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Prevent Windows XP from Creating the Thumbs.db Thumbnail Cache Files

This is a guest post by Aseem Kishore from HelpDeskGeek.com, which focuses on providing Help Desk tips to IT Professionals.

Windows has an annoying habit of displaying thumbnails for folders that you may not want thumbnails for, like the My Pictures folder. For me, it’s better to have the My Pictures folder viewed in List or Details view and all of the folders underneath My Pictures to be shown as thumbnails.

The really annoying thing is that even if you go to Tools, Options, View, and click on “Apply to All Folders”, Windows may still revert back to thumbnail view! This happens because Windows will show a folder in thumbnail view if it finds a THUMBS.DB file in the folder.

THUMBS.DB is a cache file that basically is used by Windows in any folder it finds a picture or video so that the next time you view the folder, the thumbnails will be loaded faster so you don’t have to wait. However, with the current speed of computers, it’s pretty useless and only takes up more space on your computer.

Disabling Thumbnails

You can delete the file and the thumbnail view will go away, but only for some time before Windows re-creates it. You can prevent this from happening by disabling the thumbnail cache in Folder Options or via a registry hack.

In Explorer, go to Tools, then Folder Options and click on the View tab.

image001

Check the box “Do not cache thumbnails” and click OK. Now Windows will not automatically create a THUMBS.DB file for a folder it deems needs thumbnails, which means you can set a folder view to list or detail and it will remain that way. Make sure to first delete the THUMBS.DB file if one existed already.

You can still set the display of a folder manually by right-clicking on the folder and choosing Properties. Click on the Customize tab and choose from the list (Documents, Pictures, Photo Album, Music, etc)

image002

Disabling Thumbnails with a Registry Hack

Open the registry (regedit.exe) from the Run command and navigate to the following key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\ Explorer\Advanced

Double click on the DisableThumbnailCache key in the right-hand pane and change the value to 1. If the key is not there, go to Edit, then New and choose DWORD Value to create one with the same name.

image003

Close the Registry and reboot your computer for the changes to take effect.

If you have a lot of folders with lots of pictures, it would be best to disable the thumbnail cache because each picture in the cache is about 2KB, meaning a 1000 pictures in one folder would result in a cache of 2MBs!

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 11/12/08

Comments (11)

  1. bassmadrigal

    This is an awesome tip. I have never liked that file, so I can finally remove it and it will stay gone.

  2. Insomnic

    Turning off the thumbs.db creation is one of the first things I do after a new rebuild. One item to note is if you want to set thumbnail view for individual folders make sure the “Remember each folder’s view settings” is also checkmarked in the Folder Options->View window. Of course, this means desktop.ini files will be created in each folder (which I also turn off) – but these settings are all about preferences. Since I’m in a mixed Windows\OSX\Linux environment I tend to turn off the different features that leave the different OS trailing files.

  3. slapout

    Great tip.

    Does anybody know if its possible to have this file automatically deleted when its created? We have several people that access a folder on a server. When they do, this file gets created on the server. If we have everyone turn it off on their machines, then they won’t be able to use thumbnails on their machine. We could turn it off on the server, but this wouldn’t stop client machines from recreating it when they visit the server.

  4. Ledav

    Do you have the same trick for Vista ?

  5. jd2066

    @Ledav: Windows Vista doesn’t create and use thumbs.db files so a trick to disable something it doesn’t do of course doesn’t exist.
    Windows Vista stores it’s thumbnail cache in shell:Local AppData\Microsoft\Windows\Explorer.
    It appears that cache cannot be disabled unless you disable thumbnails altogether.
    Note: shell:Local AppData is a shell shortcut to the Local Application Data folder that will expand to the correct location when put in Windows Explorer.

  6. JonMCC33

    Thanks! I needed the 2MB back on my 500GB hard drive! ;-)

  7. Ledav

    jd2066, I must admit you are right. There is no thumbs.db files on my vista. But it seems that when I open a folder on my XP machin from the Vista one (through the network), it creates a thumbs.db file on the XP folder. And this, even if XP is configured not to create such files…

  8. timepilot

    I’ve noticed you can uncheck “Do not cache thumbnails” in folder options but it still creates a thumbs.db file. Maybe the registry method works but the folder options method doesn’t.

  9. Allan

    I have some 2400+ thumbs.db files (in 2 network folders) ranging in size from 2187KB down to a couple at 3KB which search picked up. When I try to delete them, I get the response “Cannot delete file: Cannot read from the source file or disk”. I hate to think how much is located in some of the other folders! Any clues on how I can delete these?

    Thanks

  10. Alupis

    Thanks!

  11. Senthil Kumar

    I tried all above mentioned configuration on my system. But still Thumb.db file is creating. If i am deleting also it is creating again. Can anybody please help me to solve this issue.

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