[Fix] PDF Thumbnail and Preview Not Showing Up in File Explorer

In your Windows computer, File Explorer may not display PDF thumbnails, and instead show only the default icon assigned for PDF files. This might happen even if you’ve the option Always show icons, never thumbnails unchecked in the View tab of Folder Options dialog.

This article tells you how to enable PDF thumbnails as well as the PDF preview capability (for the Preview pane) in File Explorer, assuming that you’re using Adobe PDF Reader.

Editor’s note: On the other hand if you’re using Foxit PDF Reader, check out their documentation PDF previews are shown as icons instead of thumbnails in Explorer and then see PDF previews are not shown as thumbnails in File Explorer.

In the earlier link, you’re provided a link to download the Foxit thumbnail handler shell extension FoxitThumbnailHndlr_x64.dll and the second link tells you how to register it. Please note that you’ll always need to use the administrator Command Prompt to register DLL files.

[Fix] PDF Thumbnail and Preview Not Showing Up in File Explorer

Adobe Acrobat Reader includes the thumbnail extractor as well as a preview handler shell extension which generates PDF thumbnails as well as file preview in the Preview pane in File Explorer. PDF thumbnails can be enabled or disabled via Adobe Reader’s Preferences dialog.

Enable or Disable PDF “Thumbnails” in File Explorer via Adobe Preferences

Open Adobe Reader, click Edit, Preferences. Under “General”, enable the option Enable PDF thumbnail previews in Windows Explorer.

adobe pdf thumbnail preview

Note: If you’ve chosen to disable PDF thumbnails, existing PDF files may still show thumbnail preview from the cache. The thumbnail cache needs to cleared using Disk Cleanup.

pdf thumbnail and previews in file explorerPDF Thumbnails and Previews after installing Adobe Reader DC.

Enable or Disable PDF “Preview” in File Explorer Preview pane

When you install (or reinstall) Adobe Acrobat Reader DC, thumbnail extractor as well as the Preview handler are registered automatically.

To disable PDF file preview in File Explorer preview pane, use these steps:

  1. Launch Regedit.exe and navigate to the following branch:
  2. From the File menu, choose Export… and backup the branch to a REG file.
  3. Right-click the GUID for Adobe PDF Preview Handler which is usually {DC6EFB56-9CFA-464D-8880-44885D7DC193} and choose Delete.
  4. Click Yes when prompted for confirmation.
  5. Exit the Registry Editor.
  6. Logoff and login back for the change to take effect.

To enable PDF Preview handler, add the value {DC6EFB56-9CFA-464D-8880-44885D7DC193} back or merge the REG file you backed up in Step 4 above.

Automate Using REG Files

To automate enabling or disabling PDF previews as well as PDF thumbnails in File Explorer, you can use these .REG files. Download pdf-thumb-preview.zip, unzip and extract the files to desktop. Run the appropriate REG file to enable or disable PDF thumbnails, enable or disable PDF preview in File Explorer Preview pane.

pdf thumbnail and previews in file explorer

That’s it! This should fix the File Explorer PDF thumbnail problem in Windows.

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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.

9 thoughts on “[Fix] PDF Thumbnail and Preview Not Showing Up in File Explorer”

  1. Wow, the pdf-thumb.zip above saved the day!!! I have been searching for a solution for my Thumbnail Previews NOT showing up. I have a ton of crochet patterns and seeing the preview photos is absolutely necessary to look for a pattern instead of scrolling thru and reading each name. THANKS SO MUCH for showing the solution!!!!! Something great will happen to you today for helping people! 🙂

  2. et al:

    For Win7 Acrobat Pro x

    Was not sure which on of these actually fixed the problem, but one of them did. Since I did all these without rechecking to see if the problem still existed afterwards, I am not sure which one actually fixed the problem But after I did the #3 and reboot. Worked perfectly.

    FYI: Below is the order in which I stepped through the repair.

    1. Go to Control Panel > folders options under each of the General, View and Search Tabs
    click the Restore Defaults button and the Reset Folders button

    2. Go to Internet Explorer
    Tools > Options > Advanced > Reset ( I did not need to delete personal settings)

    3. Open Acrobat Pro X
    under Edit > Preferences > General
    At the bottom of page Select Default PDF Handler. I chose Adobe Pro X and click apply. May ask you to reboot. (I did).

    Best Wishes

  3. Simply try checking for updates in your Adobe (go to “Help” on top left and scroll down to “Check for Updates”). After updating you’ll reboot and, if you’re as lucky as I was, life will be good again.

  4. in my case you can just open the view tab > options > change folder and search options
    view tab > check the option “show preview handlers in preview pane”


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