How to add thumbnail previews to MKV video files in Windows

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Although the MKV video file format is becoming increasingly more popular, most Windows PC’s will not display thumbnails for MKV files by default, a small esthetic detail which can nonetheless potentially make this otherwise excellent video format less preferable in the eyes of many users.

If you would like a quick way to add thumbnails to MKV videos then read on.

This article will outline a relatively easy way to do this using a combination of freeware tools (LAV Filters, which will add the necessary codec to your system, and a Windows extension called Icaros which will use the new filter to add thumbnails to Windows explorer). Note, however, that the process described here requires MS .NET Framework 4 be installed on your system.

MKV thumbnails before and after6

Step 1: if you don’t have it, download and install the Microsoft .NET Framework 4. You can use either the web installer or local installer, either way it will be about a 41 gig download. Note that if you have Windows 7 with latest updates you will have this one installed. Vista and XP users will need to download and install it.

Step 2: download LAV Filters

The installer version (.exe) contains both 32bit and 64bit versions and will install accordingly. If you opt for the zip version make sure you download the 32bit or 64bit version appropriate to your system. More info and a discussion thread on LAV Filters here.

Step 3: install LAV Filters

3.a Select components: check all instances of LAV Splitter and LAV Video; skip LAV audio. If you have a 64 bit system you will see two of each (x86 and x64) as shown in the screenshot; 32 bit users will see a single entry for each

LAV Filters screenshot1-components

3.b Additional tasks: in the “Use LAV Splitter (x86) for these file formats”, check “Matroska” and uncheck everything else.

LAV Filters screenshot1-additional tasks

Scroll down. 64 bit users will see an additional section “Use LAV Splitter (x64) for these file formats”; here again check “Matroska” and uncheck everything else.

Scroll down further and you will find a section titled “Use LAV video for these codecs:”. You can either leave the checked boxes as they are, or otherwise uncheck all of them except “H.264/AVC1”.

Finish up with the LAV Filters install process. You may or may not need to restart your computer at this point.

Step 4: download Icaros from this page and install.

Once installed run Icaros (from the Start menu, or run C:\Program Files (x86)\Icaros\IcarosConfig.exe).

In the config screen (below), click “Activate Icaros” and exit. (Note: you could change the offset number from 15% to another value if you like; it determines the distance into the video that the screenshot will be taken from).

Icaros Screenshot2


That’s all. Now go to any folder that contains MKV files and MKV thumbnails should populate.

What I like about the process above is that it makes only the necessary modifications to add MKV thumbnails to Windows explorer without having to install a full on codec pack, which is what most forums recommend to do to get MKV thumbnails.

[Thanks go to user Panzer for letting me know about Icaros Windows extension]