How-To Geek

Workaround for Vista Taskbar Thumbnail Previews Not Showing Correctly

The new taskbar previews in Windows Vista are pretty slick, but they seem to stop working for me after a while. This isn’t a permanent fix, but it does solve the problem on a temporary basis.

The taskbar previews are actually part of the explorer.exe process, even if they access the DWM service to get the thumbnails.


My first test was to restart DWM, which didn’t seem to do anything. Next, I opened up Task Manager and hit End Process on the explorer.exe process.


Now hit File \ Open on the Task Manager window, and then type in explorer into the Open box.


Your taskbar previews should be back to normal, although you are probably slightly irritated that this was required. If you really wanted to get slick, you can create a script that automates killing and restarting explorer.exe. After a few more times of encountering this, I’m going to do it myself.

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 06/27/07

Comments (41)

  1. Alan Rhodes

    The restart of explorer.exe did not fix the Vista taskbar problem. When I bring up the taskbar properties the “Show Windows Preview (Thumbnail)” is grayed out and unavailable. It had been working but quit for no appearent reason.

    Thanks Alan

  2. Mike Oak

    We have two Acer 5100 laptops, both having the express upgrade of Vista installed (Vista Home Premium). On one (so far) the Taskbar Thumbnails work on the other they don’t and I have the same problem as Alan Rhodes above, inasmuch as the property is greyed out.. Any ideas?

  3. need solve

    so i …the same proplem

  4. Mike Oak

    Well wadaya know? I discovered that you need to set the “colour scheme” to Aero for the thumbnails to appear. Right click on your desk top, select personalization, select “colours and appearance”, then select “Windows Aero” as the colour scheme.

    Works for me.

  5. sandie

    i did the color scheme to aero as Mike Oak said, and it worked!!

  6. shilpa

    yeah… even i had the same problem.. and i set the color scheme to aero.. and it worked..

  7. John

    I have a similar problem with aero. Mine is that whenever I hover my mouse over a minimize program the thumbnail isn’t live.It used to be live but the thumbnail is just a still picture.

  8. blaze

    hey…what if you don’t have aero on your version of vista…i have home basic, and the same problem with the greying taskbar thumbnails.

  9. sandie

    the thumbnails option is only available on window home premium, not home basic.

  10. Brian

    Tried changing to Aero, but it just keeps changing back on it’s own. Hasn’t fixed the grayed out thumbnail property option, just it did make my firefox window look funny. Now there’s about an inch and a half of white space above menu bar.

  11. MaD2ko0l

    i had tis problem and iddnt realize til just and the only thing that i changed was the “colours” seeting in the display settings…i changed from 32nit to 16bit and the thumbnails didnt wokr but when i selected 32bit they worked again.

    maybe that will help

  12. Joshua

    If the taskbar thumbnail feature is not meant to be available on Home Basic why is the ‘Show windows previews (thumbnails)’ option available when you open the ‘Properties’ of the taskbar in Home Basic? I have checked it, unchecked it, set all theme/colour/personalisation options back ot default and it has yet to work.

  13. khris

    id done all the above and im still with no thumbnails (i do have premium)

  14. Tim

    Apparently if you disable the iTunes toolbar (if you have it) it should get the thumbnails working again

  15. Brenda Smith

    Thank you so much for the information of how to get my thumbnails to show for my picture files.
    I tried sever sites and YOURS did the trick!! Vista will be wonderful once all the bugs are worked
    out. Thank you again.

  16. Ice

    It might be as simple as going to the explorer window – tools – folder options – view – then uncheck always show icons, never thumbnails.

  17. Terraromaster

    Anyone knows how to get Winamp display a proper thumbnail?

  18. Joshua Davison

    You don’t actually need to have the Aero theme, But you need to have DWM (Desktop Windows Manager) turned on – Which is needed for the Aero theme.

    To enable DWM, You can type this at the command prompt:

    net start uxsms

  19. Matt

    That worked…Thank you!!!

  20. Nichola

    Just fixed mine after weeks of irritation!!

    Right click on My Computer and select properties. Click on advanced system settings and under advanced select settings for performance.

    In here make sure you have a tick in ‘Show thumbnails instead of icons’ – Sorted :)

  21. Joel

    Thank you Nichola !!!! You solved my problem of months !

  22. zara

    THANKS!!! god was annoying me so bad… you’re the best!

  23. nize

    thx very much… very helpful

  24. tsengel

    yeh i had that same problem at first i thought that i deleted the thumbnail folder and the settings and i was afraid but then..above one poster said that try to end the explorer.exe and run it again i did and it worked… yeah go press CTR+Alt+DEL and choose Task Manager and then Process and click on Explorer.exe and end it.. again go to file and run new task as explorer…..

  25. gmoney

    wat tsengel is sayin works but its irritating because u have to keep doing it over and over and over is there a way where u can permentaly keep the taskbar from messing up???

  26. Guy
  27. Yamada

    hmm, btw, I hope vista could do something about the taskbar thumbnail preview feature, I would love to see it work as a secondary monitor (in my case, like, while doing some writeup, I can watch a running movie in a small thumbnail preview, with the a help of a button) something like that T_T, If you guys know some workaround like that, please, share XD

  28. Nikoli Edwards

    The colour scheme thing really worked. Thank you! If you are having this problem i suggest you do this.

  29. laura

    i tried what you said but it didn’t work.
    its still clicked to show thumbnails and i have basic, its annoying because it worked before but now it doesn’t. please help, laura

  30. steve

    Thank you so much guys – you were right, it corrected my problem of thumbnails not being displayed.

  31. Rod

    I had the same problem, tried the fix by ending the explorer process and starting a new explorer process and it worked for me. Thank you very much for your help.

  32. Allen

    I have Vista Home Edition, I tried all the suggestions and you know what. None of them worked. Thanks for all the tips, it was worth a try. No thumbs I might as well have XP

  33. JOHN-J

    NICHOLAS… you are the man!!!

    I too, just recently installed Vista “Enterprise” at home (to help with video editing – utilizing all 8G of memory…etc.etc) and found my thumbnails to be all the same (default) picture. AHH! Frustrating.

    I however, had the ‘tick’ next to “show thumbnails….” and it wasn’t working. I went back and selected “for best appearance” instead of the default (let windows decide) and it worked perfectly!!!

    THANKS so much for showing us where to look, and helping us solve some of the growing pains!!!

  34. great full for u

    first thanx for Mike Oak thank u very much dud
    i am very greatfull for u man thanx agian

  35. robmaister

    batch file to do this:

    @echo off
    echo restarting explorer.exe
    taskkill /f /im explorer.exe
    start explorer.exe
    echo explorer.exe has successfully restarted…

  36. mxlexrd

    thanks this worked for me

  37. Alex

    Hey guys, i need your help

    every time when i point my mouse over some open tasks on the taskbar, it will show a preview and it will go away. its doing that only for a second and thats it.
    i tried everything from above but its not working…

    how can i fix that? thanks

  38. Eric

    I never have had this problem in Windows Vista but however, it constantly happens to me in Windows 7. The same solution noted here works though I wonder if it’s a bug and what exactly triggers it. It is annoying though.

  39. Cheryl

    @ Mike Oak Thank You it worked!

  40. manny

    OH MY GOODNESS , thank you so much to MIKE ! ive been trying to get it back for a year now and thanks to you I

  41. mikes solution ftw

    mike’s solution works for me too

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