Tip - restart Finder to restore missing icons

Today, when using Exposé to reveal my desktop prior to ejecting a drive, I found that all of the files on my desktop had vanished. Only the mounted drives were visible.

Needless to day, this worried me. I don’t want to lose any files. But before restoring them from a Time Machine backup, I decided to check to see if they were actually gone or if the Finder had just stopped showing them.

The following command (from a Terminal window) will show you all of the files (but not non-file objects like mounted drives) on your desktop:

$ ls ~/Desktop

I typed this command and it showed me the four folders and two files that were on my desktop.

So the files were where they were supposed to be. The Finder just stopped showing them. I recovered by restarting the Finder.

Hold down control and option while clicking the Finder icon in the Dock and you will see a “Relaunch” option:

Screen Shot 2022-07-07 at 16.59.17 copy

Click it and the Finder will restart.

In my case, this fixed the problem. A few seconds later, and the desktop icons were all back in their normal locations.


This sometimes happens to me with networked devices displayed on the Desktop.
The Force Quit function in the Apple menu (top left of screen) is another way to relaunch Finder.

I don’t have network (or locally attached) drives set to show on my desktop. Every once in a while I will accidentally quit Finder because of one too many cmd-q’s. The way I notice is when all of a sudden items on my desktop will be gone. A simple Finder relaunch of course fixes that.

I guess this is the universe reminding me why Apple’s default is to NOT include Quit in Finder and why I had to restore to TinkerTool to actually put it back there. I suppose this is what I deserve for outsmarting myself. :wink:


As I was reading the first paragraph, I was thinking, “And how does Command-Q quit the Finder?” And then I read the second paragraph. :slight_smile:

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I restored Quit as well, but then used System Preferences → Keyboard → Short Cuts → App Shortcuts to map it to ⌥⌘Q. So it’s available, but I’m much less likely to invoke it accidentally.


Excellent advice. :+1:

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I’m still on Catalina and Finder is somewhat flaky, e.g., this morning when trying to unmount an external drive, the drive was in use by “Finder” (but it wasn’t). I restarted Finder by using Activity Monitor. Success!

Select “Finder” in the process listing, and then the “X” in the upper left of the Acitivity Monitor window to Quit the process. Then simply click on the Finder in the dock to restart it. (Finder restores open windows upon restart.)

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I find that the easiest way to force a Finder restart is via the Force Quit menu, accessible via the menu bar Apple list or the option-Command-Esc keyboard combination. Finder is at the bottom of the list, and, when selected, the Force Quit button becomes Relaunch.

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