This article shows how to clear the thumbnail cache in Windows to solve problems like the black background behind thumbnails.
When you open File Explorer, you will see thumbnails instead of icons for all supported file types. As you can guess, thumbnails are helpful for quickly identifying media files. All the files look similar without thumbnails, and you have to open them to see what they are.
When the thumbnail cache is corrupted or broken, you will see a black background behind the thumbnails. There may be any number of reasons for the corrupted thumbnail cache. No matter the reason, you can quickly fix it.
This article guides you through the steps of clearing the thumbnail cache in the Windows operating system.
Table of contents:
- What is a thumbnail cache in Windows?
- Problems you might encounter with thumbnail cache
- How to clear thumbnail cache in Windows
- What is the difference between thumbnail cache and icon cache in Windows?
- Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
What is a thumbnail cache in Windows?
In Windows, a thumbnail cache is a file that contains thumbnail images for all of the pictures, videos, and documents on your computer.
This allows Windows to display a small version of the file, known as a thumbnail, in the File Explorer window without having to open the file itself. This can make it easier to find and organize your files, as well as save time when opening them. Additionally, it also reduces the load on your system as it doesn’t have to generate thumbnail images each time you open a folder.
The thumbnail cache is automatically created by Windows and is typically located in the hidden AppData folder on your computer.
Problems you might encounter with thumbnail cache
Though the thumbnail cache works seamlessly, you might face a few problems with it from time to time. These problems with thumbnail cache include but are not limited to:
- The thumbnail cache can become corrupted, causing thumbnails to not display properly or not display at all. This can make it difficult to find and organize your files.
- The thumbnail cache can become very large, taking up a significant amount of space on your hard drive. This can slow down your computer and cause performance issues.
- If you have a lot of files on your computer, the thumbnail cache can take a long time to rebuild if it becomes corrupted or is deleted. This can be frustrating and time-consuming.
- The thumbnail cache is stored in the AppData folder, which is hidden by default. This can make it difficult for users to find and manage the thumbnail cache.
- If you frequently move or rename your files, the thumbnail cache may not update correctly, causing the thumbnails to become outdated or incorrect. This can make it challenging to find the files you are looking for.
The steps below work the same in Windows 10 and 11.
How to clear thumbnail cache in Windows
To delete the thumbnail cache is divided into multiple database files located in a hidden AppData folder. Since the system actively uses thumbnail files, you cannot delete them directly from File Explorer. If you try to do it anyway, the File Explorer screams with an error message.
So, we need to use a few commands to delete or clear the thumbnail cache. The good thing is it is pretty straightforward. Let me show you how.
- Open the Start menu.
- Search and open Command Prompt as admin.
- Run the below command.
- Execute the below command to end the explorer.exe process.
taskkill /f /im explorer.exe
- Delete the thumbnail cache with the below command.
- Restart explorer.exe with the below command.
- Close the terminal window.
- Reboot Windows.
- With that, you’ve cleared the thumbnail cache in Windows.
- Windows automatically rebuilds the thumbnail cache.
Steps with more details:
First, search for “Command Prompt” in the start menu and open it as an admin. You can do that by clicking the “Run as administrator” option.
Windows 11 users can open “Terminal” as admin and then open the Command Prompt tab in it.
The thumbnail cache files are located in the hidden Local AppData folder. So, use the below command to go to that folder.
Note: The below command might not work in PowerShell.
As I said before, File Explorer is actively using thumbnail cache files. To delete them, you must stop File Explorer. To do that, execute the following command.
Note: Ending the explorer.exe process might cause a black screen, and the taskbar might be missing. Don’t worry, it is normal. We will restart File Explorer once we are done deleting the files.
taskkill /f /im explorer.exe
After stopping the File Explorer, run the below command to delete all thumbnail cache files. Since we are using a wildcard (*), the command will only delete the thumbnail cache.
If you want to delete the icon cache, follow the linked guide.
If the deletion is successful, you will not see any message in the command window.
Finally, use the below command to restart Windows Explorer. Once done, you should see the normal background and taskbar.
With that, you’ve successfully deleted the thumbnail cache in Windows 10 and 11. Reboot the computer, and you are done.
After rebooting, Windows automatically rebuilds the thumbnail cache. You don’t have to do anything.
What is the difference between thumbnail cache and icon cache in Windows?
The thumbnail and icon cache are similar in that they both contain small versions of images representing files on your computer. However, there are a few key differences between the two:
- The thumbnail cache contains small versions of images for pictures, videos, and documents, whereas the icon cache contains small versions of images for icons and application shortcuts.
- The thumbnail cache is used to display thumbnails in the File Explorer window, whereas the icon cache is used to display icons on the desktop, in the Start menu & File Explorer, and the taskbar.
- The thumbnail cache is typically larger than the icon cache, as it contains more detailed images.
- The thumbnail cache is automatically created by Windows on recognizing new supported media files. Whereas the icon cache is created and updated whenever you change your icons or install new applications.
Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
A thumbnail cache is a file that contains small versions of images, known as thumbnails, for all of the pictures, videos, and documents on your computer. This allows Windows to display thumbnails in the File Explorer window without having to open the files themselves.
The thumbnail cache is typically located in the hidden AppData folder on your computer.
Yes, you can delete the thumbnail cache in Windows if you wish. The step-by-step instructions are provided in the above section. However, doing so will cause Windows to rebuild the thumbnail cache the next time you open a folder that contains pictures, videos, or documents, which can take some time.
Yes, the thumbnail cache can become corrupted or become very large, which can cause performance issues and make it difficult to find and organize your files.
Yes, you can use third-party software to manage and optimize the thumbnail cache on your computer. You can also disable the thumbnail cache altogether if you don’t find it useful.
That is all. It is that simple to clear the thumbnail cache in Windows 10 and 11. The steps shown here also work in older Windows versions like 7 and 8.
I hope this simple and easy Windows how-to guide helped you.
If you are stuck or need help, send an email, and I will try to help as much as possible.
If you like this article, check out how to change the file type icon and change the drive icon in Windows 10 & 11.