Stop Desktop Icons from Changing Positions After Reboot in Mac OS X

Sep 21, 2011 - 28 Comments

Stop desktop icons arrangement from changing placement after a reboot in Mac OS X

If you spend time customizing the desktop icon placement, it can be pretty annoying to discover that after each restart of Mac OS X, the icons seem to take on a mind of their own and rearrange themselves, usually changing their position so that they are all aligned to the far right of the Mac desktop.

The reason for the automatic icon arrangement is simple: Sorting. Here’s how to turn this off:

  • Click on the Mac desktop – you must select the desktop and not a folder
  • Click on the “View” menu and pull down to “Sort By” and select “None”

This removes any sorting or arranging of the icons, which are easy to enable either by accident due to the keyboard shortcuts or because you just forgot that you turned sorting on a long time ago.

Thanks to @jakestanfield for the tip idea via Twitter. Jake provided the following image which shows off the frustration with sorting arrangements perfectly:

Stop icon position from changing after a reboot in Mac OS X

You can also change the icon sorting behavior in the “View Options” menu, by hitting Command+J from the desktop. You’ll still want to select “None” as the desktop behavior if you don’t want icons to be realigned on their own.


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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Segue says:

    I’m running Mavericks and my desktop icons jump around everytime I save a file that is on the desktop. They tend to jump to the right but not to any consistent location. I am a sophisticated Mac user and I know about the options for icon placement. These settings don’t have any impact upon this phenomenon. I spend a lot of time dragging them back to where they belong, as I’m a very spatial organizer. It’s a maddening bug that has survived quite a few iterations of Mac OS. Does anyone know if there’s a newer version where they finally fixed this problem? There doesn’t appear to be a solution to fixing it within the OS I am using now.

  2. mynameiskrypto says:

    I am still running 10.6.8, and I FINALLY took the time to figure out how to stop my desktop folders from ALWAYS changing inside from arranged by List to arranged by Icon. Each desktop folder has to be opened. Then at top toolbar open View. Then set however you want these files, like As Icons or As List or As Columns. Then click View again and go down to Show View Options and click on that when it is highlighted. A new separate box will open and at the top is a small click box marked Always open in Icon (or List) view. Click that so that it has a checkmark, close it, and it will always work that way. It has for me.

  3. OsX says:

    This tip does NOT work in Mac OS X 10.6.8. The problem is real, but only affects some people using some Macs. As far as I know, the reason is unknown.

    It arose in Mac OS X 10.6.2 (Snow Leopard) and persists in Mac OS X 10.6.8. I have not tried it, but people are also reporting it in Mac OS X 10.7.x. Check out:

    Desktop items get unsorted after cold boot on Snow Leopard 10.6.2

  4. Marcello says:

    I called the Parallels customer service. I updated Parallels 7 online. Now the icon disappearing problem is sorted out. All’s well that ends well. Cheers

  5. Marcello says:

    The problem is connected to the use of Parallels for Mac. I noticed that it happens every time I use Parallels (Which is not so often, that’s why I noticed). I still don’t have a solution. What I do now, every time I close parallels I delete the file “” from the prefs folder and reset my desktop picture when I turn it on again. I am still looking for a steady solution. I am thinking of changing Parallels with something else. Or, probably I’ll write to Parallels to make them aware of the flaw. Good luck

  6. ozgun gursurer says:

    quite annoying. this would never happen in a win machine.

  7. Jedi Master Tonyman says:

    Well I don’t know where Mr. Horowitz got the screen captures from but they certainly don’t match the menu in 10.6.8. Wordsmithereens got it right but it doesn’t make any difference since None is already selected by default. And Teladoy gives the worst advice ever: ” if happen is for the good… look for the good side of thing” so this fellow is happy with just about anything the guys at Apple will throw to him even if it is annoying for most of us… oh well, I only wish there is a REAL solution out there for this, becuase I’m tired of having to relocate all my desktop icons every other week. This comes to show that Macs are far from perfect as they want us to believe (The most advanced operating system in the world my a$$).

  8. wordsmithereens says:

    In 10.6.8, the “none” option is in a sub-menu of the Finder’s View menu.

    Finder > View > Show View Options > Arrange by > None.

    • Prepress Ally says:

      Not for all. On my computer, yes, exactly as you’ve described. On my coworkers computer (who is running 10.6.8–same as me) I can’t find that option…

  9. teladoy says:

    Well this setting is by default anyway, and his desktop have 10% of mine, I have run into this problem only once in Lion, and if happen is for the good because allow me to clean my desktop of unwanted files, look for the good side of thing. I am very happy with Lion and thankful for the guides this site post.
    Now when arranging and using clean up if you hit by mistake the desktop well…….. don’t blame others.
    Accidents happen.

  10. Chris Fisher says:

    Fix this bull$hit – icons align every once in a while (about every 7 days) on the right – has happened in a late 2008 macbook pro upgraded from snow leopard to lion and a brand new mac mini i7 2.7ghz with lion factory installed – fire the 25 year old douche bag that designed these stupid options.. operating system should be fully controllable.. not this application state saving and reopening windows upon logging back in.. wtf is that $hit.. have it customizable and have the customizations work you d1ckheads – snow leopard was a work of art comported to this note board bull$hit..

  11. juxta says:

    10.6.8 doesn’t have the option “None”

    • Prepress Ally says:

      Mine does, my co workers, however (on the same operating system) does not… I have no idea why our options are different.

  12. old guy says:

    Back in the pre-OSX days, I had a custom AppleScript that would run on startup to reposition icons/folders where I wanted them to be. Very simple.

    I haven’t tried this trick in OSX, but I’ve abandoned the throweverythingonmydesktop workflow.

  13. Marucins says:

    Andrea and other idiots!!!
    Thanks for what? Are you at all check this TIP? I doubt…

    Another tip&trick for idiots :)

    • James says:

      Tip & trick for Marucins

      Before calling people “idiots” in your comments, making sure what you wrote makes sense or perhaps find someone who actually knows English to write it for you.

      “Are you at all check this TIP? I doubt…” Huh??

      I recommend you bookmark:

      • Marucins says:

        I am not an Englishman so I say do not speak English properly! Do you have a problem with it?

        Maybe we’ll talk in German, French, Spanish?

  14. bruno says:

    this tip does NOT work in OS X 10.6.8

  15. I have to say, this worked initially (and still partially does) but Eric Woehler is right…still sorts itself for me with snap to grid unchecked in both areas. I still thank you OSXDaily as half of my icons stay put, that’s half the work I don’t have to do everyday. =)

  16. Апо says:

    I’ve always hated that grid, it’s either not working like it’s supposed to or I don’t get it.

  17. Fornicatia Owl says:

    Old tip is old

  18. adam says:

    This no solve pb with.DS_Store corrupt :p

  19. Mark K says:

    As long as you have no sort set, and disable “Sort by Grid” then it will always stay. I align icons to the left like Windows (dodges bullets) and they never move.

    • Mark C. says:

      Mine has ALWAYS been set like this, and every few boots, BAM!, everything is on lined up on the right side of the desktop.

  20. Andrea says:

    Thanks! Finally!

  21. Ali Kaylan says:

    Eric Woehler is right. This ‘tip’ does not solve the problem. 10.7.2 might.

    Mine has been set to ‘none’ forever, and the desktop still rearranges itself in 10.7.1. Also, the touchpad has a mind of its own. The cursor does not end up where you think it’ll end up. It is erratic.

  22. Eric Woehler says:

    Nope – not so simple, but I wish it was!

    Lion has been a major headache for me and others – despite massive efforts to fix ACLs, repair user permissions, deleting the finder plist file, and trying everything else on the Apple forums, icons re-arrange themselves at random, sometimes just minutes after restart and continue to do so..

    Paralleling this delightful (not!) behaviour is the finder windows don’t retain their settings either – same as the desktop (folder) – I set a folder view to list view, 2 minutes later when I reopen the folder, its in icon view. MANY people are having this issue – check out the Apple forums. Even multiple re-installations of Lion, zero-ing Lion drives and starting from scratch, creating new user, etc doesn’t solve the problem.

    Only reliable solution to date appears to be to upgrade to 10.6.9 Snow Leopard and all your Lion issues disappear. I successfully obtained a refund for Lion from Apple after I listed my issues with the software.

    A lot of people are hoping 10.7.2 fixes the issue – but then we were all hoping 10.7.1 would fix it….

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