Windows 10 brought computers into the digital age with a modern design and robust functionality. Windows 11 built on this foundation with a focus on seamless streaming, syncing and remote storage. A PC user can easily retrieve their online file on Windows and work on it without having the file on local storage at any point.

Microsoft’s proprietary cloud service, OneDrive, blends effortlessly with Windows 10 and 11. It works as a part of the OS connected to the cloud and you can access your files from there anytime with an Internet connection. If your OneDrive data is represented by icons on your desktop, you may see green checkmarks on these icons.

So, why is there a checkbox on desktop icons? This article tells you why and how to remove it (or them).

Why do desktop icons have check marks?

Green is the universal color for the Internet, or being online. A green dot on most messaging platforms, for example, means that the person is online. With this, you can understand what is happening if you see a green checkmark on some desktop icons.

No, the green check marks don’t mean your PC has been invaded by malware. There’s no need to go into meltdown here.

Instead, the green check marks is how Microsoft OneDrive tells you that it has successfully backed up all your files. All your selected files and folders are now on the cloud. So, should you lose the PC or suffer storage failure, your important data remains safe on the OneDrive servers.

Another fine consequence of the green check marks is the ability to port your desktop icons to another PC. If you ever wish to access your cloud files from another Windows PC, you can restore your saved desktop icons to the new PC as well.

See? Told you there is nothing to worry about.

However, you should know the specifics of what you’re dealing with here. Even though the color of the check marks is green, there are two types.

  • The green outlined checkmark. When this type appears on your desktop icons, it means the highlighted icons represent an online file. They can’t be used offline but can be downloaded when you need them.
  • The solid green checkmark. This type of checkmark highlights a file that is fully accessible and downloadeable offline. They can take up space on your local hard drive.

Before we move on, let’s briefly talk about two other colored check marks that OneDrive generates:

  • The blue mark. Blue is the most common representation for uploading or downloading stuff. A blue check mark on your desktop icon means that the file is being uploaded to OneDrive.
  • The red mark. A red mark on your desktop icon means there’s a problem with the OneDrive file. It commonly shows up when the file in question isn’t synchronised with the cloud. This can happen if a network disruption interferes with cloud syncing.

Now we’ve dealt with why desktop icons have check marks. We move on to solving the problem of green check marks on Windows 10 and 11 desktop icons.

How to get rid of the checkmark on my desktop icons

You have several ways to stop the appearance of green check marks on your desktop icons. Whether you’re using Windows 10 or Windows 11, the methods here will quickly fix the issue for you.

Method #1. Disable OneDrive sync

The green check marks represent that your files are on OneDrive and syncing. So, one way to remove them is to stop the cloud service from syncing your files.

  1. Locate the OneDrive icon in the system tray and click on it.
  2. A menu will pop up. Click on Help & Settings.
  1. Click on “Pause syncing” and select a timeframe.

Method #2. Turn off OneDrive

You can get rid of the green check marks on your PC’s desktop icons by dealing with the root source. Since the marks represent OneDrive functions, disabling OneDrive will get rid of them.

  1. Locate the OneDrive icon in the system tray and click on it like before.
  2. Click on the Settings icon from the pop-up menu.
  3. Select Quit Drive to turn the service off.

You may get notifications telling you to enable OneDrive again. That’s the price you have to pay if you decide to turn the service off on Windows 10/11.

Method #3. Build the icon cache anew

Usually, the previous steps are sufficient to deal with the issue. If for some reason the green check marks don’t go away, rebuilding the icon cache might help. The icon cache on Windows is a database that stores copies of every desktop icon. A refresh can eliminate the green marks and restore normal icons to your desktop.

Step 1. Hit the Windows key and type “cmd” in the Start menu.

Step 2. Right-click on Command Prompt in the search results and select “Run as administrator”. Alternatively, simply select “Run as administrator” in the right panel.

Step 3. When the elevated cmd app launches, you need to run some commands. Run each command below. Type or paste the command and press Enter. Do this for every command:

exe-show

taskkill /IM explorer.exe /F  (note:- your desktop will go blank)

DEL /A /Q “%localappdata%\IconCache.db”

DEL /A /F /Q “%localappdata%\Microsoft\Windows\Explorer\iconcache*”

Shutdown /p

Your PC will shut down once you execute the final command. Restart it after a few seconds and everything should be fine.

Method #4 Delete the files

Obviously, the green check marks will disappear if you remove the parent icons. You can simply delete the icons from your desktop if you don’t need them. This won’t affect the parent files in OneDrive. They will remain safely saved in the cloud.

You can take the chance to find all the unnecessary files on your computer and delete them for good. Doing this manually can be daunting as so many files will be scattered all over who knows where on your PC. You can use an utility like Auslogics BoostSpeed’s cleanup tool to save the day.

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For files specific to OneDrive, you can try out the service’s embedded “Free up space” tool. It will help you clean files you’ve copied from OneDrive but no longer need from your Windows 10/11 desktop.

To use this tool, simply right-click an icon with the green check mark or check box and select “Free up space” in the context menu. Once the icon disappears from your desktop, repeat the process for the other icons with the unwanted labelling.

Now that you’ve learnt how to remove green check marks from OneDrive in Windows 10 and 11, you can remove them from your desktop if you desire a cleaner look.