Fix: Thumbnails Not Showing up in File Explorer

Are your image files showing up with a generic mountain and lake scene instead of the miniature or thumbnail display in File Explorer? And video files may show up with a generic icon/thumbnail.

Thumbnails Previews Not Showing up in File Explorer

This article tells you how to enable thumbnails in File Explorer on Windows 10/11 and earlier.

Fix: Thumbnails Not Showing up in File Explorer

To view the thumbnails for your images, media, or other file types, choose one of the following folder views from the ribbon toolbar:

  • Medium Icons
  • Large Icons
  • Extra Large Icons

If thumbnail previews are not still not displayed, follow the steps below.

Enable thumbnails via Folder Options

  1. Right-click Start, and click Run.
  2. Type control folders and click OK. This opens the Folder Options dialog.
  3. In the View tab of Folder Options, uncheck the following option:
    Always show icons, never thumbnails
  4. Click OK.
    Alternatively, you can also enable thumbnails via the Performance Options dialog. Launch sysdm.cpl via the Run dialog → Advanced tab → Performance → Settings → Show thumbnails instead of icons → OK

    Thumbnails Previews Not Showing up in File Explorer

This restores the thumbnail images for your pictures, media, and all other file types.

See also

[Tweak] Enable or disable thumbnail view via the right-click menu

To toggle the display of thumbnail previews without going into Folder Options every time, here is a Windows Script solution for you that adds the Enable/Disable Thumbnails in the right-click menu.

  1. Download and save it to the Desktop. The archive contains a registry file and a VBScript — both are plain-text files.
  2. Unzip the archive and extract the contents to a folder.
  3. Move the file togglethumbs.vbs to the C:\Windows directory.
  4. Double-click togglethumbs.reg to merge the contents to the registry.

The Enable/Disable Thumbnails option is now added to the context menu, which will be seen when you right-click on the Desktop and when right-clicking on an empty area in a folder.

Thumbnails Previews Not Showing up in File Explorer

This adds the Enable/Disable Thumbnails option to the right-click menu. This script works in Windows Vista, 7, 8 and 10.

And here is a small YouTube video — togglethumbs.avi

Clear the thumbnail cache

If the thumbnails still don’t appear in File Explorer, see if clearing the thumbnail cache using Disk Cleanup helps.

Thumbnails Previews Not Showing up in File Explorer

See also

Are thumbnails missing in OneDrive folders?

In some systems, the thumbnail previews don’t show up in the OneDrive Documents or Pictures folders, even though the files are available offline.

thumbnail previews don't show in onedrive folders

To work around the problem, disable the Files On-Demand feature in OneDrive.

  1. Launch OneDrive, and open settings.
  2. On the “Sync and backup” tab, disable the “Files On-Demand” toggle button.

    onedrive disable files on demand

This should bring back the thumbnails in OneDrive folders.

Check your Thumbnail registry settings

In some cases, none of the above steps work, and the thumbnails may appear blank, as in the image below:

thumbnails blank -- fix the IconServiceLib registry setting

In that case, a registry setting may need to be fixed.

  1. Launch the Registry Editor by running regedit.exe
  2. In the Registry Editor, go to the following keys one by one:
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Windows
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Windows
  3. In each of the above keys, ensure the IconServiceLib REG_SZ value exists and points to IconCodecService.dll.

    If the value is missing, create it manually and set its data as above.

    thumbnails blank -- fix the IconServiceLib registry setting

  4. Exit the Registry Editor.
  5. Restart Windows.

Is the Preview Pane not working?

If the preview pane on the right shows the generic image instead of the actual image preview or video mini-player control, you’ll need to enable the Show preview handlers in preview pane option in the Folder Options dialog.

Thumbnails Previews Not Showing up in File Explorer

The thumbnails, as well as the preview pane functionality, should be restored.

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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 in 2005.

54 thoughts on “Fix: Thumbnails Not Showing up in File Explorer”

  1. This is a nice trick but can you please make it appear in the context menus of libraries (when browing pictures or videos libraries)?

  2. thank you so much, it’s been along time I am looking for this to fix…thanks…
    Is it anybody know where can I free download nvidia nforce system management driver? thanks

  3. Thank you. I have been looking for two weeks for this answer (not very hard but still two weeks w/o being able to preview a jpg file w/o opening it 1st)

    God Bless you

  4. …wonderful!

    Using Classic Shell you can put an icon on menu bar to toggle it 1 click directly. ->Settings for Classic Explorer (3.6.5 or later) > Toolbar buttons> Avail. commands:> Custom commands. Just target the button to the togglethumbs.vbs on Windows directory. You can choose any icon, i.e. System32\imageres.dll, 71 or other ”pictures images”.

    If you want to install Classic Shell and disable start menu modifications:
    “On Vista and Windows 7 the classic start menu is started using the
    HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run registry key,
    which is shared by all users.” Remove the Classic Start Menu value:
    C:\Program Files\Classic Shell\ClassicStartMenu.exe

  5. The control folders directions worked for me. Thank you! I haven’t been able to see previews for over a year now and had no idea how that even happened.

  6. you’re a damn genius, all other websites give the basic “did you check off always show icons?” Finally, something useful!!

  7. Great, simple, to the point and working! Thanks a million for sharing, highly appreciated. Solved a problem I was dealing with for 3 hours in 5 secs.

  8. #############################################
    Simplest Way!

    Copy the below lines into any text editor and save with .reg extension. Double click to import into registry. Viola! the issue is fixed.

    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
    [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Windows]
    [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Windows]
  9. I have tried eight disk cleanups. I have performed six hard and soft reboots to the computer. I have tried deleting the cache several times. I have checked and unchecked the show thumbnails not icons and show icons not thumbnails about eighteen times. Hell, I even tried the fixes that require Command Prompt! Yet, nothing works and I am still getting generic icons for most of my files and folders!

    • I am having the same issue. I don’t see dates on any of the replies here so I have no idea when you wrote this, but since the last Windows update (I dunno, about a week ago? It’s now 10.25.2021) this problem rose and now I’ve been searching for days, literally, for a fix.

      I’ve googled my fingers off, I’ve done just about everything but dance a jig and I still do not have all my picture thumbnails showing. Desktop icons are fine. File folders in Explorer are fine. But images… mostly jpg I’ve noticed, but even some of them show. It’s bizarre and I’ve now been studying Linux to see if I wanna make the move. SOOO tired of Winblows.

      Hopefully someone will know what is going on because the dozen or so fixes I’ve tried have done nothing.

  10. I have nearly given up trying to resolve the thumbnail issue which was brought on by a Windows 10 update. Obtaining assistance from m$ is futile. Have tried many many suggestions but nothing works. Therefore, since the vbs script was something new, thought I would try it. However, there is no way for me to move, copy or cut the vbs script to the windows folder. Do you have any suggestions? Thanx!

  11. I started having problems with this after I had installed Adobe Photoshop Premiere and asked it to search all files.
    Sometimes my PC will display the thumbnails, sometimes it won’t. Today, for instance, it’s displaying some thumbs along with some icons in all the photo folders.
    I could probably resolve it by resetting the PC but it’s a lot of hassle. I’ll wait until the next crash and reset.

  12. How do you get thumbnails in Details view and List view in Windows Vista and later? Some screenshots show them; others do not.


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