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[FIX] File Explorer Showing Icons Instead of Thumbnails Preview

Is your File Explorer showing only icons instead of thumbnails or file images? Follow these steps to fix File Explorer showing icons instead of thumbnails.

For all supported file formats, the Windows File Explorer shows thumbnails instead of the generic icons. You can think of thumbnails as a preview of the file. For example, if you have a bunch of images, rather than showing the regular file icons, the File Explorer will show the image preview as a thumbnail. As you can guess, having a quick preview of the file is very helpful as it eliminates the need to open the file to just see what it is.

Of course, the image preview or File Explorer thumbnails are limited only to some image and video file formats. For all other file types, the File Explorer just shows generic icons. For instance, for audio files, the File Explorer will only show file icons.

Even for supported file types, under certain circumstances, File Explorer might fail to show thumbnails. i.e, File Explorer only shows file icons rather than the actual thumbnail previews. There can be any number of reasons for this kind of behavior. However, if it ever happens to you, you can easily fix the problem in just a couple of steps.

In this quick and simple Windows 10 guide, let me show you the steps to fix File Explorer showing icons instead of thumbnails.

1. Disable ‘always show icons’ option to show thumbnails

If the File Explorer is not showing thumbnail previews, it might be because the “Always show icons, never thumbnails” option is enabled. By disabling this option, you can show thumbnails in file explorer. Follow the below steps to know how to do it.

  1. Open the File Explorer.
  2. Click on the “View” tab.
  3. Click on the “Options” button.
  4. Go to the “View” tab in the Options window.
  5. Uncheck the “Always show icons, never thumbnails” checkbox.
  6. Click “Apply.”
  7. Click “Ok.”
  8. Restart File Explorer.

First, open the File Explorer. To do that, press the “WIN + E” shortcut. In the File Explorer, click on the “View -> Options” button to open the File Explorer Options window.

open File Explorer options

In the Options window, go to the “View” tab. Here, uncheck the “Always show icons, never thumbnails” checkbox. You will find this checkbox under the “Advanced settings” section. Next, click on the “Apply” and “Ok” buttons to save the changes.

show thumbnails in file explorer

Finally, close the File Explorer and restart the system. Restarting is not necessary but doing so will ensure the settings are applied properly and Windows has a chance to rebuild the thumbnail cache.

2. Clear thumbnail cache in Windows

If the thumbnail cache is corrupted, the File Explorer will be unable to show the thumbnails. In this case, it will either show regular file icons or simple black squares. You can easily fix this by clearing the thumbnail cache. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Open the Start menu.
  2. Search and open “Disk cleanup.”
  3. Select “C Drive” from the dropdown menu.
  4. Click “Ok.”
  5. Select the “Thumbnails” checkbox and uncheck all others.
  6. Click on the “Ok” button.
clear thumbnails cache

As soon as you do that, Windows will clear the full thumbnail cache. After doing that, close the disk cleanup tool and restart the system. After restarting, Windows will automatically rebuild the thumbnail cache. This should fix the problem and File Explorer show now show thumbnail previews instead of file icons.

I hope that helps. If you are stuck or need some help, comment below and I will try to help as much as possible.

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