processes, especially after updates or software installations, could lead to unusual behavior like missing icons.
  • Security Threats: Viruses or malware can affect the operating system’s behavior. Some malicious programs manipulate settings and can cause items to disappear on your Mac.
  • File Corruption: Corruption of system files or user data can impact the display of desktop items. If essential files related to the desktop interface are infected, it could lead to missing icons.
  • User Profile Problems: Issues within your user profile, where settings and preferences are stored, could lead to unexpected changes or make items disappear on your Mac.
  • Syncing and Cloud Services: If you use cloud services like iCloud Drive, syncing issues can cause unexpected changes on your Mac.

Related: How to Start and Stop Screen Recording on a Mac

How to Restore Disappeared Desktop on Mac

1. Restoring Disappeared Desktop Items on Your Mac

It’s possible that you’ve unintentionally hidden your desktop icons, making it seem like everything has disappeared. You can rectify this by resetting your preferences to ensure the icons reappear on your Mac desktop.

Here’s how to find the hidden icons on your Mac desktop using Finder preferences:

  1. Launch Finder and go to the top menu bar. Click on “Finder” and choose “Preferences.”
  2. In the Finder Preferences window, select the “General” tab.
  3. Check the boxes next to “Hard disks,” “External disks,” “CDs, DVDs and iPods,” and “Connected servers.” You can also choose the specific items you want to display on your desktop.
  4. Close the window and check if your desktop icons have reappeared.

If other desktop icons are also missing, you can use the Mac Terminal to unveil them:

  1. Open Launchpad from the dock and choose “Other,” then select “Terminal.”
  2. Copy and paste the following command into the Terminal window:
defaults write com.apple.finder CreateDesktop true; killall Finder
  1. Press “Return.”

Furthermore, if the Mac dock and the Apple menu bar aren’t visible, you can reset their preferences to ensure they remain displayed:

  1. Click the Apple menu, then select “System Preferences,” and go to “Dock & Menu Bar.”
  2. In the Dock settings, uncheck “Automatically hide and show the Dock.”
  3. In the Menu Bar preferences, uncheck “Automatically hide and show the menu bar on desktop.”

2. Restoring Disappeared Mac Desktop Items through iCloud Drive

iCloud Drive is a tool for syncing files on your Mac for backup purposes. If you enabled iCloud Drive to synchronize your Desktop & Documents Folders but later disabled it, your Mac desktop items may disappear.

Here’s how you can recover your missing icons:

  1. Launch Finder and locate the iCloud Drive folder in the left sidebar.
  2. Double-click the Desktop folder within iCloud Drive. Copy all files and folders from this location, and then paste them onto your desktop.

Alternatively, if you accessed iCloud to delete the desktop files, it can lead to the disappearance of desktop icons on your Mac. To restore these missing icons, you can try the following:

  1. Sign in to iCloud using your Apple ID.
  2. Select “Account Settings.”
  3. Scroll down to the bottom of the settings page and click on “Restore Files.”
  4. Choose the desktop files you deleted and click “Recover.”

3. Restoring Disappeared Mac Desktop Items by Booting in Safe Mode

There’s a chance that certain software on your Mac might prevent your desktop icons from appearing. To investigate this, you can boot your Mac into Safe Mode. Safe Mode loads only essential system components and startup items, bypassing third-party applications.

Follow these steps to determine if your desktop icons appear in Safe Mode:

For Intel-based Mac computers:

  1. Turn off your Mac and wait for a moment.
  2. Restart your Mac while holding down the Shift key.
  3. Release the Shift key when the login window appears. You’ll notice “Safe Boot” displayed in the top right corner of your screen, indicating that you’re in Safe Mode.

If you’re using an M1 Mac:

  1. Shut down your Mac and wait a few seconds.
  2. When the startup options appear on the screen, press and hold the power button.
  3. Choose your startup disk, press the Shift key, and click “Continue” to enter Safe Mode.

4. Restoring Disappeared Mac Desktop Icons by Updating macOS

It’s possible that the current macOS version on your MacBook might contain bugs or security vulnerabilities, causing your desktop files and folders to vanish. To address this, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the Apple menu and select “System Preferences.”
  2. Choose “Software Update.”
  3. Check if there are new updates available for your Mac’s operating system.
  4. If updates are available, proceed to update your macOS. This process can rectify system errors and potential issues.

Related: How to turn off pop-up blockers on Mac

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get my desktop icons back on Mac?

If your desktop icons are missing on your Mac, there are different ways to restore them. You can enable hidden icons, check your display settings, reboot your Mac, ensure iCloud Drive settings, or even use Terminal commands if needed.

Why are my desktop files not showing on Mac?

Your Mac desktop items are missing due to accidental deletion, hidden icons, changes in system settings, third-party app interference, or even sync issues with iCloud Drive. Review these potential causes to identify and address the specific problem affecting your PC.


In conclusion, the sudden disappearance of desktop items on a Mac can be caused by accidental actions, changes in settings, and even third-party app interactions. To recover missing desktop items, you can explore some options. These options include checking for hidden icons, adjusting Finder preferences, utilizing iCloud Drive, employing Terminal commands when necessary, updating macOS, or even booting into Safe Mode. By following the provided guidelines, you can restore your missing desktop icons and files. If challenges persist, seek assistance from a computer technician for valuable insights and support.

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