What does the Refresh Desktop in Windows actually do?

What does Refresh Desktop or Refresh Explorer in Windows actually do?

If you have taken your PC/laptop for repairs or updating, you would have noticed the technician pressing refresh desktop a million times. Leaving aside the technician, you must also have noticed that when you right-click on your Windows desktop or inside an open explorer window, you see an option called Refresh in the context menu. The Refresh button has been there since Windows 95 to this date in the newly launched Windows 10.


Have you wondered why this refresh context actually does or why the Windows technician press this refresh windows key every five minutes or so?

What does the refresh option actually does? Does it refresh your Windows OS and keep it running smoothly? Does it make your Windows faster? Does it free up the RAM?

Actually, it is none of these!

So what does Refresh Desktop or Folder actually do?

The Windows refresh does nothing to the Windows system or RAM! It is actually meant to refresh your Windows desktop. You have to remember that the Windows Desktop is nothing but a folder in the Windows operating system. It has been programmed to auto-refresh when its contents change. However, sometimes due to a variety of reasons, the desktop or folder does not auto refresh.

This is what happens when your technician installs a new software or a new build of Windows. He/she constantly clicks on the refresh button to see whether the changes have been affected.

In fact, you may also need to refresh your desktop manually in the following circumstances:

  • The desktop does not display the files or folders you just created, moved, deleted, renamed or saved on it
  • You need to re-align your desktop icons.
  • You find that you cannot use the desktop icons.
  • Files that were created to the desktop by some 3rd-party application do not appear
  • Windows desktop becomes  unresponsive.

In such a case, when you press F5 or right-click on your Windows desktop and select Refresh, the situation will be corrected. Manually refreshing the desktop or folder may re-order its contents as, folders first, then files, in an alphabetical order.

It is also true that your technician does that to show off his/her  technical skills. In most cases ,it is a compulsive reflex action for the technician or a computer engineer.

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