Log in to Desktop in Windows 8? Yup, it’s possible

By | August 26, 2012

So I’ve been keeping a little bit of a pulse on Windows 8 since the Developer Preview release nearly a year ago now. Since doing this I haven’t seen a post or detail on how to accomplish what I’m about to show, so I thought I’d divulge the secret and the process.

Step 1 – Reverse Engineer

As always. But this isn’t *that* hard. My thinking here was hey, there’s a “Desktop” shortcut in the Start Menu, and when I do a “Pin to Start” on other things, a similar shortcut is created. These have to be stored somewhere.

Find out where

I did this by choosing a non-Modern (aka Metro) tile that I have on my start screen, and picking “Open File Location” from the app menu.

This brought me to

c:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\…\…\<shortcut>

from there, I walked up the directory tree to

c:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu

and then punched ‘Desktop’ in to the search criteria in Explorer.

Lo and behold, it found a shortcut called “Desktop” at

c:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Desktop.lnk

Step 2 – Reimplement

If you don’t already know how to put stuff in your “Startup” folder in the Start Screen (since there isn’t an obvious folder structure anymore) allow me to enlighten you.

Window + R (Run dialog) and type in


This opens the startup folder. Now, we go back to that newly discovered Desktop.lnk file and… can you guess? Yup, copy it. Voila.

Step 3 – Profit

Blamo. The only downside is that since it’s a Start-Menu Startup object, it launches pretty late in the startup sequence but rest assured it will launch and will take you to the Desktop after logging in.



After getting a few responses saying this wasn’t working for everybody (I’m not sure what the reason is that it isn’t), I cooked up another method. I actually think it’s quite creative if I do say so myself (and I do) :)

Check it out, by adding a shortcut to your Startup folder that pops a “classic” app, you’ll get thrown to the desktop automagically. How’d I do this? Simple:

  1. shell:startup
  2. Create Shortcut
  3. c:\windows\explorer.exe


I also set the shortcut to launch minimized just to make it a bit more transparent. Works like a charm as well!

  • Alex Verboon

    Hi Brandon, great stuff, many thanks.
    For all those that plan to automated this, here’s some vbscript code that creates the shortcut automatically.
    FileName = “GotoDesktop”
    StartupLocation = “C:ProgramDataMicrosoftWindowsStart MenuProgramsStartup”
    Set shortcut = CreateObject(“WScript.Shell”).CreateShortcut(StartupLocation & + “” + FileName + “.lnk”)
    shortcut.Description = “GotoDesktop”
    shortcut.TargetPath = “explorer.exe”

    Note that the above code creates the shortcut in “All users” startup folder, if you only wish to create the folder for the user that runs the script then replace the Set shortcut line with
    Set shortcut = CreateObject(“WScript.Shell”).CreateShortcut(CreateObject(“WScript.Shell”).SpecialFolders(“Startup”)

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