How to Create a Desktop Shortcut in Windows

Shortcuts are an essential part of the Windows experience, and you can use them to quickly access your apps, folders, drives, and more. You can place your shortcuts on the desktop, Start menu, or anywhere else. Follow this tutorial to learn how to create them.

Good to know: having trouble removing a file from your system? Learn how to force delete an undeletable file.

Create a Desktop Shortcut for an App

Most of the time, you can opt to create a desktop shortcut for an app while installing it. You can also create a shortcut for any app at a later time, as we discuss next.

  1. Locate the app folder, which typically contains the .EXE file and other software components. Most folders for installed apps are in the “Program Files” or “Program Files (x86)” folders in the “C:\” drive.
Program Files folders in "C:\" drive.
  1. Open the app folder, and right-click its executable file. Select “Send to -> Desktop (create shortcut).” (On Windows 11, you’ll need to click on “Show more options” first.)
Clicking on "Send to" button from context menu via File Explorer.
  1. At this point, you’ll have the shortcut on your desktop, and you can keep it there, rename it, move it to any other folder, or right-click it to pin it to the start menu.

Note: don’t relocate the app executable, or the shortcut will no longer work.

Shortcut on desktop view.
  1. Next to the desktop shortcuts, immediately create a Start menu shortcut for an app by right-clicking its executable and selecting “Pin to Start.”
Clicking on "Pin to Start" option from context menu.

How to Create a Desktop Shortcut for a UWP App

Dealing with Microsoft Store-downloaded apps, which are called UWP apps, can sometimes be a bit tricky. Still, creating a desktop shortcut for them is pretty straightforward.

  1. Open the Run dialogue by pressing Win + R, then type shell:AppsFolder and press Enter.
Typing "shell:AppsFolder" in Run window.
  1. Windows will open the “Applications” system folder that contains most shortcuts for installed apps, including UWP apps. Right-click your targeted app, and select “Create shortcut.”
Clicking on "Create shortcut" option from context menu for Microsoft app.
  1. After choosing this option, Windows will tell you it’s impossible to create the shortcut there and will ask to send it to the desktop instead. Agree to that by clicking on the “Yes” button.
Shortcuts for Microsoft apps are sent directly to the desktop.

Tip: getting the “You don’t currently have permission to access this folder” error on your Windows PC? Learn what to do about it.

How to Create a Desktop Shortcut for a File, Folder or Drive

You can also create a shortcut for any file, folder or drive to have easier access to them.

  1. Right-click the desired file, folder or drive.
Image 17
  1. You’ll find the same “Send to → Desktop (create shortcut)” and “Create Shortcut” options.
  2. The “Pin to Start” option is also available, even for drives.

How to Create Desktop Shortcuts with Drag and Drop

You can immediately create a desktop shortcut by dragging and dropping the original file, folder or app to the desktop.

  1. Locate the desired file, folder, or app via File Explorer.
  2. Minimize the File Explorer window so that you can also see the desktop. Click on the file, folder or app to select it, hold the Alt button, and drag and drop it to the desktop.
Drag and dropping a folder to the desktop.
  1. You can do the same for the apps in the Start menu, except you don’t need to press Alt. Just long-press the app, and drag and drop it to the desktop. To view your entire list of applications, click the “All Apps” button.
Moving app from Start menu to desktop.

Tip: learn how to change icons on Windows.

How to Create a Desktop Shortcut for a Website

If you find yourself regularly accessing a website, you can create a shortcut for it. There are various ways to go about doing so:

  1. Right-click any space where you want to create the shortcut, hover over “New,” and select “Shortcut.”
Clicking on "Shortcut" option in context menu.
  1. The “Create Shortcut” wizard lets you locate the item for which you want to create a shortcut. We only need to enter the website’s URL and click “Next.”
    Adding URL in "Create shortcut" window.
  1. Set a name for the shortcut, then click “Finish.” Double-clicking the newly-created shortcut will directly open the website with your default web browser.
Website shortcut created.
  1. You can also create a shortcut for a website through your browser, as well as via a third-party app.

How to Create Custom Desktop Shortcuts

We discussed creating shortcuts for files, folders, drives, apps, and websites. But you can create shortcuts for anything you would like, including commands or Windows Settings.

  1. Right-click any empty space on the desktop or a folder, and select “Shortcut -> New.”
Shortcuts Wizard 1
  1. In the Create Shortcut wizard, you can, for example, enter the following path to create a shortcut that shows you the current Windows version when clicked.
Shortcut showing you the current Windows version.
  1. You can also create a shortcut that launches a specific settings page, which is helpful if you regularly open a particular setting. You only need to launch the shortcut wizard and enter the URL related to the settings in question. Reference this Microsoft page for a comprehensive list of codes.
URL for accessing setting related to high contrast themes via Windows Settings.
  1. You can create a shortcut that lets you access all your Windows settings from an easy-to-access list. To proceed, create a new folder, and name it “GodMode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}”.
  1. Access the folder to view the list of settings.
List of settings in GodMode.
  1. Easily create a shortcut for any setting by right-clicking it and selecting “Create shortcut.”
Creating a setting shortcut from GodMode.

Tip: wondering what the best game launcher is for Windows? We compare the top options for you.

How to Create a Shortcut Launcher on Windows

If you’re looking to have a place with all your shortcuts, and the desktop or Start menu can’t store them all, opt for a shortcut launcher instead. We’re using the Luncher app, a free and versatile option for any Windows PC.

  1. Download the app and install it.
  2. Once you launch the app, you’ll notice a small white bar on the top of your screen, regardless of the app you’re using. Clicking on that bar will immediately open Luncher.
Launcher app bar superimposed on File Explorer view.
  1. Click the “+” button to add a new shortcut. The app will also make it easier for you by listing all your applications.
Clicking on "+" button in Launcher app to add shortcut.
  1. The shortcut will be added to the launcher bar at the top for easy access.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I rename a shortcut?

Renaming a shortcut is the same as renaming any other file on Windows. Press F2 or Fn+F2 on notebooks, and enter the new name. Note that shortcuts don’t come with an extension. For instance, an app executable looks like “Chrome.exe,” but a shortcut is only displayed as “Chrome.”

How can I change the icon for a desktop shortcut?

How can I make shortcuts look like normal files?

Image credit: Unsplash. All screenshots by Mustafa Ashour.

Mustafa Ashour
Mustafa Ashour

Mustafa is a tech content writer who’s a geek at heart. His passion lies in writing about technology, especially software-related topics. He’s also interested in digital marketing, business development, and entrepreneurship. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Finance.

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