One of the first things IT Administrators and IT Managers notice after a fresh installation of Windows 2012 Server is that there are no Desktop Icons apart from the Recycle Bin. Desktop icons such as Computer, User’s Files, Network & Control Panel are not available by default. Desktop icons are now available through the Personalize menu, when right-clicking in an empty area on the desktop, however this menu option is not available by default.
Figure 1. Personalize Menu is not available by default on Windows 2012 Server
To bring back the Desktop icons, administrators must first install the Desktop Experience feature on Windows 2012 Server.
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Note: Once the Desktop Experience Feature is installed, the server will require a restart.
To do so, click on the Server Manager icon on the taskbar:
Figure 2. Server Manager icon on Windows 2012 Server taskbar
Now select Add Roles and Features:
Figure 3. Selecting Add roles and features in Windows 2012 Server
Now, click Next on the Before you Begin page and at the Installation Type page select Role-based or feature-based installation. Next, select your server from the server pool and click Next:
Figure 4. Selecting our destination server
At the next window, click on Features located at the left side, do not select anything from the Server Roles which is displayed by default. Under Features, scroll down to User Interfaces and Infrastructure and click to expand it. Now tick Desktop Experience:
Figure 5. Selecting Desktop Experience under User Interfaces and Infrastructure
When Desktop Experience is selected, a pop up window will ask us to confirm the installation of a few additional services or features required. At this point, simply click on Add Features. Now click on Next and then the Install button.
This will install all necessary server components and add-ons:
Figure 6. Installation of server components and add-ons - Windows 2012 Server
Once complete, the server will require a restart. After the server restart, we can right-click in an empty area on our desktop and we’ll see the Personalize menu. Select it and then click on Change desktop icons from the next window:
Figure 7. Selecting Change desktop icons - Windows 2012 Server
Now simply select the desktop icons required to be displayed and click on OK:
Figure 8. Select Desktop icons to be displayed on Windows 2012 Server Desktop
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This article showed how to enable Desktop Icons (Computer, User files, Network , Control Panel) on Windows 2012 Server. We explained this process using a step-by-step process and included all necessary screenshots to ensure a quick and trouble-less installation. For more Windows 2012 Server tutorials, visit our Windows Server Section.