Windows 7: Fix thumbnail previews not showing in Windows Explorer


Man, what a pain in the ass this was to debug. The image file previews weren't showing up at all, no matter what the settings were.

(Note that this is a guide for fixing image thumbnails, not videos)

Well, they sorta did. The image/picture thumbnail would flicker and appear then disappear, showing only the file icon instead.

I've tried all of the following:

  • Changing the settings in Windows Explorer > Folder View options
  • Changing the settings in Local Group Policy Editor (gpedit.msc) > User Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Windows Explorer
  • Changing the settings in Advanced System Settings > Performance
  • Rebuilding of icon cache (requires reboot)
  • Using Disk Cleanup to delete thumbnail cache.
  • Checking the registry values for the file types.

*update 6/6/2013* Some additional tips from readers are:

  • Clear your recycle bin
  • Right click on Computer > Properties > Advanced System Settings > Performance > Settings > "Let Windows choose what's best for my computer" > OK

None of them worked. And I am unwilling to:

  • Format the drive (due to the time it'd take to reinstall and configure everything!)
  • Install a codec pack as an alternate method of rendering thumbnails (extra bloat)

But then I found a solution by accident... without having to format. Here's a clue.


Yep. That's right! If you're low on disk space then it wont generate thumbnails for you.

I moved some big files off my desktop onto another drive and the thumbnails immediately started working again!

I think the minimum space you need on your Windows drive is 500mb. I could be wrong, but after moving the files everything was fine again.

*update 21/6/2012* Adding link to previous post: Windows: Regain disk space on C drive with some uncommon methods

I think this sums up the hidden side-effect of low disk space fairly well...


These sources didn't work for me, but in the case clearing up disk space didn't work for you, here were some of the more useful links I found.


  1. Id just like to say thanks. Was about to buy a fresh install DVD as absolutely nothing worked. 200MB of free space. Itunes had done a backup of my iphone (2.8GB!)

    Deleted that and its fine now.

  2. You're welcome!
    I just added a link to a previous post in case you find anything else that can save you space.

  3. Hi Twig, the problem is not always disk space (i have almost 100 gb free on the drive).
    I fixed my thumbnails with the following:

    Right click "Computer"
    --> properties
    --> Advanced System Settings to bring up the System Properties
    --> Performance and select Settings
    "Let Windows choose what's best for my computer" (this checks all boxes but one) .
    -->Apply/OK and thumbnails are back on.

    1. Oh, Wow, I've been trying to troubleshoot this problem for a while now. (Anonymous June 29, 2012 10:40 PM) Your suggestion fixed my picture viewing problem. Thanks so much!

    2. thanks a ton that helped me anonymous, may god bless you

    3. hey all! I've had the same problem and this method fixed it. But I only want to say that is not necessary to check all those boxes, only the one that states "Show thumbnails instead of icons." I say this to users who personalise their own type of visual settings. Good day! :)

    4. Fixed!!!

      I had a different button that was not ticked, but ticked it and everything all ok!


    5. Thank anonymous! Your solution fixed a problem I have had for 3 years!!

  4. WTF??!?!? Yes, this worked for me too. I load explorer, see some thumbnails, then see them get wiped over by the default image file icon. So explorer clearly knows there is a problem, addresses it, but fails to actually tell me, the user - aggghhh!!! How about a simple pop-up of "Low disc space, unable to generate thumbnails [ OK ]" to actually give us half a clue!

  5. Worked for me! Thanks heaps

  6. THANK YOU SO MUCH! tried plenty of things like you did, stumbled on your blog and it's fixed! :D lots of love to you!

  7. Oh Twig thank u a lottttttttttttttt....I don't have any words to express my happiness...I just wasted several hours more than 4-5 trying each n every solution but didn't work any of i was low on disk & i just cleared some space n it really worked! I'm amazed :)) Thank u again!!!

  8. I wondered if this is what it might have been, but, don't know enough to rely on my wondering. Thank you! Finally, something that didn't set me back $100.00+! LOL

    You are a blessing!


  9. tq for your informations.
    for my case the fix is to "Restore Default" at Folder Options

  10. thank you sooooooo much twig it worked:D

  11. Thank you for this. I have a brand new computer and always lower the performance settings to the bare bones basics. I couldn't figure out why the thumbnails weren't showing and this helped me realize what was going on.

    I rechecked the thumbnail preview box in advanced system settings > performance and it worked perfectly.

    Your list of things you tried was incredibly helpful for me, so thank you for posting them.

  12. thanx a ton mannn....owe you one...:p kiddin....but seriously it helpd....i was tensed about it....n i tried clearing some disk space and kazzam.....thumbnails popped up....tho it cost me a movie...but thumbnails' view brot a grin...totally worth it...:D

  13. And what if any of those solutions work? I have more than 400GB free and i also have that box checked and i still have lots of thumbnails not working =(

    1. Hey Nuno,

      Total free space doesn't matter. The one that matters is your primary drive (C). Is your Windows drive the one with 400gb free?

    2. Yes it's my primary drive that still have more than 400GB free. I´ve already searched in other places, tried a few different resolutions and it still don't get fixed... i´ll try to install the K-lite codec pack to see if it works

    3. Interesting. Is this for images or videos?
      This blog post is primarily about fixing image thumbnails, not videos.

  14. Firstly, Kudos to you!

    My thumbnails started disappearing a couple of days after I installed a Microsoft hotfix to display *.CR2 files in thumbnail previews. *.CR2 is the RAW file picture format that Canon cameras uses, and previewing them is not natively supported. (Used "MicrosoftCodecPack_amd64.msi", if you're interested, btw.)

    At first I thought 'twas something I could go without - later I wanted to toss my laptop out my office window out of frustration.

    Forcing the thumbnail previews at gpedit.msc fixed my issue. Wouldn't have found it without this here helpful checklist of a post. The setting was set to automatic - dunno why it decided that I was not worthy of thumbnails anymore. *shrugs*

    Oh, and for the record, the CR2 previews work like a charm. I'd recommend it to anyone using this format on a daily basis.


    1. Dude kudos right back at you, I never knew there was a CR2/raw thumbnail viewer!

      Good to see another Canon user out there :)

  15. Man, You're My Hero ! You saved My Life ^^
    I appreciate your sharing :) Thànk you sir.

  16. For video thumbs problem you can also try to install k-lite 64bit version and not 32bit(for windows 7 64bit only)

  17. NEW FIX! :) :)

    I was going CRAZY with this problem. Here's what worked for me:
    Twig's basic idea was solid - no free disc space. However, my HD showed tons of free space. So I ran disc space clean up (cleanmgr in the RUN), and found I had TONS of stuff in the recycle bin, and TONS of thumbnail previews. Deleted everything and they all popped up! SWEET!

    1. hahaha now that's certainly a different one I haven't heard of before. Thanks for that Adinoff's!

    2. Thnxx Adinoff......that cleanmgr stuff worked...!! B-)


  18. THANKS A LOT bro
    i was doing everything but none worked!
    Freed 2Gb Space from C Drive and thumbnails appeared back
    Thnx a lot again!

  19. This is awesome tip. I've been searching for this for more than a week. Thanks a lot.

  20. Great tip, I got my answer..


  21. excellent job Man ..was a gr8 help..was very sad as thumbnails were not showing thanks

  22. I tried every single one of the solutions listed above, with no luck, but I fixed it in a way I wouldn't have expected, I simply opened the options on windows explorer, and in the "view" tab, I chose to reset everything to default...and voila!! Thumbnails again... (i'm guessing it is "view", I'm using a spanish OS, which is my native language. It's the tab next to general")

    I guess the problems can vary, and sometimes a solution as simple as this one can work miracles...cya

    1. hahaha that's an interesting one! nice find José

  23. Great advice thanks for sharing. Like you and other had tried everything else and was running out of ideas.

  24. woowww....very very thnks.. It's the correct solution.. nice bro.. respect ..!! (y)

  25. One good way is to install k-lite codex, it fixes thumbnail problems

    1. That works for videos, but not images.


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