"Do you refresh your desktop?". Ask this to any Windows user and 99% of them will reply with a "yes". Of course, there are various needs for refreshing the desktop but the majority of people who does it doesn't even know why he is doing it. Refreshing the desktop is perhaps the biggest computer myth among all Windows users. Every single person I have met does this or at least used to do it. It's not known who first discovered this remarkably useless trick and what he achieved from it, but it just spread. Most new users learn this trick from other new users without caring to know what it does. Some do it devotedly just because others do it, while some others have various weird explanations for it. A few of them assumes that it refreshes the RAM, while some others believe that doing it will somehow keep their PCs running smooth and easy. I have seen some users obsessed with refreshing the desktop, doing it every 30 seconds or so. They have even learnt the keyboard shortcut - F5 (just to mention, these are the people who never use keyboard shortcuts). They would press the key and wouldn't release it for a long time, sending the desktop into a frenzy of refreshes.
What does a desktop refresh actually do? Refreshing the desktop simply redraws the icons on the desktop. That's it! It doesn't refreshes the RAM. It doesn't clean your PC. It doesn't refreshes your computer the way it does to you when you wake up from a nap. Refreshing the desktop has absolutely no effect on the working or performance of the computer. So why is the tool there? As I said, refresh is used to re-display or redraw the icons on the desktop. Sometimes when you bring some changes to the desktop icons, the change doesn't get reflected instantly. In such cases, refreshing the desktop becomes necessary to bring the change to effect. Say, you have the desktop icons set to arrange themselves alphabetically on your desktop. When you add a new item to the desktop, this item wouldn't get arranged alphabetically, instead it would appear at the bottom of icon list on the desktop, irrespective of it's name. Now if you refresh the desktop, all the icons would be once more arranged alphabetically and the newly added item would go to it's appropriate position. This is what refresh is for. It is to re-display the desktop. Refresh has the same function when done in explorer. Also Refresh is basically the command used to refresh/reload the video buffer(VGA memory). Sometimes the changes made in the VGA memory are not reflected to the screen properly...Refresh just corrects the prob...
So, if you are in the habit of refreshing the desktop, stop it. You are just wasting your time and effort. And the next time you see a person doing it, don't forget to explain to him the futility of this action.
Also, during the times of windows 3.1 - win 95 it was normal for PCs to hang, crash n be restarted every now n then! It looks like even knowledgeable ppl used the desktop refresh just to get an assurence that the OS is working n not freezed from the resulting flicker of icons.
Today PCs are very stable n crash only once in a blue moon but the habit still continues, and I think for same reason, even I do it sometimes