Thumbnail Previews Not Showing in Windows 8 Explorer?

I installed Windows 8 RTM on my home desktop a few weeks back and so far haven’t really had any problems. However, one odd thing that I noticed was that whenever I would view a directory that contained pictures or videos, I would just see the default icon for that file type rather than a thumbnail preview of the files.

So if I navigated to my Pictures library in Windows 8, I would get the photo icon for each image:

Pictures windows 8 icons

And if I viewed a directory full of videos in Windows 8, I would get the same thing, just with the default video icon:

Videos windows 8 icons

This was getting really annoying and I realized it was doing this since the time I installed Windows 8 on the PC. I’m not sure why it’s defaulted to this view instead of thumbnail previews like it is in Windows 7, but if you want the thumbnails back in Windows Explorer, here’s how to do it.

First, open Windows Explorer and then click on Options and Change folder and search options.

Folder and search options

Next, click on the View tab and uncheck the box that says Always show icons, never thumbnails.

Always show icons

Once you get rid of that checked option, you should now get thumbnails for all your pictures, videos and even documents.

View thumbnails windows 8

There is one other place that you can adjust the setting for showing icons or thumbnails in Windows Explorer. First right-click on Computer on the desktop and choose Properties. Then click on Advanced System Settings on the left side.

Advanced system settings

This will open up the System Properties dialog. Here you need to click on the Advanced tab and then click on Settings.

Advanced settings

Finally, make sure Show thumbnails instead of icons is checked.

Show thumbnails instead of icons

With these two settings, you should now be seeing thumbnail previews for pictures, videos, documents, and other file types in Explorer on Windows 8. If you’re still seeing just icons, post a comment here and I’ll try to help. Enjoy!

Comments [124]

  1. Thanks for sharing this information. I’m not really good at stuff like this. I can eventually do it, but I get frustrated and give up and come back to it later. Did a Google search and this site made the most sense and actually helped me. Thanks again!

  2. WOW!! Thank you!! This has been one of the most annoying things about Windows 8 I could not stand! Thank you so much for posting this!

  3. I know this is an old thread, but I have the identical problem. I followed your suggestions and both locations have “show thumbnails, not icons”.

    When I connect my Samsung Galaxy phone via USB to my Windows 7 Home Premium computer, all my pictures appear as thumbnails. When I do the identical thing on my Windows 8 computer, in the same folder, all I get are icons and numbers. Picture descriptions & dates are gone. It’s not Windows 8 Pro I’m using. Could that be what’s causing this?

  4. invaluable help coz I found the windows 8 interface new and difficult to navigate, that too with this stupid problem…thx…v helpful for starters

  5. I have tried both suggestions and failed, windows explorer still shows only icons. it maybe the fact that I run win 8 entpr x86 under VMware 9, host is win 7 x64 prof.

  6. I am still seeing icons. The pictures are from a Galaxy S2. Any idea why?

  7. I have tried both solutions to get thumbnail images, but neither setting makes any difference. I still do not see any thumbnails, just the icon for the default programme used to open the particular files. This is specifically for pictures where I would want to view thumbnails of the pictures in order to arrange my pictures library.

  8. Thanks so much! It was really starting to bug me, but no more!

  9. Hi there. I’m brand new to Windows 8 & am having this problem as well. I tried both ways you suggested & neither worked.

    Very frustrating. Anymore ideas?

    Thank you.

  10. Hi,

    All the steps you said were checked on my computer but im still seeing everything as icons :/

  11. Its me again,

    Some show as thumbnails (e.g. .mp4) but others show as icons (e.g. .avi and .mpg)

  12. Hi,

    I followed your two options and only the pictures were fixed with thumbnail images. Why can that be? I have all the usual suspect video players, VLC, QuickTime, Media Player Classic, Windows Media Player, FLV including the ‘Video’ player that comes with 8.

    Can you think of anything else?

  13. Thank you for this tip! Still not have fully adjusted to Windows 8 and I like to try finding a solution on my own rather than call a tech line and speak to someone. This solved my issue on Windows 8, hadn’t been able to preview pictures since I got it brand new.

  14. I did everything you told, yet still have only symbols and no thumbs with my MPG files. However, I have thumbs with MP4 files! And, somebody told me, he sees thumbs of my MPG files with Windows 8 (and I had the thumbs of my MPG files with Windows XP).

    Anny suggestion how to “thumb” my MPG files in Windows 8?

  15. Thank you so much for sharing this information. Prior to seeing this I was advised to download Picasa 3 to view thumbnails. Picasa 3 opens all picture folders simultaneously within the Picasa 3 program. The pictures return to generic icons when attempting to attach to an email while working in outlook.

  16. Neither of these worked at all for me. The boxes were checked, but I still have icons instead of thumbnails.

  17. Help. That didn’t work. none of my videos have thumbnails anymore and it was working fine the other day. pictures have thumbnails but not videos and pdf files.

  18. I am having this problem with Windows 8. When I attach my phone via the usb cable and open my camera file on the sd card, I can’t see the images themselves, only the blue icon. I tried both of the fixes that you suggested but it still isn’t showing the thumbnail images. Is there anything else I can do to fix this?

  19. Solution does not work on my Surface Pro. Both boxes are in the proper checked state.

  20. i’m a 75 + old lady and am loving windows 8. Now even more so since I’ve found your helpful site. Thanks very much!!!!

  21. I’m still just seeing icons for all my PDF files.

  22. I have windows 8 and I have tried EVERYTHING suggested and NOTHING is changing. I am still getting the icons! PLEASE, can you help me????

  23. I tried both of these and STILL cannot view my image thumbnails. I even rebooted to no avail. HELP!!!!

  24. Thanks Aseem. Just what I needed! Thumbnails showing just fine.

  25. Did what you said and still only get the icons in Windows Explorer. What’s next?

  26. You are right it is very annoying. I did follow your instructions but it’s still showing me PSD or Illustrator icons instead of the picture. How can I fix that?

  27. I am having this issue and I have tried both suggestions and still half of the icons come up with preview and half program icons. I have 12GB of ram so that’s def not the issue.

  28. Hi, have had this problem also. After following step I am getting thumbnail previews for most of my videos but the mpeg files are still showing an icon instead of a preview.

    Any help would be appreciated,


  29. I have Windows 8 and I recently downloaded Windows Media Player to play all my AVI and MP4 files. I have thumbnails for my pictures (jpg, jpeg, etc…) but not for my movies. Please help me!

  30. I tried everything above. Reset in Explorer, went to advanced admin settings, clicked everything (and hit apply), but still only icons on the mpgs. I have a new Sony SVL series, and nothing makes those icons show in picture form. šŸ™

  31. Just updated to windows 8–Have a huge folder of svg files with many sub folders—no thumbnail views—very hard to look through all those files without thumbnails. the folder is on my desktop—does it need to be in my library for the icons to show? I’ve tried all the posted remedies and and the “show thumbnail….” checkbox was already checked. Once I open a folder the pictures show up? Any help for me? Does there need to be some sort of special icon file in my folders? Sorry if this is dense…I have been a mac user for a long time…. need some direction.


  32. I have made changes you suggested, but they don’t hold?? I’ve changed them in both places, when I go back they are checked again. I always hit “apply” keeps reverting back.

  33. you are the man…have been struggling with this for so long. Thanks.

  34. In both the computer Advanced Settings and in the Windows Explorer – Folder & Search options, the icons/thumbnail boxes were both unchecked. I can view thumbnails just fine for pictures located in my Pictures folder in my computer, but when viewing photos on my phone via USB in windows explorer they still show the generic icon. Is there any other solutions to this problem or am I stuck clicking on every individual photo while browsing on external drives?

  35. I tried both options but in vain. The problem still persists. Please suggest an alternative. Thanks

  36. Thank you so much! This was driving me insane, especially when trying to delete pictures, I had to open each one then delete them!

  37. Didn’t work. I have the boxes checked exactly as shown above but still not getting an image preview in Explorer.

  38. FYI, they still show as icons when they are on my Galaxy S3 connected to my Win8 machine via USB, and viewed from Windows Explorer. When I copied the JPG files to a folder on my Win8 system your tip worked. Unfortunately that defeated the purpose for me because I wanted to see them on the phone so I knew which to copy…but thanks for explaining these settings. Most helpful.

  39. I have tried both ways to get my video thumbnails working but they are still not showing. I only have two video thumbnails working. I had the same problem with my word documents but I downloaded a fix for that. Is there one for videos?

  40. Hi there!

    I wonder if you can help. The only place I see these icons is when trying to move pictures from my Android phone. All of the options you outline above are set as you recommend and all other photos and videos on my computer show as thumbnails; it’s only when viewing the DCIM images on my phone when they all show as icons which makes it much harder for me to track what I’ve already moved across.

    As an alternative there is a Samsung Kies program that can manage the saving of photos off the phone, which is a Galaxy S3, but it also doesn’t show thumbnails, only filenames… seems a pretty crazy state of affairs!

    Hope you can help!

  41. Hi,
    I don’t get thumbnails previews when I use an external drive like my mobile. I’ve gone through all the settings you mentionned above and everything is correct. It did work with my old XP and Win 7 machines but in Win 8 it seems to be a bug or sth.
    I’d be happy for some advice here. Thank you!

  42. Hi there,
    I’m having trouble seeing the preview of the pictures when my samsung galaxy ace 2 is connected to the laptop. I’ve been able to preview items for the rest of my laptop. However, not for anything in the “phone” folder. I’ve followed the steps as you’ve listed but it hasn’t changed the preview. I’d really appreciate any help I could get at this point. Fyi, I’m using Windows 8 as well.

  43. this doesn’t work ? šŸ™ On Windows i tried everything and don’t see thumbnail previews. Do I need a special graphics card?

  44. I am still facing issue .. not getting thumbnails even after doing all these

  45. I followed all of these steps and STILL can not see my photos on an external source. Very frustrating! Please help! I read elsewhere about installing codecs but I’m not sure those codecs are coming from a trusted source. Ugh.

  46. Still not able to view the thumbnails after following the steps.

  47. You helped me solve one problem in regards to viewing picture thumbnails. I can now see them in my pictures library on my Windows 8 OS. But I still cant see thumbnails when I plug in my phone or other device to copy them over, or use them in some other way. Is there setting to allow my phone to show thumbnails also?

  48. Thank you for sharing ! After some system changes… that I applied for performance yesterday, my pictures did not preview anymore… now it s back .

  49. Hi thanks for the help. After folowing both steps, I still see icons instead of thumbnails.

  50. Sorry ,I’ve figured out that I was exploring a ZIP file intead of the folder unzipped. Thanks.

  51. This was extremely helpful. Thanks for the article.

  52. I have the same problem. In system properties and file explorer, both had the check mark already to include the thumbnails, therefore your suggestions do not help, in my case. :>( Any other ideas ?

  53. I made sure that both of those settings were as you stated… and even restarted jic… Still not seeing thumbnail. Help!

    Thank you

  54. I tried both of the steps. The “Always show icons never thumbnails” wasn’t checked on mine and the “Show thumbnails instead of icons” was already checked. I even tried switching them to the wrong way and then going back and fixing it…still only icons!!! Any help is appreciated!

  55. Thank you for your help. I am still having a problem however.

    I take a lot of pictures with my phone. My regular way to get them on my computer is to open 2 windows – one where my pictures are located and another one with the camera showing up (computer view). Then I find the file I want to drag the pictures to AND I was always able to view the actual picture in the other window. Since I got windows 8 I can do exactly what I just described but I can’t view the actual picture on the 2nd window with the camera files pulled up. What I see is a million icons with a mountain on them and not my picture!! I tried to change the view in view options but that didn’t make a difference. I want to see the actual picture in the library not in a photo viewer. Then I can click on the picture that I can see and drag it to the place I want to download it to!!!

    Today I managed to determine which ones to drag by the date. But that’s not a good way because one might be missed.

  56. Forgot to say this. I did the Option change that you suggested but my system won’t let me go to the advanced system properties to make that change.

  57. i checked my computer, ran the steps, and it still shows the generic thumbnail

  58. I knew about having this setting, but I don’t know how to have the system display thumbnails for just picture and/or video files – and retain the icons for other files, like documents and presentations?

  59. I tried to post a possible solution for thoose who still have problems viewing thumbnails in windows explorer after applying settings as mentioned in the article. I think it might have been filtered out since I posted a link to the site where I found the hint. So I’ll try to post again without the link.

    Try deleting icon and thumbnail cache! It worked for me on my WIN 8 machine.

    How to do that:

    1. Make a bar-file on Desktop named: “iconcache.bat”
    2. Open the file with an editor, paste the following and save:

    @echo off
    taskkill /f /IM explorer.exe
    CD /d %userprofile%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows
    del /f /s /q Explorer\*.*
    Start explorer.exe

    3. Move the file to C:\
    4. Execute by double-clicking

    Hope this post is not filtered out, because it might help some users!

  60. Thank you. Preview images appear only if icon display size is set to medium or larger. I’m fine with this!

  61. Hi, I did everything mentioned here, nothing worked. What I found out, that the previev worked perfectly on an USB stick. The problem appears only on a SSD hard drive.

  62. Thanks!!!! This was so annoying and I have been tolerating it for six months. I really appreciate you posting this!!!!

  63. I have tried both the above options but am not able to view thumbnails for my files… mostly pdf, cdr, etc

    What can I do other than these two options

  64. Super thanks for this super quick fix

  65. Thank you thank you thank you!! Works perfectly now. I hate Windows 8. Grr. Now I hate it a little less. šŸ™‚

  66. Hi there. I’m trying to see the images taken with my samsung s2. I’ve done all these steps,, (they weren’t even checked in the first place). My phone is connected via usb. But icons rather than thumbnails are still showing. It’s driving me berserk!!

  67. Thanks..ur help is appreciated . .my problem of undisplayed pics got resolved . . .thanks a ton

  68. Thank you so much for this!!!! I have been looking for a way to fix this for over an hour and you are the only person that I’ve found who has added the “Option” then “Change ….” to their directions. Thank you so much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  69. I did ALL that, and it still doesn’t work.

  70. Thank you so much for posting this! This was one of my only complaints about windows 8.

  71. Great guide, helped me a lot but it doesn’t seem to work when I am accessing files that are not on my computer (i.e. moving pictures from my phone to my computer).

  72. I am still getting a mix of icons and thumbnails, whereas in XP I used to get all thumbnails. Please help.

  73. Hi. The instructions on this page did not solve the issue for me. The two settings you quoted are both global settings; in my case however, only one folder did not show thumbnails. Most folders were fine.

    The solution for me was that the folder in question was a ZIP compressed folder. Explorer managed to make that quite hard to notice. Once Iā€™d extracted the files to a normal folder, the thumbnails appeared normally.

    It would be helpful for future visitors if you included this in this post.

  74. THANK YOU!!!!! It was the single thing I hadn’t managed to work out with Windows 8 and it was driving me nuts!! THANK YOU!!!!

  75. Thanks – very helpful. I was fine with Windows 8.0, but had this fault after installing 8.1.

  76. thank you soooo much for this!! It was driving me crazy that suddenly I couldn’t see the images in preview mode!!

  77. I’m still having trouble with icons not showing as pictures. I checked both of the things you suggested, but the boxes were already checked/unchecked as you indicated.

  78. Thank you sooo much! I had the same problem, and it used to drive me crazy. Now I changed the settings, thanks to you šŸ™‚

  79. I’ve been facing the same thumbnail problem and none of the two methods worked for me.

    Kindly help me.

  80. That solves one problem and creates another.
    Icons for any other file type shows an image of the first page instead of the associated program image.So you get lots of different type file icons looking all the same. This is different to previous Windows systems, where you could have thumbnails, and proper program associated icon images

  81. I’ve tried everything you suggested and I still only see icons and not the thumbnail which makes trying to find a picture almost impossible.

    Can you help?


  82. Thank you so very much! This is the help I most definitely needed!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  83. THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH!!! I am a photographer and it has been nothing but frustration trying to figure this out. Thanks again.

  84. Thank you very much. I followed your directions and I was able to see the pictures again instead of icons. Thanks again!

  85. thank you so much, you helped me tremendously!

  86. Thanks.. That was really helpfull.. šŸ˜€

  87. Neither of the two steps above helped my computer. Do you have any other ideas? Thanks.

  88. If the file with the photos is zipped, I still only get icons instead of thumbnail

  89. Thanks šŸ™‚ This happened to me too and it’s been so annoying. I wasn’t sure where to look. High fives! xx

  90. Thank you sooo much I was ready to pull my hair out . But I still have a problem I am a PSP user and I love making graphics …but windows 8 will not see the PSP images called tubes. If I open them in the PSP program they are so small I can’t see them. In my XP they just came up in a window like a regular picture would and I got thumb-nails.just like a regular picture. Can you tell me a way to fix this.I have really tried to like the windows 8 but I just can’t. It seems to have taken so much from the thing I enjoy most and has given me nothing but a headache. But Thanks for the help on the thumb-nails for the regular pictures.

  91. Still just seeing the icons and not the pictures.

  92. Extremely helpful and user-friendly piece. Thanks!

  93. Thank you. I suddenly lost the thumbnails for no obvious reasons and you resolved my panic very quickly!

  94. Thank you so much. I thought I just had to live with it this way and it’s been a real PAIN! Thank you!

  95. Thank you very much. This has been driving me nuts and I could not figure out how this happened or how to change it back. You saved what little sanity I had left.

  96. Thanks!!! This was very helpful!

  97. My pc settings are correct but thumbnails are not showing! Just the icon shows!

  98. Thank you for showing me how to do this!!

  99. Thankyou!
    That was really helpfull….can view the thumbnails of images n videos now. šŸ™‚

  100. I searched all over for an answer to this question, and finally spotted your excellent article. Fixed the problem, and now my wife can finish her photo project without tearing out her hair!

  101. I’ve gone through all steps and this still won’t change how Window’s 8 handles .pdf thumbnail previews. Any help is appreciated! šŸ™‚

  102. HI,
    Tried both of these but no joy with Windows 8. Any suggestion?

  103. Thank you finally, I have been doing troubleshooting etc…was getting very frustrated…easy when someone explains it.

  104. Thank you! the performance options was the key. you had the answer when the people at Microsoft had no clue. lol

  105. Thank you very much. you have solved my problem,you don’t know how happy I am.

  106. Thanks Aseem

    That has been driving me berserk!

  107. Still not seeing thumbnails for wmf files.

  108. Thank you so much!! I didn’t know how to see my thumbnail photos! I looked at the Microsoft Help Guide and didn’t find anything related to the issue. Really appreciate your help!

  109. THANK YOU!! I just got Windows 8 and this was driving me insane!! Thank you so VERY much!!


  111. Went thru all of your tips to get proper picture thumbnails to appear, still not working. Win8 upgraded to Pro.


  112. Thank you so much for posting this. I have had this same problem for a few months now and I finally got sick and tired of it and decided to Google it. I stumbled across this website quickly. I can’t believe it was so easy, I was looking all over the options menu but I totally missed this.

  113. This really works! Thank you so much it was extremely frustrating not being able to view thumbnails :))

  114. Thank you SO much, the icon setting was driving me crazy, I couldn’t find any of my pictures easily and I was ready to scream at Windows 8 (not for the first time unfortunately). Now my blood pressure has returned to normal šŸ˜€

  115. have tried both of these suggestions and still doesn’t work. I did notice that to the right of the view area where it gives the item total it says Availability: Available Offline. Could this have anything to do with the problem? Can Microsoft run a fix so this would work for everyone?

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