15 Ways to Fix It When Windows 11 Folder Thumbnails Aren't Showing Up (2024)

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Change the Windows 11 folder view style, free up disk space, and scan for errors

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Brad Stephenson

15 Ways to Fix It When Windows 11 Folder Thumbnails Aren't Showing Up (1)

Brad Stephenson

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  • Western Sydney University

Brad Stephenson is a freelance tech and geek culture writer with 12+ years' experience. He writes about Windows 10, Xbox One, and cryptocurrency.

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Updated on October 18, 2023

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Jon Fisher

Reviewed byJon Fisher

  • Wichita Technical Institute

Jonathan Fisher is a CompTIA certified technologist with more than 6 years' experience writing for publications like TechNorms and Help Desk Geek.

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Windows 11 image thumbnails not showing instead of the default file icons is a common problem experienced by desktop, laptop, and tablet users. This guide will explain why your image thumbnails aren’t displaying correctly and will walk you through the steps to turn on thumbnails in Windows 11 if you have them disabled or turned off.

Why Are My Image Thumbnails Not Showing?

Image thumbnails not showing in Windows 11 is usually caused by incorrect settings being selected, missing or corrupted system files, or a lack of sufficient free space. Fortunately, the causes of this common Windows 11 bug aren’t anything to worry about, as the issue can usually be fixed by applying one or two of the below solutions.

How to Fix Windows 11 Thumbnails Not Showing

There are several solutions for fixing Windows 11 thumbnail and file icon problems. All the thumbnail fixes below are listed from easiest and fastest to more advanced and time-consuming, so work through them in the order presented.

  1. Refresh your Windows 11 desktop. Right-click anywhere on your desktop and select Refresh.

  2. Change the Windows 11 file icon size. File icons won’t display a thumbnail preview when their size is set to Small. Right-click the desktop and select View, and then make sure Medium icons or Large icons is selected.

  3. Change the Windows 11 folder view style. Right-click within a folder and select View > Tiles or Content to enable icon thumbnails.

    Avoid the List and Details options as they’ll shrink your icons to a size that’s too small for Windows 11 thumbnails to work.

  4. Enable Windows 11 thumbnails. Open File Explorer, select the three-dot menu at the top of the window, then go to Options > View, and make sure Always show icons, never thumbnails is deselected. Having this option enabled will turn off thumbnails and replace them with generic file type icons.

  5. Restore File Explorer default settings. From a File Explorer window, select the three-dot menu at the top, then go to Options > View > Restore Defaults > Apply to undo any system changes that could be affecting thumbnails.

  6. Restart File Explorer. Open Task Manager by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Esc. Then, in the Processes tab, right-click Windows Explorer and choose Restart.

  7. Restart Windows 11. A quick system restart can fix a number of issues and improve performance in general.

  8. Perform a Windows update. The Windows operating system update process not only downloads and installs the latest security updates and features but it can also fix a variety of bugs and glitches.

  9. Update your Windows 11 apps. An out-of-date app can affect how file icons are displayed.

  10. Remove junk files from Windows 11. Deleting unneeded files can improve system performance and help everything run better.

  11. Check how much free space you have left. If your Windows 11 device is running out of free space, the loading of media like thumbnails and icons can be affected. Consider deleting common items that take up lots of space.

  12. Run a Windows troubleshooter. Open Settings and select System > Troubleshoot. If a troubleshooter is recommended, select Run.

  13. Change the Windows 11 default apps. If the thumbnail images aren’t showing for specific file types, changing the program that’s assigned to open them could get them to display properly.

    When in doubt, choose a related app that’s made by Microsoft or one that came pre-installed on your Windows 11 device.

  14. Check Windows’ advanced system settings to ensure that thumbnails are showing.

    Open the Start menu, type View advanced system settings, then select that result from the list. Under Performance, select Settings and make sure Save taskbar thumbnail previews and Show thumbnails instead of icons are checked.

    Select Apply followed by OK to save any changes made.

  15. Run the sfc /scannow command. This process will scan your device for any missing or corrupted system files which could be affecting the appearance of file icons and thumbnails, and attempt a repair.

FAQ

  • How do I enable thumbnail preview in Windows 10?

    The easiest way to turn on thumbnail previews in Windows 10 is through File Explorer settings. Go to View > Options, and then select the View tab and uncheck the box next to Always show icons, never thumbnails.

  • What is the Windows Explorer thumbnail cache?

    Windows has kept thumbnail image data in a specific location since Vista. This cache lets Windows find and use the images regardless of which folder they're in, which helps the system work a little faster.

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15 Ways to Fix It When Windows 11 Folder Thumbnails Aren't Showing Up (2024)

FAQs

15 Ways to Fix It When Windows 11 Folder Thumbnails Aren't Showing Up? ›

To do that, enter the following command into the command prompt window: del thumbcache* and press Enter. It should delete all the thumbnail cache files and force Windows to rebuild it. Again, use the dir command to check the results.

How do I rebuild thumbnail cache in Windows 11? ›

To do that, enter the following command into the command prompt window: del thumbcache* and press Enter. It should delete all the thumbnail cache files and force Windows to rebuild it. Again, use the dir command to check the results.

Why are my thumbnails not showing up? ›

Thumbnails may not show up due to corrupt cache files, incorrect display settings, or issues with the file format. Try clearing the thumbnail cache or adjusting folder settings.

Why is my folder not showing preview? ›

You can access Folder Options settings by navigating to File Explore > click on the three horizontal dots at the right end of the ribbon and click Options. a - Verify that the Show preview handlers in preview pane checkbox is checked. b- Make sure the checkbox Always show icons, never thumbnails is unchecked.

How do I force Windows 11 to generate thumbnails? ›

Enable Windows 11 thumbnails. Open File Explorer, select the three-dot menu at the top of the window, then go to Options > View, and make sure Always show icons, never thumbnails is deselected.

How do I reset folder thumbnails? ›

To use Disk Cleanup to reset the thumbnail cache on Windows 11:
  1. Launch File Explorer and navigate to This PC.
  2. Right-click the C: drive and select Properties from the menu.
  3. Click the Disk Cleanup button.
  4. After Disk Cleanup scans your system, ensure Thumbnails is selected and clear the other checked options.
Feb 12, 2023

How do I regenerate thumbnails in Windows? ›

To rebuild the thumbnail cache on Windows 10 with Disk Cleanup, use these steps:
  1. Open File Explorer.
  2. Click on This PC from the left side.
  3. Under the "Devices and drives" section, right-click the "C:" drive (where Windows 10 is installed) and select the Properties option.
  4. Click the Disk Cleanup button.
Jan 22, 2023

Where do I clear thumbnail cache? ›

Run Disk Cleanup in any version of Windows, then make sure "Thumbnails" is checked to remove the thumbnail cache. You can manually delete the thumbnail cache by first showing Hidden Items in the File Explorer, and deleting any files that begin with the word "thumbcache".

How do I refresh folder thumbnails in Windows 11? ›

How To Fix Folder Thumbnails Not Showing On Windows 11
  1. Right-click on the folder and click "Refresh." It's like flicking a virtual feather duster across your files.
  2. Close and reopen File Explorer. Think of it as giving your computer a digital eye-blink.
  3. Restart your computer. The ultimate digital power nap.
May 8, 2024

How do I enable thumbnails? ›

Under Performance section, click Settings. In the Performance Options box, click on the Visual Effects tab. Under the Custom section, select the Save taskbar thumbnail previews and Show thumbnails instead of icons options.

Why can't I see image previews in Windows 11? ›

If your thumbnails are no longer displaying, it is likely because of a recent update or file corruption on your system. Sometimes, you may find that the thumbnails in Windows 11 do not show up.

How do I fix no preview available? ›

Here are some steps you can try to resolve this problem:
  1. Open Windows File Explorer.
  2. Click on the "View" in the top menu.
  3. In the "Show," ensure that the "Preview pane" is selected. ...
  4. Also, ensure that your Windows operating system is up to date.
Oct 9, 2023

Why is my computer not showing image previews? ›

Step 1: Open Control Panel and view the items in large icons. Step 2: Click System and Advanced system settings. Step 3: Under the Advanced tab, click Settings from the Performance section. Step 4: Make sure the Show thumbnails instead of icons option is checked.

How do I show folder preview in Windows 11? ›

Enabling the Explorer pane in Windows 11

Open Windows File Explorer, go to View in the Explorer ribbon and select Preview pane.

How do I fix folder view in Windows 11? ›

Windows 11 > File Explorer > Libraries > View > Change default view for all folders and sub-folders of all Libraries listed?
  1. File Explorer > Home > Quick access > Libraries,
  2. I set View > List, next.
  3. I set Options > Folder Options > View > Folder view > Apply to folders.
Dec 2, 2023

How do I fix missing icons in Windows 11? ›

Instruction: Place your cursor on the desktop at any empty spot. Then, right-click your mouse button and select the "View" option. Now, from the extended options, choose "Show Desktop Icons," and your icons will appear on the spot.

How do I get my thumbnails back? ›

How to Fix the “Windows Thumbnails Not Showing” Issue
  1. Click File Explorer Options in the search results.
  2. Go to the View tab after opening the File Explorer Options dialog window.
  3. Next, navigate to the Advanced settings list and ensure the box beside “Always show icons, never thumbnails” is unchecked.
Dec 27, 2023

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