A system for updating the location of elements in a computer display, upon a change in the size and/or configuration of the display, maintains user preferences regarding the appearance of elements. As a first step, user designated locations for individual elements, such as icons, are stored in a database for each different display configuration. Upon changing the display from one configuration to another, the elements are positioned in accordance with the information stored in the database. In a second aspect of the system, each of the original and new displays are divided into corresponding sectors. All objects located within a sector of the original display are placed in the same position in the corresponding sector of the new display. With this system, the groupings of objects and overall display appearance are maintained upon changing from one display configuration to another.