How-To Geek

Disable Thumbnail Previews in Windows 7 or Vista Explorer

If you want to speed up browsing around in explorer, you might think about disabling thumbnail previews in folders.  

Note that this works in Windows 7 or Vista

To make this change, click the Organize button on any folder, and choose Folder and Search Options from the menu.

Click the View tab, and then check the Always show icons, never thumbnails checkbox.

Click OK, and you’re done.

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 01/13/07

Comments (162)

  1. Ivan Saul Cutler

    Thanks. Now how can I get .wmf icons to be seen? All .jpg and .gif can be viewed, but not .wmf files.

  2. The Geek


    Isn’t that the really old windows metafile format? I’d advise converting to a newer format, I’m assuming MS just isn’t supporting it.

  3. Ivan Saul Cutler

    Most of the images from Microsoft Office are Windows Metafiles, which Windows Vista is either unable to show as thumbnails or I have not activated some control to present the .wmf thumbnails properly. What am I doing wrong?

  4. Bryant

    SWEET!!! thanks… That tips rocks.. Although I actually want my thumbnail photo to be seen..

  5. Ron

    This is crazy. Everything about Vista seems messed up. It took me about two work days to get it installed. I couldn’t get Windows Mobile Device Manager to work. My network connections are extremely unstable.

    Now this. There is no support for thumbnail previews for wmf files?

  6. Casa Gozo

    I just discovered that Vista doesn’t show thumbnails of WMF files, too. It is THEIR FORMAT, isn’t it??? I’ve discovered a lot of things about Vista and Office 2007 that are a giant leap backwards. I regret making the move.

    Please post a message here if you find a solution that doesn’t involve buying yet another graphics software.

  7. bill nelsch

    How about dng thumbnails? They were viewable in XP (you had to do a regedit hack) but not in Vista.

  8. Brett

    I too have a clip art collection of wmf files and was surprised to see that someone at Microsoft had the dumb idea to remove wmf thumbnails in Windows Explorer in Vista.

    I’m now using XnView ( to preview wmf files. It’s a handy little app — and it’s free! I particularly like it for lossless JPEG rotation, but now I have another use for it.

  9. jbrisson

    I’d like a rundll32 that doesnt crash over and over when vista tries to make a thumbnail of a mpg..
    OR a way to thumbnail only images, not videos.

  10. egolds01

    Same problem, my avi and anime do not show thumbnails. Anyone figure out a way to make it?

  11. dee

    i have a different problem i want thumbnails to be displayed but only icons of the files are shown despite the fact that i had made sure that all settings are set to display thumbnails plz tell me what might have gone wrong

  12. soundghost

    Microsoft have disabled WMF file previewing because the file format has always represented a serious security threat. Have a read at

  13. Duke

    I have the same problem as Dee. I want every folder I open to display thumbnails as a default, preferably large thumbnails. No matter what I do, or what I read, I can’t find how to do this. By default, Vista displays icons – which makes me go into each folder every time and move it to thumbnails. Rrrr…. Help.

  14. Jay Cutler

    I understand from the above and particularly from soundghost that wmf files are not supported by Vista and therefore I lose my ability to sort through the thumbnails of all the clip-art published on my CDs. Is there a way that I can transfer these files from wmf to tiff or something that Vista will be able to show thumbnails?

  15. bun

    it really help, i was so worried and donno what to do about it,
    now just realised about i checked that never show tumbnail……………
    thanks for it, for a thousand times.




  17. U.T

    I have recently purchased a Laptop with Windows Vista pre-installed.

    Pictures from my
    “My Pictures” folder, all have no thumbnails.
    All with recognisable formats (e.g JPEG)

    Previously, my thumbnails were all visable
    But for some reason are not anymore.

    The only thing i can think of, that may have effected this, is the fact I restored my computer.
    Does this have any impact?

    I was wondering if anyone else has the same problem as me,
    and how can it be resolved?

    Thank you for your time.

  18. Lumpy

    Thanks! That did it! Couldn’t get my pictures to show thumbnails ’till your tip.

  19. Chail

    Thanks, worked for me :)

  20. manny

    that helped so much mann couldnt see thumbnails untill noww

  21. RM

    You can preview wmf pictures in Vista by using the MS Office Picture Manager. Under the menu item View, you can select Thumbnail, Filmstrip, Single Picture.

  22. Mark

    Thanks a super bunch! The little pics helped a ton and it was super easy. I had someone else trying to convince me that I had faulty RAM so I’m tickled pink

  23. Dana

    my vista system stopped viewing thumbnails of my photos only on my user account ,while other user accounts may view thumbnails of their photos on the same pc.i tried everything but i don’t know what to do.
    although if i clicked on a photo it will show up normally.

  24. Deep

    Thanks for the solution… works perfectly till now……keep up the good work geek sqad for the people like me who dont know that much about these issues

  25. jack

    i followed the steps listed at the top and i still cannot see thumbnail icons.
    as a multimedia student, this is an extremely important feature in my line of study and work.
    i literally deal with hundreds of all sorts of mediums .. opening each file to know what im looking at is very frustrating

    for JPEG images all i see is hills by a lake?
    for videos MPEG/WMV i get a hot air baloon in a film strip.
    and for GIF i get a bunch of shapes

    PLEASE reply if you know how to help me out :)

  26. rorki

    From what I can see this only affects Administrator accounts as a default, all other profiles on my Vista Premium system can see thumbnails. Good tip though, so thanks.


  27. Tinley

    THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The lack of thumbnails has been driving me nuts! Every picture on my computer has had the same icon. I know you were talking about how to do just the opposite, but you helped me get my pictures folder back in order. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  28. DeeDee Gollwitzer

    Thank you for posting this information. My friends who have a new computer with Vista could not figure out how to look at all their great image thumbnails.

    I called the up and walked them through it and they can now view them!

    DeeDee G.

  29. Muk

    Excellent, thank you very mcuh!!!!

  30. jenn

    god bless you!! thanks!! I haven’t been able to figure that out!

  31. Rog

    Thanks for this! I had the same problem a couple other people reported: Vista *stopped* showing photo thumbnails, and I want them. (I never went to that Options window before, but it may have happened when I installed the “release candidate” Service Pack 1.) Stupid “Help” function doesn’t seem to mention this checkbox no matter what you search for.

  32. noidsturb

    nice tip! thanx

  33. tOpaZ

    I have a question related to that thumbnail preview thing. I would like to activate thumbnails for files but NOT for folders, i.e. have a static icon for folders only. Can I do that?

  34. Michael

    Thanks! You really made my day! Sweden loves you.

  35. Ainee

    thanks for this..
    it really helped me a lot..
    actually i needed to get the pictures or thumbnails shown..
    so i just learned it in reverse.. hehe thank you!!!
    this was such a big help for me..

  36. n

    Thank you .!

    Vista had me pissed off while browsing for pictures as by default it comes witht that feature off… i followed ur instructions backwards and got the pics to show!


  37. sean bean

    WMF files are huge security risks… and should neither be opened… nor saved…

  38. Kevin

    THANKS A LOT!!!!!

    I’ve been searching and trying to figure this out for a hell of along time! Finally – – a solution that works!

    You guys rock!

  39. Shawn


  40. Warren

    Thank You helps a lot

  41. Sally

    YAY! I was actually trying to do the opposite on my mom’s machine and was boggling my mind as to why it wouldn’t show thumbnails. This article was VERY VERY VERY helpful!

  42. Cus


  43. Michel

    How to show pictures in Vista explorer:

    You have to associate them with e.g. Picture Manager that comes with Microsoft Office
    1. Right click on on of the pictures
    2. Choose open with
    3. Associate with favorite picture program
    4. Go back and select ‘name’ as selecting criteria at the top on your window
    5. Press F5


  44. jyjang

    Thank YOU for the tip. this was driving me NUTS!

  45. Ernest

    Another bad aspect of Vista.
    This doesn’t always work on my Vista Home Premium. Done it many times. Horrible thumbnails keep showing up. Any new ideas?

  46. nina

    I m having trouble viewing my thumbnail in all the picture folder. I read this post and everyone is thanking for some solution but which one is working for them? If anyone can figure this out please copy and paste the correct solution so I can follow.

    5 yrs of working on this Vista and it is nothing but a pain. I might switch back to XP.

  47. Zhizara

    Thanks for the info. Sometimes Vista used to open pictures from the start menu with actual thumbnails and sometimes with icons. I followed your directions for using organize and unchecked the box “show icons only, never thumbnails. I now have my pictures back. It was driving me nuts whenever I would try to pick out the day’s wallpaper. THANKS!!

  48. Eddie Bryan

    I wanted the thumbnails and you told me how to get them.
    I’ve had a Windows Vista Premium machine for a year and I finally got the thumbnails I missed from XP.

  49. tim

    THANKS!!! i have been tring to figure this out for a long time


    wow, THANK GOD !

    i hated this stupid error message always appearing. now it finally works, and doesnt annoy me anymore THANKS MAAAAAAAAN!

  51. alexandru

    THANKS for this tip man

  52. Aaron

    You rock thanks

  53. Lisa

    Thanks so much! I was actually trying to figure out how to turn it back ON as someone had turned it off. Which necessitated opening every file to see what I wanted. Thanks!

  54. Paolo

    Unfortunately, after unchecking the “always show icons, never thumbnails” option, it still does not work. Other details of use are:

    – they appear for less than a second after trying to refresh (if they actually appear) then they disappear
    – “display file icon on thumbnails” option under view is checked
    – nothing appears after you change the view (e.g. to large from list)
    – i just finished the disk cleanup program

  55. ARA

    Just a quick thanks for this info.

  56. Vicente


  57. MrBrain

    Thank you!
    Stupid thumbnails, Vista Explorer crashed when it was trying to show thumbnails so I was pretty fucked, this tip saved my explorer from crashing anymore! :)

  58. Nicholas

    For those of you who still have problems i suggest that you uninstall xvid codec from you pc then download and install the latest version. It solved my problems without altering the DEP settings or anything else for that matter.

  59. Lopes




  61. Just me

    wow iv been looking for this for ages it actually help iv been getting so frustrated with it but this was so easy to understand thankyou :)

  62. Dan B.

    Thank you so much!

  63. jasper gabriel ramirez

    the ALWAYS SHOW ICONS, NEVER THUMBNAILS is not lsted in the list in mine. what can i do??// please.. help me..

  64. Cindy

    THanks a million!!! woo hoo, thumbnails are back!!!

  65. shyju

    thanks alot, this kind of help is really appriciable

  66. Ashley

    Thank you so much!!! This helped tons!!

  67. Joe

    Hi I actually amd having the opposite issue. I had the choice of seeing thumbnails until today. i went in to view some image files and now when i choose large icons is best i can do. thumbnails isnt even listed anymore. I looked at your solution but I go to organize then look for the folder and search options and its greyed out cant be clicked any ideas?

  68. Joe

    Ok solved my issue. It was similar but the only way i could get to the folder and search options to ungrey was to do it this way and then uncheck the show files only so then i had thumbnailks again I have no idea how this got checked to begin with but here it is as I had to do..
    Here’s How:

    1. Click on the Start button.

    Tip: Are you quicker on the keyboard than on the mouse? Type windows explorer in the search box and hit the Enter key. Skip to Step 4.

    Choose All Programs, right above the search box.

    Click on the Accessories folder and then the Windows Explorer link.

    After Windows Explorer loads, click on the Organize button and choose Folder and Search Options from the menu.

    In the Folder Options window, click on the View tab.

    Under the Files and Folders heading, check the box next to Always show icons, never thumbnails.

    Click the OK button.

  69. Naruto

    This dose not work for WMF files

  70. Naruto

    err none of this works why cant anything ever do what i want it to

  71. re

    i havent been able to see my icon thumbnails
    like i click on my picture folder
    and it doesnt come up with whats in each file

    i have picture evidence but seriously i need help its so frustrating

    thanks and i tried the thing joe said do and no changes

  72. Ashleigh

    Thank you SOO much.
    you solved problem that has been bugging me
    to a very LARGE extent,
    with out even meaning to.
    Smarty pants!! :]

  73. Ben Nicolas

    Wow, what a relief, not being able to view picture thumbnails was driving me crazy, thanks for the tip!!!

  74. Lea

    This is brilliant and has helped us sort the problem. THANKS! :)

  75. OGboy

    WOW it works!!ty!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  76. roy ang

    this daMn error rUns in mY laptop 4 a very long tym! TNx for giving uS the Cool SOlutioN! You RocK!

  77. BonBon

    I was able to view pictures in thumbnail form. Now i am no longer able to view pictures in thumbnail form. When I open a folder which has pictures, the pictures will flash initially but then become the associated viewing program icon. I have done the folder option an removed the check marks from Always show icons and Display file icon on thumbnail. The only thing that has changed is I uninstalled Picasa and am current on all Windows Vista Home Premium updates.

  78. pm

    thank you,
    simple and easy but
    thanks for guide me..

  79. Nathan William


    Looking at those silly default pictures was starting to annoy the you know what out of me.

  80. jesse

    in my case it didn’t work until i clicked “select all” (files and folders) on the organise menu then clicked organise again and followed the steps above

  81. asd

    tx it was rly helpfull for me

  82. Cindy

    I just wanted to thank Brett for the help finding XnView and the software that lets you view WMF files without having to open them. This is the best thing since sliced bread! Just bought a collection of WMF files and couldn’t view them.
    Thank you so much! I copied his original post here with the address. It really works. For me, I selected all the wmf’s and hit contact sheet…Viola! I have a viewable and printable sheet of all the pictures! GREAT! Thanks!

    I too have a clip art collection of wmf files and was surprised to see that someone at Microsoft had the dumb idea to remove wmf thumbnails in Windows Explorer in Vista.

    I’m now using XnView ( to preview wmf files. It’s a handy little app — and it’s free! I particularly like it for lossless JPEG rotation, but now I have another use for it.
    I too have a clip art collection of wmf files and was surprised to see that someone at Microsoft had the dumb idea to remove wmf thumbnails in Windows Explorer in Vista.

    I’m now using ( to preview wmf files. It’s a handy little app — and it’s free! I particularly like it for lossless JPEG rotation, but now I have another use for it.

  83. hany

    thanks u are the best

  84. Tim

    It helps a lot ,i making a game and need it hard and now i’m happy

  85. nizam

    tanks u

  86. crystalnano

    thanks for tut it save my time

  87. JhONNY

    thank you so much, this helped me, thanks

  88. lagalag29

    THANK YOU !!!! very VERY VERY MUCH !

  89. jason r

    Thank you for info, helped me after trying to figure it out for the last 6 months !!!

  90. Unknown

    I did this, but some of the icon previews still aren’t showing up.
    Any suggestions?

  91. AAA BBB

    Thank you for your help. This was the first post I looked at and it took me less then 30 seconds to get it all straitened up! Thank you!

  92. Lorie

    thank you so much!!!!

  93. UK FAN


  94. Helped

    It worked for me, thanks!!!!

  95. Paul


  96. ron art

    you rock man…. thanks!

  97. Mohamed Gaber

    thanks alot off
    i was searching alot about this problem

  98. Leon

    thankyou sooo much. I thought it was Norton that was doing that with the backup nonsense. You have saved me much work :)

  99. Tim

    Thank you this helped … it was driving me crazy not being able to view my pictures in thumbnail. Thanks!

  100. Steve

    kudos cheers was stuck on this 1 lol

  101. Bella

    Hi, I have a problem that I cannot seem to solve. My wmv files in my folder will not show the picture! It is so frustrating and I don’t know what to do. Any suggestions?

  102. Carol

    Thank You. couldn’t work out what had gone wrong x

  103. Kian

    Thanks you so much! Finally after so long i finally been able to view any pictures icon on any folder!

  104. Pookie

    I want the opposite….I want the thumbnails to be visible… but all I get are the default film strip looking thumbnails. Any help would be appreciated.
    Thats what I get….

  105. shahid

    thank you to guide me i have done it as you writen

  106. Tiffany

    Checkbox or not, add me to the list of people who can’t get their thumbnails to show. Sometimes they’ll show for a second, before being replaced by the program icon.

  107. Mr.E-Class

    Thank you! I’ve been annoyed by this for some time now but was always too busy doing something else to try and figure it out other than my own tinkering.

    -Windows 7 Home

  108. Shirley

    now i know why all photos -> i see are hills by a lake.

    Because we need to un-tick on box [ check the Always show icons, never thumbnails ]

    Thank you so much for info

  109. Becvar

    The box for icons has ALWAYS been off on my PC, yet sometime in the last week or 2 my Explorer has stopped showing thumbnails for all my pic files, be they jpg, gif or png. How can I fix this? I’m running Win7 Ultimate 64.

  110. jack

    I was having the same problem read the first post bout opening the organize tab worked perfectly ty for the info….now im left wonder how that changed cuz im the only one ever on this computer and i never changed it lol but anyways thanks alot

  111. RobertSeattle

    If you thumbnails are slowing down your machine… get a new machine.

  112. Maman Ghuru

    makasih buanget, info ini sangat berguna sekali.

  113. Cam

    … this doesn’t seem to work for me…?

  114. al


  115. Puddy

    thanx alot! I was having the same problem with folder preview in w7. In a second, finally I say YESSSSS! I got it1 Very useful. Thx…..

  116. gopal

    thanx alot! I was having the same problem with folder preview in w7. In a second, finally I say
    YESSSSS! I got it1 Very useful. Thx….

  117. gopal

    I like w7

  118. hunar

    realy thank u my thumpnail was disabled and i fixed it now

  119. mandy

    Thanks. It was very annoying not being able to see the thumbnails.

  120. Rikzing

    Great! Thankx, solve my problem

  121. Matty

    I was actually looking for a way to ENABLE thumbnail preview in Windows 7 and this worked a treat (doing it in reverse of course!). Thanks for your help!

    And by the way, anyone using WMF should seriously consider converting to a different file format.

  122. Loreto

    Thanks, i wanted the opposite so big help!! was driving me mad trying to figure out which photo was which this saved me a load of time being able to see the images not just the icon….nice job..

  123. Cindy

    Thank you so much~~!!!!!!! This saved me a bunch of time by knowing which photo is which~~!!!! LOVE THIS!!!! <333 THANK YOUUUUUUUUU~~~~~~~

  124. raju gurung

    Thanx a lot, actually i was confused abt my thumbnails view setting, its give me a headache from last week thank uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu

  125. Kapil


  126. JohnS

    @Bryant – why post then?!

    @Kapil – nothing is quick and simple after hours of searching becase – wait for it – you have already spent hours working toward your goal!

    @article – very handy, thanks :D I’m sick of my desktop (which is well used) taking ages to load with all those useless tiny images that I cant even see anyway. Cheers :D

  127. arun

    thanks dude

  128. arun

    thank you verymuch dude

  129. Abigail

    It worked! Thank you so much! My laptop has been hiding my pictures from me for a really long time. It’s such a relief and so much easier to browse through pictures this way. Thank you!!

  130. GD

    Bloody legend!

  131. bryan merrick

    I use a windows 7 pro on a acer laptop, but for the last few weeks all my images are not comeing up, the ones in folders are fine it’s basically when a e-mail comes i can’t get to see the images, also in you tube it clitches all the little ad’s are all over the place. Do you have any idea how to remedy this crazy problem as my laptop is only 6 months old.

  132. sanjan

    oh ! thanks..Great

  133. Anna

    tanx a lot. it’s a pleasure to come across to you geek!

  134. Prince

    Thanks, it reallly works.
    i’m glad

  135. Strauch

    I’ve fought with this issue some already.

    Because of you – thank you very much for help, this saves a load of effort – I don’t need to struggle with this any longer.

    My gratitude to you and a thousand well-wishes

  136. gk chowdary

    very very thank you my problem solved

  137. sara

    This worked for me once, but has not worked again. I don’t know how to get the thumbnail picture to return. Do you have any suggestions – the appropriate box is not checked.

  138. dylan

    this simple check solved my COM surrogate problem, much appreciate :)

  139. bindu

    thanks a ton, i was struggling to get thumbnails for my pictures in vista

  140. Michiel

    Het is allemaal heel envoudig als een ander het uitlegt Heeel erg bedankt ik was er 2 dagen mee bezig, moet het altijd eerst zelf proberen.

    NJogmaals bedankt voor de heldere uitleg

    Grt Michiel

  141. parahnoia

    thank you so much! It’s really great help. Problem solved!

  142. parahnoia

    thank you so much! It’s really great help. Problem solved!

  143. Yarn

    Thank you so much. Now i can see my pictures in the thumbnails..

  144. Busanee

    OMG…finally I can see my pictures as thumbnails…thanks for the help. I looked all over in MS support and they didn’t tell me anything.

  145. laurent

    thanks for the help !

  146. Ranjit

    yes this worked …thanks

  147. Rustyoz

    thanks for such a simple solution so i can quickly preview my jpegs in Windows Explorer

  148. kakan


  149. Gertie

    I suoppse that sounds and smells just about right.

  150. andrew

    my thumbnails display when i open a folder but when im tryin to upload a file and click the “browse” button to look for a picture most of my thumbnail pictures wont display only 1 or 2 of them anyone know how i can fix this?

  151. Talent

    To stop the ‘com surrogate’ box keep coming up and still have thumbnails…. open one of your thumbnails and minimise it. You can then carry on as normal, looking at your thumbnails and double clicking any you want to view, without the annoying ‘com surrogate’ box popping up! Not a perfect fix I know but eases the frustration when you’ve been through all these other fixes that don’t work!!

  152. Anonymus

    Hi, this was very helpful for me. Thanks.

  153. manish


  154. cristian

    gracias amigo te pasates eres lo maximo en serio gracias

  155. bret

    I was actually having a problem opposite of this :P
    But hey it helped, thanks! :D

  156. Q_ben_Hur

    Eres la menda, chaval! Ya estoy mas tranquilo!
    Muchisimas gracias!

  157. Tracy Pilgrim

    Thanks! that worked!
    “ang galing mo pare! ikaw na! the best ka!”


    thanks ! for valuable Information.

  159. Laila

    Information was really useful.

  160. Molly

    I don’t suppose there’s a way to do this on a folder by folder basis, is there?

  161. Chris S

    I have tried all the solutions and none work for me. When I open Windows explorer after a boot I can see thumbs/images but after working with my pictures for quarter of an hour or so I begin to see only icons. A fresh reboot is the only way to restore my images/thumbs. Very frustrating! Can anyone help with a different solution to the problem? TIA

  162. Ahmad

    Thanks a lot buddy from Egypt!

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