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Posted on March 26th, 2010 by Barry Collins

Why do my Windows 7 thumbnails keep disappearing?

Windows 7 thumbanils
This is the sight that’s beginning to wear me down. Pretty much every time I go into this folder, which contains hundreds of images that we’ve used on the PC Pro website, half the thumbnails have mysteriously disappeared.

It seems I’m far from the only person being blighted by this problem. Start typing “Windows 7 thumb…” into Google, and the first entry in the auto-suggestion list that appears under the search box is “Windows 7 thumbnails not showing”. Click through and you’ll find sites and forums swelling with complaints about vanishing thumbnails, in both Windows Vista and its bigger brother, 7.

One of those forums led me to what I thought was a blissfully simple solution: press F5 (in the same way as you refresh a browser screen) and the thumbnails suddenly reappear. Unfortunately, that proved only to be a temporary solution. The next time I went back into the folder, many of the thumbnails had scarpered again.

I simply can’t understand what’s causing this problem. The thumbnails file can’t be corrupted, as they instantly reload when I hit F5. And it’s not a problem with some images, as different thumbnails come and go each time. What’s more, it’s a local folder stored on my desktop, not one stored on the server, so there’s no issue with server lag.

I’ve checked on Microsoft’s Knowledge Base and it doesn’t appear to have an answer. So it’s over to you, the good readers of PC Pro. Rescue me from my thumbnail misery. I beg you.

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30 Responses to “ Why do my Windows 7 thumbnails keep disappearing? ”

  1. Peter Says:
    March 26th, 2010 at 11:25 am

    An educated guess- but are the missing thumbnails stored on a network share?

  2. Jason Says:
    March 26th, 2010 at 11:27 am

    I have the same problem in Vista but every single one of my icons have gone and i see nothing, haven’t for at least a year now.

  3. cats_five Says:
    March 26th, 2010 at 11:40 am

    “this folder, which contains hundreds of images”

    Maybe complete wrong here, but the number of files in the program might be the problem.

    I would try rearranging it in some meaningful way and see if the problem persists.

  4. Greg Wallis Says:
    March 26th, 2010 at 11:51 am

    It’s Windows! What did you expect? Every version of Windows has always had problems like this, including remembering window positions and view options. Personally I no longer let it bug me, otherwise I’d be dangling by a rope by now.

  5. Laurent Cargill Says:
    March 26th, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    On the Windows 7 RC there was a bug that stopped you deleting a folder than contained images as the file ‘thumbs.db’ was still in use. No longer an issue now, but could this be a side-effect of the fix?

  6. David Z. Says:
    March 26th, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    Try forcing Windows to rebuild your icon cache. Delete the IconCache.db (hidden file) that is stored in %userprofile%\AppData\Local. You might need to delete this file in Safe Mode to allow deletion.

  7. Barry Collins Says:
    March 27th, 2010 at 9:35 am

    Thanks for the comments. I’ll give some of the ideas a try and report back.


  8. Jack Says:
    March 27th, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    Its fine on my machine. Network drive or slow hdd? Try Defrag

  9. Chris Says:
    March 29th, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    I remember when images used to disappear / re-appear in MS Word. The solution to that was to turn down the hardware acceleration in the Graphics Settings a notch or two until the issue stopped. Might help.

  10. Robin White Says:
    March 31st, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    I don’t of a solution but the problem I have is similar. If I delete photos the thumbnail doesn’t always disappear.

    This happens even if the photos are stored locally.

  11. Andy Says:
    April 7th, 2010 at 8:40 am

    One thing that comes to mind is any “clean up” utilities you have installed which often have options to remove thumbnails etc.

  12. cheap jordans Says:
    April 7th, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    it doesnt work …tell me the solution, how to …

  13. Monty Says:
    April 8th, 2010 at 9:33 am

    The article reads as if the problem only happens on this one folder, which would point to a corruption of some kind. Have you tried to copy the folder to another location outside the My Pictures group, e.g. copy it to the root of the local hard drive. Then check the new folder to see if the problem occurs there. If not, delete the original and move the copied version back. If the problem still persists in the copied folder, then I think you are looking at recreating the folder from scratch by setting up a new folder and copying images in smallish groups, checking after each copy to try to nail the cause of the corruption.
    Of course if the problem happens in more than one pictures folder you might have a corrupted user account. Try setting up a new user account to see if that cures the problem.

  14. Sofia Wilson Says:
    April 8th, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Windows 7 has this great amazing feature taskbar thumbnail preview which allows you to see what happening in the programs you have opened, which are being shown in taskbar. This is feature is really helpful when you have so many programs running and you can see a small snapshot of the any program by hovering your mouse over the taskbar button.
    Thanks & Regards
    Sofia Wilson

  15. Maurice Says:
    April 9th, 2010 at 12:53 am


    I’ve had the same problem, but not just one folder. Everywhere random previews just disappeared in image folder, and not only that, windows image viewer itself didn’t even work at all!

    Very long and annoying story short, i might’ve found the problem ! Do you use the COMODO firewall by any chance ? If so; try fully disabling the Defence+ security level (right click the icon). And (here at least) all the problems i had were magically solved !


    Anyway hope it works, because i’ve felt the frustration too.

    Now on to see how i can turn it back on without messing up windows..

  16. Gareth Says:
    June 21st, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    Go to Control Panel -> Folder Options, then uncheck the “Always show icons, never thumbnails”.

    Hope this helps.

  17. Bob Says:
    July 27th, 2010 at 1:02 am

    I have either the same problem or a similar one which turned out to be due to the windows deleting its own cache like crazy, forcing thumbnails to be rebuilt pretty much all the time.

    Finally found the solution here, thank God:

  18. qwertyas Says:
    August 11th, 2010 at 11:39 am

    is not an option but the clue.
    the problem is associated with too much image files in the operating system. Windows generates a preview for a limited number of files – say, 5000 images. If you copy to the system more than this number you will get blank icons (white box) instead of the previews for the new files. The old system (Win XP) has a variable controlling number of files for which the preview (thumb) was generated, the new system (win 7) also probably has the similar variable.
    and here’s the catch – if you know this variable in the registry and you will overwrite its value you will get thumbs for all your images.

    by the way – if you have many files (2000 and more) try to keep your images in many folders not in one – this always will cause system problems with refreshing cache, and opening lags. the system needs time to display thumbs for such amount of files.

  19. v. Says:
    August 31st, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    there is in windows 7 an process dllhost named COM Surrogates, enter task manager to end that process than refresh and your thumbnails should work

  20. Dorianne Dutrieux Says:
    November 21st, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    I had this problem a little while ago, I fixed it by deleting the thumbs.db file which had become corrupted, causing windows to create a new one. It’s seems to happen primarily with the folders that contain large numbers of files, I suspect that has to do with how much longer it needs to read said file.

  21. R Carty Says:
    September 20th, 2011 at 6:22 am

    I had this same problem too, on every image folder. I went to the ‘Organize’ menu in windows explorer, then ‘Folder and Search Options’. Under the ‘View’ tab uncheck “Display file icon on thumbnails”. Seems to have solved my issue. Also uncheck the “Always show icons, never thumbnails” box.

  22. Chris Says:
    December 20th, 2011 at 2:48 am

    Maurice! Spot ON! After hours of searching, changing folder permissions, file permissions, and editing the registry, changing the Defense permission of COMODO restored the thumbnails. Thank you!

  23. vivek Says:
    May 15th, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    Thanks maurice, that comodo tip worked

  24. CJHacker Says:
    May 19th, 2012 at 3:17 am

    I ran into a very similar issue. For me, ending task on COM Surrogates as v. stated above in #19 did the trick for me. Ended task, and immediately my thumbs refreshed and were no longer white rectangles. Thanks V!

  25. John Waters Says:
    May 25th, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    I have either the same problem or a similar one which turned out to be due to the windows deleting its own cache like crazy, forcing thumbnails to be rebuilt pretty much all the time.

    Cheers Bob, that worked for me.

    Finally found the solution here, thank God:

    Read more: Why do my Windows 7 thumbnails keep disappearing? | PC Pro blog

  26. Stu Says:
    September 16th, 2012 at 4:52 am

    Many thanks Gareth (Entry#16). Worked a treat mate.

  27. Denise Says:
    May 4th, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    I agree with Stu (Entry #26), Gareth (Entry #16) is my newest hero! Been mad every time I’ve tried to look for a picture these last few months. FINALLY! :0)

  28. Gino Says:
    June 18th, 2014 at 9:00 pm

    Set a registry entry to a given value at startup, use the reg command.

    Check the type and name of the value you’ll want to change then create a .bat file with

    reg add HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer /v DisableThumbnails /t REG_DWORD /d 0 /f
    reg add HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer /v DisableThumbnailsOnNetworkFolders /t REG_DWORD /d 0 /f
    reg add HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer /v DisableThumbsDBOnNetworkFolders /t REG_DWORD /d 0 /f

    and drag’n'drop it to the startup folder.

  29. Jacquie Says:
    September 8th, 2014 at 8:57 pm

    I believe everything typed was actually very logical.
    But, what about this? suppose you were to write a aesome
    headline? I ain’t saying your content isn’t solid, however suppose yoou added a post title that grabbed
    people’s attention? I mean Why do my Windows 7
    thumbnails keep disappearing? | PC Pro blog is a little vanilla.
    Youu couhld peek at Yahoo’s home page and see how they write post headlines to grab peopke to open the links.

    You might add a related video or a picture or two to grab raders interested about everything’ve written. In myy opinion, it could bring your posts a
    little livelier.

  30. kenney Says:
    September 17th, 2014 at 10:27 pm

    dose anyone have a real answer?


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