6 ways to fix “The item this shortcut refers to has changed or moved” error on Windows

You can often access your Windows applications using the relevant shortcut icons. But one day, you click on a shortcut icon and see an error message that reads, “The item this shortcut refers to has been changed or moved.”


What is the cause of this problem and how is it resolved? Let’s find out.


What causes the “The item this shortcut refers to has been changed or moved” error?

This error message usually appears when the shortcut file is unable to locate the target application.

Here are the different causes of this problem:

  • The target app has been deleted or moved from its original folder.
  • Your device contains some corrupt third-party apps or malware.
  • There are missing or corrupt system files on your computer.
  • Some system protection tools (Windows Defender Firewall or Antivirus) are active.

Now, let’s check how to solve this problem.

1. Check the target software website

The easiest solution is to make sure that the target program is in its original folder. So here’s how to check the target app’s location:

  1. press win + d to access the desktop. Instead, go to the folder containing your shortcut file.
  2. Right-click on the shortcut file and select Properties. In this example, we’ll look at a file paint.net shortcut file.
  3. Once in the properties window, go to File abbreviation tab.
  4. Take a look at the file path referenced in a file targeting can.

In this example, the file path is C:Program Filespaint.net (The paintdotnet.exe part is the name of the application, not part of the file path).

Check the file path indicated in the “Target” box and make sure it is correct.

If you are not sure if the file path is correct, here is what you can do:

  1. Copy the path of the indicated file into a file targeting box in the “Shortcut Properties” window. For the “paint.net application” example we’ve covered, the file path is C:Program Filespaint.net.
  2. press win + to open File Explorer.
  3. Paste the file path into the File Explorer address bar and press Enters. This should take you to the target application folder.

Now, do you find the target app in the folder?

If the target app is already in the correct folder, try to fix the problem at hand by applying the other solutions in this article.

If your target app is not in the folder shown in the “Target” box of the shortcut file, here’s what you can do:

  1. Write the name of the target application in a file Start menu search bar. For example, if the name of the application is paint.net, type paint.net in the search bar.
  2. Right click on a file best match and choose Open file location.

When you reach the target folder, follow these steps:

  1. Right click on the target application and select Cuts.
  2. press win + to open File Explorer.
  3. Navigate to the folder path indicated in the file targeting box in the “Shortcut Properties” window. For the “paint.net application” example we covered, the folder path shown in the . file targeting square is C:Program Filespaint.net.
  4. Right-click on an empty space in the folder and select paste. This method should now put your target app in the correct folder.
  5. Navigate to the desktop or folder that contains the wrong shortcut file. Double-click the shortcut file and check if the problem is resolved

2. Fix the target app

You’ve checked the target app’s website, but you’re still having issues. In this case, it is possible that the target application is corrupted.

To solve this problem, repair the app with these steps:

  1. press Win + R. To open the Run dialog box.
  2. Writes appwiz.cpl and press yes to open the Programs and Features window.
  3. Select the target program. In this example, we’ll select a file paint.net Application.
  4. Right-click on the application and select fix.

Alternatively, repair the app with these steps:

  1. press win + X to open the quick access menu.
  2. Choose Applications and Features of options.
  3. Scroll down and locate the target app. In this example, we’ll focus on paint.net Tool as a target application.
  4. Click on the target application and then press Modify button.

3. Reinstall the target app

Fixing a corrupted app may not always help. So, if the problem persists, you might also consider reinstalling the faulty app.

Here’s how to properly reinstall a faulty app on Windows:

  1. press Win + R. To open the Run dialog box.
  2. Writes appwiz.cpl and press yes to open the Programs and Features window.
  3. Select the target program, right-click it, and select uninstall.
  4. Follow the onscreen steps then restart your device.

From there, download your Windows app from a secure website. Alternatively, if you can’t find it, download the app from the Microsoft Store.

System protection tools (such as Windows Defender Firewall) often prevent you from running corrupted applications. However, these tools may also prevent you from running applications that do not cause problems.

So, there is a possibility that these tools are the reason why you are unable to run your application. In this case, temporarily disabling these tools may help.

In this article, we will focus on disabling the Windows Defender Firewall. Here are the steps you need to follow:

  1. Writes Windows Defender Firewall In the start menu search bar and select File best match.
  2. tap on Turn Windows Defender Firewall on and off Selection.

  3. select file Turn off Windows Defender Firewall option on Domain Network SettingsAnd the Private network settingsAnd the General network settings.

  4. Finally, press yes Then restart your device.

If you have a third-party antivirus installed, you should consider disabling it temporarily as well. From there, check if the problem is resolved.

5. Perform a Check Disk Check

In some cases, it’s possible that the problem is caused by malware or corrupt system files. To solve the problem, you can check and fix these problems with the Check Disk (CHKDSK) tool.

So here’s how to perform a CHKDSK scan on your device:

  1. Writes Command Prompt in the search bar on the start menu.
  2. Right click on a file best match result and choice Run as administrator.
  3. Type the following command and press Enters To perform a check disk check:

chkdsk C: /f

If you want to scan a different drive, replace the . file A: Command with the relevant drive letter. Finally, wait for the process to complete and then restart your computer.

6. Create a new shortcut file

Still can not solve the problem? Perhaps the problem lies in the shortcut file itself.

So, an easy way out is to delete the old shortcut file and create a new one.

Here’s how to create a shortcut file for your target app:

  1. press win + d to access the desktop. Instead, try the different ways to access the Windows desktop.
  2. Right-click on an empty space and select New > Shortcut.
  3. Click on browse button and search for the application.
  4. Click on the target application and then click yes button. From there click next one.

  5. Finally, fill in a file Type a name for this shortcut square and press ending button.

Easily access your favorite apps again

Windows shortcut icons make your apps easily accessible. The best part is that it is very easy to create shortcut files. However, it is frustrating when the shortcut icons suddenly get stuck. But if you encounter “shortcut icon” issues, the methods we covered should help you.

And as we discuss shortcuts, did you know that you can customize your shortcuts on Windows 10 and 11?

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