How to Display Thumbnail Preview in Windows 11

This post shows students and new users steps to enable or disable thumbnail preview in File Explorer when using Windows 11. By default, File Explorer in Windows 11 displays files and folder as list. Even images will be displayed as list.

However, Windows also supports displaying thumbnail images or icons in File Explorer. When working with lots of images with thumbnail preview enabled, File Explorer makes it easy to see the actual images or photos in thumbnail sizes, and this can provide you more details instead of a list.

By default, thumbnail preview is enabled, however, you’ll have to select a medium iconslarge icons, or extra large icons in File Explorer to preview thumbnail images. If thumbnail preview is disable, it will also be disabled in File Explorer.

The new Windows 11, when released generally to everyone, will come with many new features and enhancements that will work great for some while adding some learning challenges for others. Some things and settings have changed so much that folks will have to learn new ways to work with and manage Windows 11.

Thumbnail preview isn’t new in Windows 11. If you used it in previous versions of Windows, you know it all.

To get started with thumbnail preview in Windows 11, follow the steps below:

How to enable or disable thumbnail preview in Windows 11

As mentioned above, you can enable or disable previewing of thumbnail in Windows 11. By default, this is enabled, but if it’s disabled for some reasons, here’s how to enable it.

Open File Explorer, then select the ellipse (three dots on the toolbar) and select Options.

windows 11 select options in file

Then make sure the check box next to “Always show icons, never thumbnail” is not checked.

enable thumbnail preview windows 11

Now, in File Explorer, with list view, you’ll see your images as shown below.

file explorer image list view

To preview thumbnail in File Explorer, click on View in the toolbar menu and select Large icons, Medium icons or Small icons.

windows 11 file epxlorer view large icons

Now thumbnails are shown in preview mode.

windows 11 view thumbnail images in file

To disable thumbnail preview, go to File Explorer options and click on the View tab, then check to box to “Always show icons, never thumbnail” .

That’s it!


This post showed you how to enable or disable thumbnail preview in Windows 11. If you find out any error above, please use the comment form below.


  1. didn’t fix it. 3/4 of the jpg files are shown as thumbnails 1/4 just icons. and yes, always show icons box is not checked

    1. Exact same result here. Most jpg files appear as ICONS with 1 appearing as a jpeg. Can’t get anyone to answer Customer Support no. 800-642-7676. Very frustrating. HELP PLEASE!!!

  2. Worthless. I need the FOLDERS to show thumbnails of the contents, just like Windows has been doing FOR 20+ YEARS!

  3. This article is simply wrong and it’s clear the author doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Thumbnail view is NOT available in Windows 11. This is a deliberate (if little mentioned) choice by Microsoft and none of these ‘tips (which are for Windows 10) will work to change it.

    As I have thousands of photos in hundreds of folders which I access daily, so for me Windows 11 is not viable and so I will now roll back to 10

    1. I’m not following this, although I’m having the same problem. Some of my files show as thumbnails and i’m using Window 11. I have adobe 9 pro, and when i open that app i can see the PDF thumbnail previews as expected, but when i save a pdf to a file on my desktop. The PDF’s do not show a preview thumbnail, however everything else does save and display as a thumbnail. If Microsoft doesn’t have this feature any longer in windows 11, how is it some of my files saved to my desktop do show a thumbnail preview? So confusing!…lol

    2. I agree with you and this is super frustrating. I need my thumbnails. I have thousands of photos and images I need for work.

      Been trying to figure out why it does this, removes the thumbnails

  4. This did not work for me. I have a Dell laptop and for some reason have never been able to get the pics to show in the folder. In my HP that was never an issue. Please help. Thank you

  5. The thumbnails do not update when I edit a picture. So if I have two versions I cannot see with one look which picture is the one I edited of two by looking at the thumbnail :'(

    I can only fix it by having all thumbnails deleted and remade, but I can’t keep doing that for every single edit I do. I handle hundreds of pictures!

    The folder thumbnails are still not there AND the default new folder icons barely show the difference between an empty and full folder. The disorientation they caused with their DOWNgrade is absolutely terrible!!!

  6. I have unchecked always show icons not thumbnails and I still do not get to view the thumbnails. Except for on very smaill jpg file less than 1 mb.

  7. I want to see the thumbnails in my Music Folder, like I did in Wind. 10. and mr. Richard sleep well for the next 2 century’s. If you still don’t know what’s the problem we’re al waiting for to solve it than you’re a big idiot

  8. Doesn’t work for me either!
    The photos flick up and then turn to a blank thumbnail.
    Will this be fixed?

  9. Very frustrating!! I have TONS of photos and too many to sift through!! I want to see the photos – NOT the icons!! Someone PLEASE help us!

  10. Updated to Windows 11 Dec. 26/2021 and experiencing the same frustrations (anger) as all the comments posted here.
    Like many others here I want/need thumbnails on the all the folders. The different thumbnails on the folders help to find content visually so much easier and faster then scanning some hundred ‘like’ folder images.

    Followed all the steps that I’ve found on several different sites to get thumbnails to show on the folders with the same results only to find that it was NFG. All the posts dealing with thumbnails will only provide thumbnails on ‘FILES’ but not ‘FOLDERS’.
    Seems that thumbnails on FOLDERS on Windows 11 is not available and so like at least one other poster here. I’m rolling back to Windows 10 until such time that Windows 11 fixes this cluster F*** or Windows xx addresses this issue.

  11. When I first downloaded windows 11 back in October it did in fact show the thumbnail images in file explorer but right after both my computer’s updated last month in December my files wont show thumbnails. I have been using windows 10 since it first came out and I had the same problem. Windows sent me an update that glitched the file explorer but after a few months windows sent me an update to the file explorer that fixed the problem. Windows 11 is a brand new software so you can expect a few bugs and glitches in the first year of it’s release just like with windows 10. I am a very intelligent computer nerd. I use high tech and very expensive hardware in both my laptop and my desktop. So I have no problems finding my files and I have 1000s upon 1000s of files. So just be patient people’s while Microsoft works out the bugs and glitches in windows 11 just like they did with windows 10!!! Sincerely Mr. Jared A. Baldwin

  12. Oh My Gosh, it didn’t work. This is so frustrating when you
    find something that works, and then you have people behind the desk always
    messing things up. Can you please get an update for this? This
    is very frustrating. Thank You Sirs…

  13. Windows 11 isn’t showing folder content previews in extra large icons. Many are upset including myself. I am visually oriented. My computer isn’t giving me the option to revert to win 10.

  14. The solution for this problem is first go to options, a ‘folder options’ window will open, go in view, in advance setting UNCHECK the ‘always show icons, never thumbnails’ and then apply and OK. After this you can follow the above process of view>large icons.

  15. Do you see your thumbnails now? If so, how did you correct it? I work with history and post many old pictures. It is difficult if I can’t see the thumbnail.

  16. If you go to Folder….properties, customize, at bottom Folder Icons it states:

    If you change the icon….it will no longer show…preview of folder contents.

    Interesting since I never went anywhere near where it asked if I wanted to change the folder Icon since there no longer was a preview of the contents without me doing anything. I thought when 11 was first installed the problem wasn’t there. A few updates later and it is as well as other problems that were not here on the original install. Fixing something perhaps that is messing up something else. I still cannot use Chrome except upon first startup and leave it open.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.