Fix: Thumbnails not Showing in Windows 11 & Deleting Thumbnail Cache

Windows maintains a thumbnail database for media files like photos and videos and certain documents like PDF, word documents or powerpoint presentations. 

These small graphic thumbnails show a small preview of the content of a file. These thumbnails are automatically generated by Windows whenever you create or copy a file on your computer. The next time you open that file the thumbnail is picked directly from the thumbnail database instead of creating a fresh thumbnail. 

However, this database can become too large as you add more and more files to your computer. If this database goes corrupt or buggy then you may face the missing thumbnail issue in Windows.

In situations like these you can try deleting the Thumbnail database forcing windows to generate it afresh. This would solve the missing thumbnail issue if it has happened due to database error. 

In this tutorial we would explain the steps to delete and reset Thumbnail Database using Storage settings,  Disk Cleanup and Command Prompt.

Also, before you delete the Thumbnail databases, you should check your Folder Settings as you may have accidentally disabled Thumbnail view for files.

Enable Thumbnail in Folder Options

To Open Folder Options settings, press the Windows + R shortcut and enter the following command in the Run dialog.

control.exe folders

In the Folder Options window, select the View tab. Make sure that “Always show icons, never thumbnails” check box is clear. This checkbox should be clear for thumbnails to be active. 

Reset the Thumbnail Database using Windows Storage Settings

Storage Settings in Windows would help you to get rid of files that you don’t need like the files lying in Recycle Bin, your Downloads folder and temporary files. 

In Storage Settings you can also delete thumbnail cache files to free up your disk space. After these files are deleted; Windows would rebuild the thumbnail database. 

To open Storage settings, press the Windows + R shortcut key and then type the following command in the Run dialog.

ms-settings:storagesense

This will open the System > Storage settings window. Click on Temporary Files to open the files which are not needed by your system and can be safely removed.

However, this also list files present in your Downloads folder, so be careful not to select the Downloads folder checkbox. 

In the System > Storage > Temporary file, windows uncheck every checkbox except for Thumbnails and click on Remove Files.

This would delete the Thumbnail Cache and should fix the thumbnail problem. If this method fails then you can also delete it using Disk Cleanup.

Delete Thumbnail Cache using Disk Cleanup

You can also delete the Thumbnail Cache using Disk Cleanup feature which is inbuilt into Windows. 

To open Disk Cleanup, Press the Windows + R shortcut key and type the following command in the Run dialog. 

cleanmgr

This will open the “Disk Cleanup for Windows (C:)” window. In this Window, uncheck everything except for the Thumbnail checkbox and click on OK.

This will delete and reset your thumbnail database.

Deleting Thumbnail Cache using Command Prompt

You can also delete Thumbnail Cache using the Command Prompt. Go to Start Menu and search for Command Prompt.

Click on “Run as Administrator” to open Command Prompt with elevated privileges. This step is important as you won’t be able to delete the Thumbnail Cache database without admin privileges. 

In the Command Prompt window, enter the following command to close Windows explorer which is always running in the background. We need to temporarily close Windows Explorer before we can delete these files.

taskkill /f /im explorer.exe

This will close the Windows taskbar at the bottom and your desktop would go dark or blank after executing this command which is normal. It would return to normal when we restart Windows explorer after deleting the Thumbnail Cache Files. 

To delete the Thumbnail cache files you can enter the following command in the Command Prompt window. 

del /f /s /q /a %LocalAppData%\Microsoft\Windows\Explorer\thumbcache_*.db

Now enter the following command to restart Windows Explorer.

start explorer.exe