Adding Shortcuts for System Items to Windows Desktop

Have you ever tried to add a desktop shortcut pointing to “This PC”?

Desktop PC IconSounds like a reasonable thing to do, doesn’t it?

Here’s how you normally create a shortcut and place it on the desktop:

  • Open File Explorer
  • Find the file or folder for which you would like a desktop shortcut
  • Right-click on the file or folder, and then left-click on “create shortcut”
  • Sometimes, the shortcut will appear below the folder or file that it points to. You can then “cut and paste” it to the desktop or just drag it there if you can see the Desktop behind the File Explorer window (ie if the File Explorer window is not maximised)
  • Sometimes, rather bizarrely, you will get a message saying that the shortcut can’t be placed here and do you want to place it on the desktop instead? Since that’s what you wanted in the first place, just say “yes”
This PC Item in File Explorer
“This PC” displayed in File Explorer

The “This PC” location in File Explorer can be very useful. It lists all the drives available and may also give shortcuts to the most common folders (such as Pictures, Documents, Music). Where relevant, it also gives the total size of the item and amount of spare space on it. Note, by the way, that you or someone else may have renamed “This PC”, so if you can’t find it, look for something like “Fred’s PC” or similar. Renaming “This PC” is done in the manner you would expect – right-click on it and left-click on “rename”.

“This PC” is so useful that you might want a shortcut to it on your desktop for easy access. So what would you try to do to achieve this? You would probably right-click on the “This PC” item and look for “Create shortcut”. Nice try, but it doesn’t work. I have absolutely no idea why it is not offered as an option here. However, like so many things in life, it’s fairly easy when you know how, but you might never stumble on it by accident. The answer is as follows:

  • Click on the Start button
  • Click on the “Settings” icon (the gearwheel)
  • Click on the “Personalisation” option
  • Click on “Themes” (lefthand column of screen)
  • Click on “Desktop Icon Settings” (listed at the right of the screen)
Desktop Icon Settings
Select the icons to display on the desktop

A window will then open showing you the available system shortcuts that can be added to the desktop. Click the box next to “Computer” to have “This PC” displayed on your desktop. Tick the box next to any other system icons that you would like similarly displayed and close all the windows you’ve just opened.

With oddities like this, I often wonder whether there is some good technical reason why they haven’t done things in the obvious way, or is it just that no-one can be bothered to smooth off some of the rough edges that sometimes persist in software for decades.

(Last updated 09/07/2021)