The desktop on your Mac serves multiple purposes, as both a representation of the Desktop folder contents in your home directory, and as a location to access computer resources, such as hard drives and mounted network shares. These make the desktop a convenient place to store temporary work, and organize commonly-accessed files; however, there may be times when items you know should be on the desktop are missing.
This type of problem can happen for several reasons, but the fixes for them may take different approaches. If the items missing from your desktop are files, then you can try the following three options for determining if they are present:
- Click your desktop, then choose the View > Sort-By menu and select any sorting option. This should re-arrange your desktop items and reveal ones that may have been hidden.
- Minimize clutter on your desktop, since once its space is filled, then items on it may begin automatically overlapping.
If the items missing are your attached drives, or network servers that you commonly access, then go to the Finder preferences, where in the General section you will have an option to show hard drives, servers, and other items on the desktop. Toggle these according to your preferences.
Finally, even with items arranged and set to display, you may still not be able to locate one or two, which may especially be the case if you use multiple monitors with your system and are regularly changing resolutions when attaching and detaching these monitors. In some cases, items may be on the desktop, but are “lost” outside of a monitor’s bounds. To fix this, go to the Displays system preferences and change the resolution of your attached monitors. Wait for the display to refresh its view, and then change the resolution back. When done, check your Desktop to see if the missing item is present.
One fix to try for missing desktop icons is to force-quit the finder (press shift key and select force-quit finder). This often restores the missing icons on the desktop, forcing them to be reloaded. Forcing the finder to quit is especially useful if the missing icon is an external hard drive icon or a file located on an external hard drive.
What about jumping items in the Desktop or changing position on Mac OS X 10.10.5 (14F27) Yosemite?