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Fix Icon Display Problems by Rebuilding the Windows 7 Thumbnail Cache

Have you ever been browsing through photos or videos on your PC, and noticed that the thumbnails weren’t showing up properly? Sometimes they get corrupted, and you can quickly rebuild them to fix the problem.

Just for some background, let’s walk through what we’re talking about. Normally, when you’re browsing around your files, you’ll see thumbnails for pictures and videos that you are viewing. These thumbnails are all generated, and stored in a cache to make browsing files faster.

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But sometimes… the cache gets corrupted, and we need to rebuild them. Here’s an example of what happens when it goes out of whack…

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Rebuilding the Windows 7 Thumbnail Cache

All you have to do is open up Disk Cleanup through the start menu search box (just type in disk cleanup to find it)

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Just make sure that Thumbnails is checked, and then click OK to run through the cleaning process.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 04/22/10

Comments (7)

  1. cowgod

    you can also delete the cache files directly, which can be faster. there are 4 db files for the varying sizes of thumbnails. they are stored here:
    %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Explorer

  2. Kevin

    This is different in Vista. it just ask if you want to clean your files or all the files from all the users, then it ask you which drive you want to clean. I guess it automatically cleans the thumbnail cache as well as temporary files and other stuff.

  3. Greg

    Doesn’t seem to work, at least when the thumbnails are for files being viewed on a Samba share. You can delete the cache, sure, but the thumbnails won’t rebuild themselves on refresh.

  4. MN

    How do you control the picture thumbnails, lets say for music for example for showing the front cover of a CD.??? Having real problems to stay that way, especially when archiving>>??

  5. Dom

    I am having a problem with my pdf thumbnail icons. As in the wrong thumbnail on the wrong file. I have deleted the thumbnail file, and the thumbnails get rebuilt, but is still uses the wrong images.

  6. SylkRode

    I keep getting an error where icon files (*.ico) display incorrectly as thumbnails. I know form experience that they’re not supposed to appear like that, but I can’t figure out how to fix it again. Last time,if I recall correctly, I deleted the user registries for the *.ico format and applied s registry file to restore the original setting. I can’t seem to find the right registry location, and I’m not even sure that will fix the problem. I do know that a system restore will fix it, but, as you will all know, that can really be a poor option, especially when your into desktop customizations like me. Nonetheless, that would seem to be my only option, taken for the second time today.

    I would really like to know what to do when this issue reappears, so next time I needn’t resort to such extreme measures.

  7. Ray Nelson

    This advice does clear the files containing the cache, but it seems like the cache is not rebuilt until the directory is access or may be indexed?

    How can we start a process that will rebuild for all files on the system so it is fast the first time you use it?

    Would be nice if I could get e-mail’d on responses

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