How to fix missing thumbnail previews for image files in Windows


This happened to me: I installed a new image-related freeware to test it, and all of my image thumbnail previews disappeared, to be replaced by icons. If this happens to you you know it can be quite frustrating, especially if you are unsure as to what might have caused it in the first place.

The good news: this post will suggest three different ways to fix it. We promise that your thumbnails will be back, without necessarily having to uninstall the offending application that may have been responsible and without trying to undo any event that you may have introduced that caused the thumbnails to disappear.

We suggest that you try the following three interventions in order. The first two involve changing interacting with Windows, without installing any software. If these don’t work, try the third option, which involves using a simple freeware that most certainly will get the job done.

fix missing thumbnail previews
Note that this article was made on Windows 7, but the info presented here should work on Vista and Windows 8 as well.

1. Check Windows Explorer Settings to see if thumbnails are disabled

1.1. Open any folder in and click ALT+T on the keyboard, then select ‘Folder Options’

Folder Options Screenshot1

1.2. Click on the ‘view’ tab. Make sure that the checkbox next to ‘Always show icons, never thumbnails’ is unchecked. If it is checked, go ahead and uncheck it.

Folder Options Screenshot2

1.3. Click ‘ok’ then go back to Windows explorer and verify whether thumbnails now appear.

2. Refresh/rebuild the thumbnail cache

If the above does not solve the problem, try rebuilding the thumbnail cache. This can be easily done by (a) from the desktop, type ‘Windows Key+R’ to get the run prompt, then (b) type in ‘ie4uinit.exe –ClearIconCache’

Clean thumbnail cache from the RUN prompt screenshot

Now check to see if this has fixed it. If not, it’s time for the heavy artillery!

3. Install SageThumbs

SageThumbs is Windows freeware that adds thumbnail support to a wide variety of image types in Windows, including many image file types that do not have native support in Windows such as SD, IFF, TGA, and XCF  (to name a few). Regardless of why your image thumbnails stopped showing, SageThumb will most likely bring them back again.

Once you install SageThumbs, you don’t really need to do anything else; check to see if you thumbnails are back. If not (or if you want support for more filetypes) run SageThumbs options for your OS (32 bit vs. 64 bit) and select the filetypes you want to add support to, before clicking ok.

SageThumbs Settings Screenshot

That’s it. Enjoy your thumbnails (again)!

  • Ray

    Hi Samer,

    Thanks for the tip. I also use QTTabBar. It enables thumnails in any version of Windows, even Win 8, on hover.

    • Samer Kurdi

      Very good to know this thanks Ray!

  • Kjell Inge Sandvik

    Just a comment on the first option: In Windows 8, there’s no menuitem called “Tools”. Just press the Windows-key on your keyboard, type “Folder Options” and press enter. Then the dialogbox will appear.

    • Samer Kurdi

      @ Kjell: thanks for the insight; much appreciated.

    • James Dela Cruz

      It worked! Thanks Kjell!

  • Well, thumbs on my win 8 pro x86 pc was vanished after a system crash/(automatic restart after BSOD).
    It seems the only option left for me to try is sagethumbs thingy.
    Tried lots of other different things to fix this within the OS with no luck. 🙁

    • The Projectionist

      Simply did not work. No difference to the one program I was trying to fix. The blank thumbnails in digicamcontrol. Their forums are no use either 🙁

  • Kari Green

    The first option worked great. Thanks.

  • hamed

    thx vry mtch dear for SageThumbs solve my error view pic in explor in xp sp3

  • S

    You are a genius!. I’ve been trying proposed solutions from probably 25 different webpages, and not one of them worked. Installing SageThumbs brought back my disappearing thumbnails in Vista. My computer was displaying thumbnails briefly, then they disappeared and went away, leaving only a generic icon. Installing sage thumbs solved my vanishing thumbnail image problem. Thanks for solving something which has perplexed me for several weeks!

  • scurfie

    After struggling for weeks to get my desktop folders to show thumbnails again, Sagethumbs worked! Thank you.

  • Gareth Stuffins

    Sage Thumbs has solved my latest problem with Windows Vista – thanks very much

  • Korean

    Thanks for your Tip! SageThumbs saves me!

  • Neal Swarbrick

    Thank you xXx

    Had set Win 7 for best performance so it set to Win Basic and disabled many themes etc. including the View Icons tickbox.

    Have a good xmas 😀

  • Thank You!

  • lehar thimmaiah

    Thank You 🙂
    The Above steps didnt work for me ….
    Sage Thumbs was the trick 🙂

  • Amy Lee Horton

    You are a king among men! After running disk defrags, getting into command prompts (which ended up fixing a corrupt file anyway) The freeware did the trick!