16 Ways to Fix It When Windows 11 Folder Thumbnails Aren't Showing Up

Change the Windows 11 folder view style, free up disk space, and scan for errors

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Windows 11 image thumbnails not showing instead of the default file icons is a common problem experienced by desktop, laptop, and tablet users. This guide will explain why your image thumbnails aren’t displaying properly and will walk you through the steps for how to turn on thumbnails in Windows 11 if you happen to have them disabled or turned off.

Why Are My Image Thumbnails Not Showing?

Image thumbnails not showing in Windows 11 is usually caused by the incorrect settings being selected, missing or corrupted system files, and a lack of sufficient free space. Fortunately, the causes of this common Windows 11 bug aren’t anything to worry about as the issue can usually be fixed by applying one or two of the below solutions.

How to Fix Windows 11 Thumbnails Not Showing

There are a number of solutions for fixing Windows 11 thumbnail and file icon problems. All of the thumbnail fixes shown below are listed from easiest and fastest to more advanced and time-consuming, so work through them in the order presented.

  1. Refresh your Windows 11 desktop. Right-click anywhere on your desktop and select Refresh.

  2. Change the Windows 11 file icon size. File icons won’t display a thumbnail preview when their size is set to Small. Right-click the desktop and select View, and then make sure Medium icons, Large icons, or Extra large icons is selected.

  3. Change the Windows 11 folder view style. Right-click within a folder or on the desktop and select View > Tiles or Content to enable icon thumbnails.

    Avoid the List and Details options as they’ll shrink your icons to a size that’s too small for Windows 11 thumbnails to work.

  4. Enable Windows 11 thumbnails. Open File Explorer, select the three-dot menu at the top of the window > View, and make sure Always show icons, never thumbnails is deselected. Having this option enabled will turn off thumbnails and replace them with generic file type icons.

  5. Restore File Explorer default settings. Open File Explorer on your Windows 11 device and select Options > View > Restore Defaults > Apply to undo any system changes that could be affecting thumbnails.

  6. Restart File Explorer. Press Ctrl + Alt + Delete and select Task Manager. In the Processes tab, right-click Windows Explorer > Restart task.

  7. Restart Windows 11. A quick system restart can fix a number of issues and improve performance in general.

  8. Perform a Windows update. The Windows operating system update process not only downloads and installs the latest security updates and features but it can also fix a variety of bugs and glitches.

  9. Update your Windows 11 apps. An out-of-date app can affect how file icons are displayed.

  10. Remove junk files from Windows 11. Deleting unneeded files can improve system performance and help everything run better.

  11. Check how much free space you have left. If your Windows 11 device is running out of free space, the loading of media like thumbnails and icons can be affected.

  12. Run a Windows troubleshooter. Open Settings and select System > Troubleshoot. If a troubleshooter is recommended, select Run.

    If not, select Other troubleshooters and run the troubleshooters for Windows Store Apps, Search and Indexing, and Program Compatibility Troubleshooter.

  13. Change the Windows 11 default apps. If the thumbnail images aren’t showing for specific file types, changing the program that’s assigned to open them could get them to display properly.

    When in doubt, choose a related app that’s made by Microsoft or one that came pre-installed on your Windows 11 device.

  14. Check Windows’ advanced system settings. Open the Start menu, type Advanced System Settings, and press Enter. Under Performance, select Settings and make sure Save taskbar thumbnail previews and Show thumbnails instead of icons are checked.

    Select Apply followed by OK to save any changes made.

  15. Perform a Windows 11 SFC scan. This process will scan your device for any missing or corrupted system files which could be affecting the appearance of file icons and thumbnails.

  • How do I enable thumbnail preview in Windows 10?

    The easiest way to turn on thumbnail previews in Windows 10 is through File Explorer settings. Go to View > Options, and then select the View tab and uncheck the box next to Always show icons, never thumbnails.

  • What is the Windows Explorer thumbnail cache?

    Windows has kept thumbnail image data in a specific location since Vista. This cache lets Windows find and use the images regardless of which folder they're in, which helps the system work a little faster.

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