Microsoft KB Archive/253861

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Windows NT Desktop Turns Gray and Icons Disappear

Article ID: 253861

Article Last Modified on 11/1/2006


  • Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0, Terminal Server Edition
  • Microsoft Windows NT Workstation 4.0 Developer Edition
  • Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 Standard Edition
  • Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 Enterprise Edition

This article was previously published under Q253861


A Windows NT Workstation desktop may turn gray and the icons may disappear. When this occurs, the desktop turns gray and is blank, with no icons or background. The taskbar is still present. If you log off and back on, the desktop returns.


This behavior can occur if the Windows NT user profiles are configured so that the desktop is redirected to a network location. Any interruption of network connectivity between the redirected desktop server and the workstation when Explorer.exe tries to refresh the desktop causes the issue. Once this behavior occurs, it typically cannot be refreshed. Logging off and back on restores the desktop.

There are many causes for this behavior, including network connection problems, (redirected desktop) server hangs, client workstation hangs, and so on. Some users may receive error messages when the desktop goes gray, others may not.


Because there are many causes for this behavior, there is no single fix. Some occurrences of this issue clear up on their own, while other instances require a logoff and logon. Microsoft Internet Explorer 5 may allow the desktop to recover dynamically more readily than Internet Explorer 4.x. There is no specific fix for disappearing desktops because this behavior is a symptom of an underlying problem. Resolving the underlying issue causes the issue to stop occurring.

Keywords: kbdisplay kbnetwork kbprb kbshell kbui KB253861