Desktop (icons and Start button) does not appear

The icons and the start button do not appear on my screen. I can make the icons appear when the cursor is up on the top of the screen. The start button does not appear unless I minimize all my applications. I used to be able to see the icons and the start button. I am running Windows XP on a laptop. Thank you for your help.
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More about desktop icons start button appear
  1. Right-click on the taskbar, go to Properties, select "Keep the taskbar on top of other windows" and turn off auto hide if that's checked.

    What icons are you talking about? The ones on your desktop? Is the desktop blank until you move the mouse? Are you talking about the desktop toolbar that shows up when you move the mouse up?

    Look here http://support.microsoft.com/kb/330170

    There are also viruses that make the Start and Desktop items Hidden.
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