XP Not Restoring Active Desktop

Active Desktop Recovery not restoring back to your desktop?

It’s a fairly common problem. You click the ever inviting Restore my Active Desktop button, but nothing happens. You still have that ugly white Active Desktop being displayed.

When I run into this problem, I have two methods I use to fix it.

Active Desktop Recovery Fix

Method 1

Right click on a blank area of the desktop and select Properties.


Now select the Desktop tab, then press the Customize Desktop button.


Here is the strange part.

Make a change to the Desktop icons section by selecting or deselecting one of them, then press OK.


Now press Apply.


If Method 1 was going to work, your Active Desktop message should have disappeared and you should have your standard desktop back.

If Method 1 did not work, try Method 2.

Method 2

Open up your registry: Start -> Run

*Warning: Be careful what you are doing when in the registry. It’s very easy to make your computer non-usable if you edit the wrong entry.

Type regedit


Expand the following:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Desktop\SafeMode\Components\


Double-click on DeskHtmlVersion, select the Decimal radio-button, and change the value from 272 to 0.

Then press OK.


Close out of Registry Editor, click in a blank area of your desktop, and press F5 to refresh the screen.

You should be back at your normal background/wallpaper.

Pat yourself on the back for a job well-done!

About Chris Davis

Computer / Technology enthusiast. Very passionate about Systems Administration. I enjoy helping others try and reach their goals. You can follow Chris on if you'd like.


  1. The User012 says:

    i cant open display properties :( it closes instantly

  2. jitheesh t says:

    Thanks buddy…it’s working…..

  3. The Regedit Hack worked like a charm – been so long since I have seen this I was at a loss! Thanks for the post!

  4. Method #1. Immediate fix. Thanks!

  5. Louise Duncan says:

    yes thanks – tried a more complex fix before but this time method 1 worked.

  6. Excellent! Thank you – I was about to throw this thing out of the window after trying other reported on-line ‘fixes’ which did not work, your second solution did just fine.

  7. Dear Chris,method one worked very well.Thanks.

  8. Method 2 worked like a dream. Thanks.

  9. The value keeps going back to hexadecimal when i go to check if it worked. I set the value to 0 and i click “decimal” and then i click ok. Then i go and modify it again its back to a hexadecimal

  10. Tried the solution not working

    • Bummer – I do remember a couple machines over the years that would not work for me either. There has to be something else we are missing. I will keep looking around.

  11. Both solutions and a virus scan

  12. thank u so much….its working good

  13. Hi Chris – your advice really helped -first method worked

  14. Thank You Wery Much! The first method worked!

  15. again again this problem happen in my desktoop.

  16. Thanks! I didn’t know this one. Happened to me after my computer was unplugged without the battery in it.

  17. TundraThumper says:

    The Regedit solutions worked like a champ

  18. Great help Chris

  19. Thanks for your help. Method 2 worked for me. Thanks again.

  20. Method 1 worked perfectly. thanks

  21. Hey Mate,

    Lets do a little root cause analysis here. Why does method 1 work for some and method 2 for others.

    I am in IT as well, was looking for a fix for this. Thank you mate!

  22. This worked like a dream!!!!!!!!!!!
    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!!

  23. Melvin Ware says:

    When I booted XP today, I had a white “Active Desktop Recovery” screen that failed to recover my desktop. Found this website and tried “Method 1″ which worked great and restored by desktop. Many Thanks !

  24. Help me!please….Don’t work…

  25. Thank you thank you thank you!! The first way didn’t work, so I had to use the second method, which totally fixed the problem. I’m patting myself on the back now! :-)

  26. Yeah, tried boths methods and both of them work for me, but the problem keeps coming back. There’s one other bug which might be in synchronicity with active desktop – when I start win explorer and enter a folder with images, it tends sometimes to automatically shut down…

  27. Kenneth Juergens says:

    Method 1 worked for me also. Thanks so very much for taking the time to write this and to also do a video. Your efforts were very helpful to me (and apparently many others.) XP FOREVER!!! — who needs MS’s support when there are great people like you who are so helpful.

  28. Charlie says:

    Thanks, Chris! Method 2 work once before, and I’m trying it again today. The only difference I’ve run into is F5 isn’t refreshing my screen, but rebooting usually does.

  29. Method 1 worked worked for me. Thanks a lot!

  30. Thanks a lot Chris, Method 2 worked for me.

  31. I´m from Venezuela thank Chris, I help my co-worker with the solution number 2.

  32. Solution 2 worked for me, thanks for putting this out there!

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