How to Turn On or Off Thumbnail Previews in Windows 11

Windows 11 File Explorer supports showing thumbnail previews for files. Here is how to turn on or turn off thumbnail previews in File Explorer in Windows 11.

Whenever you create or add a file in File Explorer, it will show a small preview of that file. It is called a thumbnail preview. As you can guess, a thumbnail preview helps you understand what that file is without first opening it. The File Explorer thumbnail feature is handy when your files have random or arbitrary names. For example, File Explorer can show image preview thumbnails. That means you don’t have to open the image or picture to see what it is. What’s more, the thumbnail previews don’t affect the system performance that much.

By default, the Windows 11 File Explorer shows the thumbnail previews. i.e., the thumbnail previews feature is enabled. However, if you cannot see thumbnail previews or think the thumbnail previews feature is turned off for some reason, you can turn on thumbnail previews in File Explorer in Windows 11. For example, some system tuning applications often turn off thumbnail previews even though their effect on the system performance is negligible.

No matter what, Windows 11 makes it easy to turn on thumbnail previews in File Explorer and turn them off when not needed.

This straightforward guide will show you how to display thumbnail previews in File Explorer in Windows 11 and turn them off if needed.

Table of contents:

Using File Explorer’s Folder Options

You can turn off or turn on thumbnail previews in File Explorer via the Folder Options tool. All you have to do is select or uncheck a single option, and you are good to go. Here is how to find the option and change it according to your use case.

  1. Use “Start + E” to open File Explorer.
  2. Click on the “Menu” (three horizontal dots) icon on the top bar.
  3. Select the “Options” option.
  4. Go to the “View” tab.
  5. Uncheck the “Always show icons, never thumbnails” checkbox to show thumbnail previews.
  6. Select the “Always show icons, never thumbnails” checkbox to turn off thumbnail previews.
  7. Click the “Apply” button.
  8. Click the “Ok” button.
  9. File Explorer will now show thumbnails.
  10. You might have to close and re-open File Explorer to see thumbnails.

Detailed steps with screenshots:

The folder options tool can be opened from the File Explorer itself. To do that, open the File Explorer window using the “Start key + E” shortcut. Alternatively, click on the File Explorer icon on the taskbar or search for the same in the Start menu. You can also right-click on the Start menu and select the “File Explorer” option.

After opening the File Explorer window, click the “Menu” (three horizontal dots) icon on the top bar. Select the “Options” option from the extended menu.

open folder options

In the Folder Options window, you will find all the options to control and customize the File Explorer. Since we want to enable or disable thumbnail previews, go to the “View” tab.

To enable thumbnail previews, uncheck the “Always show icons, never thumbnails” checkbox.

show thumbnails in File Explorer in Windows 11

To disable thumbnail previews, select the “Always show icons, never thumbnails” checkbox.

hide thumbnails in File Explorer in Windows 11

Finally, click the “Apply” and “Ok” buttons to save changes.

That is it. From now, the File Explorer will show thumbnail previews.

Change registry to enable or disable thumbnail previews

You can enable or disable thumbnail previews by creating and changing the “DisableThumbnails” registry value. It is straightforward to do. Follow the below steps, and it will be done in no time.

Note: Before editing the Registry, back it up. The backup will help restore the system if things go wrong. Also, you need admin rights to modify the Registry.

  1. Press the “Start” key on your keyboard.
  2. Search and open the “Registry Editor.”
  3. Go to the “HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\” folder
  4. Right-click on the “Policy” folder.
  5. Select the “New > Key” option.
  6. Name the folder “Explorer.”
  7. Right-click on the “Explorer” folder.
  8. Select “New > DWORD value.”
  9. Type “DisableThumbnails” as its name.
  10. Double-click on the value.
  11. Type “0” in the Edit Value field to enable thumbnail previews.
  12. Type “1” in the Edit Value field to disable thumbnail previews.
  13. Close the Registry Editor.
  14. Reboot the computer.

Detailed steps with screenshots:

First, we must open the Registry Editor. To do that, open the Start menu, search for “Registry Editor,” and open it. After opening the Registry Editor, go to the “HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\” folder. If you are wondering, copy and paste the path in the Registry Editor’s address bar and press Enter to go to the target folder.

Once you are here, see if you can find the “Explorer” folder right under the “Policies” folder. If you can, ignore this step. If you can’t, right-click on the “Policies” folder and select the “New > Key” option. Name the folder as “Explorer.”

go to explorer registry folder

Next, right-click on the “Explorer” folder and select the “New > DWORD Value” option. Name the new value as “DisableThumbnails.”

create disablethumbnails registry value in Windows 11

After that, double-click on the value to edit it. Enter one of the below values in the “Value Data” field and click the “Ok” button.

  • 0 — to show thumbnail previews.
  • 1 — to disable thumbnail previews.
modify disablethumbnail registry value to enable or disable thumbnails in Windows 11 file explorer

Finally, close the Registry Editor and reboot the computer. If you don’t want to reboot the system, restart explorer.

With that, the File Explorer will disable or enable thumbnail previews according to the registry value.

Turn on or off thumbnail previews in Group Policy

If you are running Windows 11 Pro or Enterprise edition, you don’t have to edit the Registry. You can change a Group Policy and get the job done. Here is how to turn on or off thumbnail previews in File Explorer in Windows 11 using the Group Policy Editor.

  1. Open the Windows 11 Start menu.
  2. Search and open “Edit Group Policy.”
  3. Go to the “User Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > File Explorer” folder.
  4. Double-click on the “Turn off the display of thumbnails and only display icons” policy.
  5. Select “Disabled” to enable File Explorer thumbnails.
  6. Select “Enabled” to disable File Explorer thumbnails.
  7. Click the “Ok” button.
  8. Close the Group Policy Editor.
  9. Reboot Windows 11.
  10. With that, File Explorer will show or hide file thumbnails.

Detailed steps with screenshots:

You can modify any Windows 11 policy from the Group Policy Editor. To open it, press the start key, search for “Edit Group Policy,” and click on the result. Alternatively, you can also use the “gpedit.msc” run command.

open group policy editor in Windows 11

In the Group Policy Editor, go to the “User Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > File Explorer” folder. Here, find and double-click on the “Turn off the display of thumbnails and only display icons” policy.

You will see the policy properties window as soon as you do that. Here, choose one of the following options and click the “Ok” button to save changes.

  • Disabled — to show thumbnail previews.
  • Enabled — to disable thumbnail previews.

After that, close the Group Policy Editor and reboot the computer. Rebooting will apply and enforce the Group Policy.

From now, the File Explorer will either show or hide the thumbnails according to the policy.

File Explorer thumbnail previews are slow

At first, File Explorer might take some time to show thumbnails. This is especially true if you have a lot of images, videos, and other media. One of the main reasons is that the file explorer had to go through each file and generate a thumbnail.

Once done, these thumbnails are cached to the disk. That way, any subsequent access will be much faster and efficient.

Also, File Explorer will update the thumbnail cache as and when needed. You don’t have to worry about it.

So, give it some time after enabling the feature, and you will no longer see the slowness while the File Explorer shows thumbnail previews.

That is all. It is simple to enable or disable thumbnail previews in File Explorer in Windows 11.

I hope this easy Windows 11 how-to guide helped you.

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

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