Windows 10 Quick Tips – Fix Corrupted Thumbnails


corrupted-thumbnails-imageCorrupted Thumbnails

Sometimes, files get corrupted. That’s a fact of computer life. On the left you can see a classic example of what I’m talking about. The first row of images aren’t showing anything, the second row seems to be OK, and the third row has some good and some bad.

This is a typical example of file corruption. In this case it is the Windows Thumbnail Cache that has fallen by the wayside. Luckily, in this case there’s an easy fix.

Are Thumbnails Enabled?

First let’s make sure that you have Thumbnails enabled on your computer.

icons-image

If this is how your pictures look in File Explorer, it’s possible you don’t have Thumbnails enabled.

Enabling Thumbnails

If you are sure you have Thumbnails enabled, you can skip this part. To make sure Thumbnails are enabled on your computer, do the following:


Step 1 – Open File Explorer

enable-thumbnails

Step 2 – Click View, then Options. This should bring up the Folder Options window:

folder-options-window

Step 3 – Click the View tab and Uncheck the box labeled, Always show icons, never thumbnails.

How To Fix A Corrupted Thumbnail Cache

We will be using the Command Prompt to fix the Thumbnail Cache.

Open the Power Menu by using the Windows Key + X Hotkey combination:


power-menu

admin-command-prompt

The important thing here is that you have an Administrator Command Prompt open as indicated in the above image. This won’t work otherwise.

Three simple steps

  1. Type taskkill /f /im explorer.exe and hit Enter
  2. Type del /f /s /q /a %LocalAppData%\Microsoft\Windows\Explorer\thumbcache_*.db and hit Enter
  3. Type start explorer.exe and hit Enter

Don’t freak out if the first step causes your Taskbar, Wallpaper and Desktop icons to disappear. The third step will return things to normal.

The second step is where the magic happens. This command tells Windows to delete all the “thumbcache” files. By deleting them, Windows will be forced to rebuild them and this will give you a nice, clean slate. The next image will show you what to expect as you type in these commands:

admin-command-prompt-afterwards

You will have noticed there are two entries marked “Access denied”. During this run I had a File Manager open and a browser that were probably using these files. If you run into this same problem, then close any programs that are using Thumbnails. It’s probably best to simply shut down all open programs during this exercise.

Note: Your Command Prompt probably won’t be as pretty as mine unless, of course, you have read How To Command The Command Box Properties.

Bonus Tip – What Are All Those Switches?

For the curious ones among you, the switches (also called parameters by some) for the above commands change the behavior of the command. For example, the switches for the Taskkill command do the following:

  • /f – Specifies to forcefully terminate the process(es)
  • /im – Specifies the image name of the process to be terminated…

Incidentally, you can follow any command with the /? switch (eg, taskkill /?). This will bring up a list of all the switches that can be used with a particular command. If you really want to dig into the wonderful Command Prompt, you can type help at the prompt to see the entire list of commands. That’ll keep you busy for a while. 😉

I’ll leave it to you to discover what the del switches do. If you take the time to learn some of this stuff, it will give you an idea of just how useful and versatile the Command Prompt can be. You can accomplish tasks in there that can’t be done as directly or quickly in any other way.

Richard

About the Author

Richard Pedersen

Richard received his first computer, a C-64, in 1982 as a gift and began dabbling in BASIC. He was hooked! His love for computing has led him from the old “XT” boxes to the more modern fare and from clunky 10MB hard drives to smooth and fast modern day SSD drives. He has run BBS services, Fido mail, and even operated his own computer repair business.

6 Comments

  1. This recently happened to me, Or at least it may have been what happened. I started up one day and went in to documents and could not read a single word on any of them, went to pictures and it says that it cant open the file. Took everything and tossed it all onto a thumb drive and did a fresh reinstall, not a backup or repair a clean install. Put the thumb drive back in and still the same issue. Now have some files on an external drive doing the same thing. Cant open the photos and cant read a single document. New docs and photos are fine but the old ones are still not usable. I have yet to delete them because I am sure there must be a way to retrieve or repair them.

    • Hi Jerry,

      Your files possibly being corrupted and inaccessible has nothing to do with disfigured thumbnails.

      That’s two different animals,
      Richard

  2. I just need to know what animal…lol..and how to deal with it. I have to much data to lose it all. I just have no clue as to how to make the docs readable again or how to make the pics so they can be viewed and used. I need to find someplace to post a copy of a document so that somebody else may know exactly what happened and how to fix it.

    • Hi Euan,

      My first thought is a corrupt installation.

      * Open a Command Prompt (Admin)
      * Type: sfc /scannow

      Let it finish the scan and let me know what message(s) you see when it is finished,
      Richard

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