Disable Folder Thumbnails without Disabling Thumbnail Preview for Files

When a folder contains one or more images in it, the contents of the folder are shown as the thumbnail image for that folder.

disable folder content thumbnails

Windows allows you to enable or disable thumbnail previews in File Explorer using the Always show icons, never thumbnails setting in the Folder Options dialog. When you turn off thumbnail previews, icons are shown instead of thumbnails — for both files and folders. The Folder Options dialog doesn’t have an option to disable thumbnail preview selectively for folders or for files only.

If you need to disable folder content thumbnail previews, and still have the thumbnail previews enabled for files — e.g., PDF, image files, etc., this article has the solution.

Disable Folder Thumbnails without Disabling Thumbnail Preview for Files

To turn off folder content thumbnail preview without enabling the Always show icons… setting in Folder Options, the trick is to set a global folder logo (thumbnail) in the folder view template registry key.

The important thing here is that the global folder thumbnail template registry entry must point to a non-existent image file, for this to work. And then, you’ll need to reset the thumbnails cache so that the thumbnails for existing folders are refreshed.

Follow these steps to disable folder content thumbnail previews:

  1. Copy the following lines to Notepad and save it as a .reg file — e.g., disable_folder_thumbs.reg
    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
    ;Disable folder thumbnails without disabling thumbnail view for files
    ;Created by Ramesh Srinivasan on 10-June-2019 for Winhelponline.com
    ;Note: This fix does NOT reset your saved folder view settings.
    [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\Local Settings\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Shell\Bags\AllFolders\Shell]
  2. Double-click disable_folder_thumbs.reg to apply the settings to the registry.
  3. Click Yes when prompted to apply the .reg file. This is how the setting will now look like in the Registry Editor:
  4. The next step is to clear the thumbnail cache so that thumbnail previews for the existing folders are refreshed. Follow one of the methods described in the article How to Clear and Rebuild the Thumbnail Cache in Windows

That’s it! You’ve now disabled folder thumbnails without disabling the thumbnail previews for files.

disable folder content thumbnails

Editor’s note: Despite the presence of the global folder thumbnail template in the registry, you can still override and customize the folder icon or thumbnail via folder properties, on a per-folder basis.

Undo information

To reverse the above changes (to enable folder thumbnails back), use this .reg file:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

;UNDO REG file

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\Local Settings\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Shell\Bags\AllFolders\Shell]

Save the above .reg file as enable_folder_thumbs.regand run it.

(The registry method discussed in this article works on all versions of Windows 10 and Windows 11 22H2.)

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Ramesh Srinivasan is passionate about Microsoft technologies and he has been a consecutive ten-time recipient of the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional award in the Windows Shell/Desktop Experience category, from 2003 to 2012. He loves to troubleshoot and write about Windows. Ramesh founded Winhelponline.com in 2005.

23 thoughts on “Disable Folder Thumbnails without Disabling Thumbnail Preview for Files”

  1. It was great, but at least in the latest version of Windows 10, you have to manually create this key in the path above, since the reg file didn’t work for me, and of course, there is no / left in the image that should be two /

  2. it says I cant inpost the code in the txt file as disable_folder_thumbs.reg because the file is not a registry script

  3. this used to work on windows 10 but when i updated to windows 11 something weird happened: when i enlarge the icon size the icons revert back to the default yellow icon. the custom icons only appear when the icon view is at a specific size. any ideas how to fix this?

  4. How can I do this with Windows 11? One of your previous comments says the functionality is already supported, but I’m new to the OS so I don’t know where to find the right setting.

  5. Thanks for this! it works but I have a shell icons string (HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer) to have a folder icon of my own and when I put what you have done while it works it shows the original windows folder not the one I have on ,
    Im on W11, is there a way to solve that ?


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