Desktop

The desktop is the primary user interface of a computer. When you boot up your computer, the desktop is displayed once the startup process is complete. It includes the desktop background (or wallpaper) and icons of files and folders you may have saved to the desktop. In Windows, the desktop includes a task bar, which is located at the bottom of the screen by default. In Mac OS X, the desktop includes a menu bar at the top of the screen and the Dock at the bottom.

The desktop is visible on both Windows and Macintosh computers as long as an application or window is not filling up the entire screen. You can drag items to and from the desktop, just like a folder. Since the desktop is always present, items on the desktop can be accessed quickly, rather than requiring you to navigate through several directories. Therefore, it may be helpful to store commonly used files, folders, and application shortcuts on your desktop.

Both the Windows and Macintosh operating systems allow you to customize the appearance of your desktop. In Windows 7, you can change the desktop background and select the default desktop icons within the "Personalization" control panel. In Mac OS X 10.6, you can change the desktop background using the "Desktop & Screen Saver" system preference. You can choose what items are shown on the desktop by selecting Finder → Preferences… and checking the items you want displayed.

NOTE: The term "desktop" may also be short for desktop computer.

Updated March 11, 2011

Definitions by TechTerms.com

The definition of Desktop on this page is an original TechTerms.com definition. If you would like to reference this page or cite this definition, you can use the green citation links above.

The goal of TechTerms.com is to explain computer terminology in a way that is easy to understand. We strive for simplicity and accuracy with every definition we publish. If you have feedback about the Desktop definition or would like to suggest a new technical term, please contact us.

Want to learn more tech terms? Subscribe to the daily or weekly newsletter and get featured terms and quizzes delivered to your inbox.

Sign up for the free TechTerms Newsletter

How often would you like to receive an email?

You can unsubscribe or change your frequency setting at any time using the links available in each email.

Questions? Please contact us.