Google Chrome and desktop icon refresh problem

Updated: April 20, 2020

Here's the oddest little problem you may face - or read about - in a while. On one of my Windows machines, I noticed a strange phenomenon. Every time I'd launch Google Chrome (latest version when written), close the browser, or - best yet - sign in or out of a Gmail account, all my desktop icons would refresh.

Looking around, I did find a Chromium bug report from 2015, which also mentioned a workaround. Needless to say, the specific workaround is no longer available, as the user icon is no longer present in the Chrome window border, and flags occasionally come and go, as they represent experimental browser features. But this was a good starting point, so I went about testing and tweaking, until I found the right solution. After me.


The fix to this most likely transient bug is as follows: Open the browser settings. Go into the Privacy and security section. Then, untoggle the line that reads Allow Chrome sign-in. The browser functionality remains unchanged. The only difference is that you won't be signed into the browser, whatever that actually means. The good thing is, no more icon refresh!

Chrome sign-in option

What I find interesting is the difference in the behavior. On Linux, when you have this feature toggled, you will actively see that you're "signed into" Chrome. But on Windows, on this particular machine, even with the option turned on, I would not see the visual cue of the sign-in process, nor that was I actually signed in.

The difference between the two usecases probably has to do with the age and specific settings of the user profile, I guess, which could account for the different behavior. Perhaps on systems that have had Chrome installed for a very long time, there might be some underlying buglet where this option results in the desktop icon refresh side effect (similar to the old report) but without the user actually being signed into the browser. But essentially, we're done.


I hate problems like this. Because solutions often sound like witchcraft. And if you try to find anything common in the various bug reports and threads, it's absolute chaos. I'm not 100% sure why the user sign-in option would matter, but it might because when you do sign in, the browser is supposed to give a visual clue that you've done so, probably by displaying your user icon or avatar of some kind. Hence possibly the refresh.

Again, without actually troubleshooting the browser's functions step by step, it's difficult to provide an exact result, but I feel quite confident my guess here is reasonably accurate. Anyway, if you have seen something like this, try the toggle option, see what gives. So long.