How-To Geek

Fixing When All Thumbnail Icons Show the Same or Wrong Image

If you’ve ever encountered a problem where Windows seems to randomly assign the wrong icon thumbnails to your pictures, or sometimes they all show up with the same thumbnail picture for no reason. There’s a simple fix that almost always works.

Here’s a good example of the problem… almost all of the folders under my picture library are showing the Windows Media Player icon. How does that even happen? Sometimes they start showing the right image, but then they’ll randomly revert back, and forget about using one of the other views.


The problem is that all of the preview thumbnail images used in the icons are stored in a cache file, which sometimes goes all wacky and gets corrupted, and requires some cleanup.

Fix the Problem with Disk Cleanup

To fix the problem, simply open up Disk Cleanup by typing “disk cleanup” into the start menu search, or find it under the accessories area. You can run a full disk cleanup if you want, but if you just want to quickly fix the problem, scroll down until you see Thumbnails and make sure that one is checked.


You’ll want to click the “Clean up system files” button, wait for it to finish, and then probably log off and back on.


Everything should be looking good now. Did it solve the problem for you?

Note that all the screenshots are from Windows 7, but we’ve used the same technique on Windows Vista as well.

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 09/22/09

Comments (9)

  1. akash

    CCleaner also does this – and more :)

  2. Terraromaster

    I have a problem only on a system where I manually assign a thumbnail to a folder. This thumbnail can show up on some other folder whether I just created it, changed contents, it was there for a while or had a different manual thumb. Clearing thumbnail cache surprisingly didn’t help. I would still get folder with thumbs that were erased together with the cache. Incredible. I’m going on a rampage if this isn’t fixed in Win 7, as I really like custom thumbnails for folders.
    Btw, the way to fix this is change thumb to correct image, change icon to something else, update window, change icon to default, update window. Repeat for every broken folder.

  3. Randy

    I use Vista home preum. and I do not have a “Clean up system files” button. Is this normal?

  4. CrankCase

    As usual, no one answers the questions. This solution didn’t work anyway.

  5. rhonda

    well i cant do this cuz …. yes i found the disk cleanup but wen i click on it the same little word document thingy opens up… its wat happens wen i try to open n e thing else

  6. charlie

    Thank you, worked great.

  7. Tony

    I managed to fix the problem in XP.
    I found that the file shimgvw.dll was missing; I downloaded it from, installed it and all is OK.
    Job done

  8. ken

    Well this kind of helped me or didn’t im not sure but my problem is the same icons goes to same progames which is werid i did right click on the icon and open with and choase the progame i wanted to use. But then other icons were same to that one to!?! I need some help plz or do i just make a new account? plz let me now

  9. Lala

    Same problem here,Ken. If you figure t out let me know.

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