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Thumbs.db is created by Windows Explorer as a performance optimization. We can turn it off with a simple setting in Windows 7.

In your article What is thumbs.db, and can I delete it? your fix did not work for me. I am on Windows 7. 'Do Not Cache Thumbnails' is not in my View Tab under Folder Options of Windows Explorer. Do you have a fix for Windows 7 for this issue?

Indeed, I do.

How you control thumbs.db has changed in Windows 7.

We'll take a look at how to turn it off and review what it's used for.

Thumbs.db

Thumbs.db is a cache file created by Windows Explorer when you view a folder in any of it's "icons" view. It's often a hidden file so you may not always see it unless you have the "view hidden files" option enabled.

The idea is that when the icons are created for you to view they're saved, so that the next time you view the same folder Windows Explorer no longer has to actually create thumbnails - it can just pick them up from the cache. It's a classic space/speed trade-off. For the cost of a little disk space, Windows Explorer can display things a little quicker.

Personally, I never use icon view in Windows Explorer. On those occasions where it accidentally happens, I don't really want Windows Explorer to create the thumbs.db files. I don't really care if Windows Explorer is going to be a little slower; I care more that my hard disk is not littered with these files.

Fortunately, it's easy to turn off.

Turning Off Thumbs.db Creation

Type into the Windows 7 start menu's search box (or into the Run dialog after pressing Windows Key + R), "gpedit.msc" and press Enter. This runs the "Local Group Policy Editor", a tool which can be used to control many of Windows features and options.

Windows 7 Local Group Policy Editor

Expand on the left the following:

  • User Configuration

  • Administrative Templates

  • Windows Components

You should see something like this:

Windows 7 Local Group Policy Editor expanded to Windows Components

(I've made the left pane a little bigger and scrolled it up to show where we are.)

Scroll down in that left pane, and click on Windows Explorer:

Windows 7 Local Group Policy Editor expanded to Windows Explorer

If you look closely you can already see where we're headed.

I'll make that right pane a little bigger and you'll see the setting we want:

Windows 7 Local Group Policy Editor showing cached thumbnail option

You can see that here it's set to "not configured", which means that it'll take on the default setting, which is to cache thumbnails.

Double click on the item and you'll get a (large) dialog in which to change the setting:

Windows 7 Local Group Policy Editor change setting dialog

Click on Enabled, then click on OK to make the change we want.

Windows 7 Local Group Policy Editor showing the changed cache setting

Enabled?

Yes, enabled.

This is one of those weird double-negative-like things:

  • The option is to turn off thumbnails.

  • We want that option enabled.

It's tempting to go spelunking here in the policy editor, and in all honesty that's a fine thing to do - as long as you look but don't touch. There are settings here that can have unintended consequences. If you elect to make additional changes here just make sure you know what you're doing first.

And of course have that system backup ready, just in case. Smile

Article C4433 - September 3, 2010 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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23 Comments
Mary
September 4, 2010 2:06 AM

If I remember correctly, gpedit.msc is only available in 7 Pro, Ultimate, and Enterprise. Is there a work-around for those using Starter, Basic, or Home Premium?

I stumbled on to this in another forum - I'd appreciate hearing if this works for Win 7 Home users:

Run this command (exactly):

  C:\Windows\explorer.exe shell:::{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}

Scroll down and within "Administrative tools" I see a "Edit Group Policy".

(For those coming later, sadly it appears that this does NOT work.)
Leo
04-Sep-2010

Mary
September 4, 2010 11:41 AM

Did some more research and found that in lieu of gpedit.msc it seems the only other alternative is to edit the registry. Microsoft has prepared an Excel spreadsheet that lists the policy settings for computer and user configurations included in the Administrative template file (admx/adml) delivered with Windows 7. The following link has several spreadsheet downloads. Select the one for Windows Server 2008 and Windows 7. Spreadsheet.

You'll need MS Office or an equivalent like Open Office to view the spreadsheet. Or, you can download a free Excel viewer from Microsoft: Viewer

Go to Line 2803 for information re: Turn off the caching of thumbnails in hidden thumbs.db files. Hope this helps folks using Home Premium. As Leo always says, back up your computer before messing with the registry or your computer could wind up as an expensive paperweight.

Thanks for the links Mary - these should be very useful to people who are comfortable making registry changes.
Leo
07-Sep-2010

Al Simons
September 4, 2010 4:54 PM

The explorer invocation with the UUID does NOT offer a selection for editing group policy settings on Win 7 Home Premium. Too bad.
-Al

Frank D
September 7, 2010 10:50 AM

Leo, sorry to say your fix (C:\Windows\explorer.exe shell:::{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}) didn't come up with anything on my Win7 Home Premium 64-bit.

To think that Microsoft would put out a workaround as an Excel spreadsheet (Quote from above: "Microsoft has prepared an Excel spreadsheet that lists the policy settings for computer and user configurations included in the Administrative template file (admx/adml) delivered with Windows 7." and require that I download it and open it in Excel (what if I don't have Excel -- which I don't) and play around like Macgiver just to disable a junky little feature like a thumbs database!!!!! If I didn't have to use Windows I wouldn't.

Dan Covill
September 7, 2010 12:12 PM

My search for gpedit.msc says "not found". I'm running Win7-64 Home Premium. I ran an 'Everything' search which found four copies, in two different versions, in two different and wildly obscure Windows subdirectories. ???

Tried running one of these and got a window saying "MMC could not create the snapin". ??
Not a big deal, but FYI.

Frank Golden
September 7, 2010 1:37 PM

For folks using Win 7 Home Premium (no group policy editor available) see the following post from Win 7 forum.

http://www.sevenforums.com/tutorials/10794-thumbnail-cache-enable-disable.html

Francis
September 7, 2010 3:14 PM

Dear Leo,

I have Win 7 Professional, 64 bit and gpedit.msc came up instantly when I followed your directions. I had no trouble enabling the command. Will the thumbs.db already created disappear and if not can I delete them without harm?

Also, how can I eliminate all the index.dat files on my computer, even the hidden ones?

Thank you,

Francis

You can safely delete thumbs.db. As to index.dat, it depends on which ones. Most are associated with Internet Explorer's cache, and will probably come back if you delete them.
Leo
10-Sep-2010

Bill
September 7, 2010 5:03 PM

Hi Leo; Reading the your reply to "How do I turn off thumbs.db in Windows 7?" I have a question. In Windows 7 has the name "Explorer" morphed into the name "Libraries?" Just wondering if Microsoft is trying to keep us on our toes

No,Windows Explorer is Windows Explorer still. Libraries is probably a folder.
Leo
10-Sep-2010

Don Cameron
September 7, 2010 9:15 PM

At the risk of pointing out the obvious it may not be realised that accumulated thumbs.db can be deleted from the drive by selecting "disk properties " then "disk clean up" and select "thumbs.db" in the options offered .

They will return in this case.
Leo
10-Sep-2010

Brandon
September 18, 2010 2:14 PM

I'm using Windows 7. Are there any ways to save the cached thumbnail data in the folder where the photos are located as it was in Windows XP? Vista and Windows7 now save the thumbnail cached data in the User>Local>Explorer> etc... instead of storing the cached data in the folder where the photos are located as in XP. This would help because I have large-sized 700MB+ tiff files on my external hard drive that take a long time for the computer to process and cache. Every time I plug it into a new computer, the computer builds a new cache every time.

So I want to know if there are any ways I could save the thumbnail database of my pictures in the folders where my pictures are located on external hard drive so they do not need to be recached for thumbnails every time I plug the external hard drive onto a new computer.

Anthony
October 1, 2010 11:56 AM

Hi Leo. i followed your instructions & even though it says "turn off the caching of thumbnails in hidden thumbs.db is enabled, my pc is still creating thumb.db files. I am running Win7 64 bit Ultimate.

Steve
December 1, 2010 9:38 PM

I tried opening the Group Policy Editor by both methods [search box and with Win Key + R and neither would give me the Policy Editor. Running Win7 Home edition on Dell Laptop Studio 1558. Is this edition not capable of shoing the GP Editor? Suggestions please!


Robson, from Brazil
January 29, 2011 12:47 PM

Hi, Leo. Thanks for the tip. I really needed this and solve my problem.

Hug

Bob

Beth
February 4, 2011 2:01 AM

Thanks Leo, good screen shots and helpful advice. Seems to have worked :)

human#2385330344
September 21, 2011 9:10 AM

Could you tell me the registry entry that can be edited to do the same thing?

Brendan
November 3, 2011 7:43 AM

Hi Leo,

Just wanted to thank you for taking the time you put into posting this information. Your explanations are clear and concise, and I appreciate your level ground, down to earth, tone that makes your instructions comfortable form the user perspective. Thank You!
-B

Norma
January 26, 2012 3:49 AM

This does not work in the Windows 7 Home Premium edition.

Saiba
September 4, 2012 12:19 AM

you did see that the GPO setting mentions it only applies to Windows Vista SP1?

sanjay
September 19, 2012 3:17 AM

i followed all the above steps a week ago...
now , none of the thumbnails (neither image nor video) are LOADING !! ... how can i get the thumbnails to show up again ? i tried disabling the turn off thumbnails cache IN HIDDEN THUMBS.DB ..... but ITS STILL NOT WORKING !!

WHAT SHOULD I DO TO GET THE THUMBNAILS LOADING BACK AGAIN ???

Richard Hayward
November 18, 2012 1:43 AM

Hello Leo,

Re: webpage
http://ask-leo.com/how_do_i_turn_off_thumbsdb_in_windows_7.html

I am trying to turn off thumbs in Windows 7, but have failed at first hurdle.
I type in "gpedit.msc", and it replies,
"Windows cannot find gpedit.msc"
I used Windows+R and it says,"gpedit is not recognised as an internal or external command, operable program, or batch file"
Please could you advise?

Many thanks.

You're probably running Windows 7 Home edition which doesn't have gpedit.msc. Some of the earlier comments on this article have alternatives.
Leo
18-Nov-2012

Patrick
November 18, 2012 11:52 PM

I have Windows 7 Homw Premium 64 bit and none of the above is in my Window 7 exists.
"gpedit.msc" is Not found On Search.
Can't find any thing on "local group policy editor"

Mark J
November 19, 2012 1:34 AM

@Patrick
Unfortunately, the Home Premium version of Windows 7 doesn't have gpedit.msc.

Sadie
April 18, 2013 8:23 AM

We have windows 7 professional, I have been able to follow all steps to "turn off caching thumbnails", once I am in windows explorer, that option is not there. We are running windows 7 professional and because we have data in our network from windows xp, we have thumnails show up and we have not been able to delete them. There are whole files in the system that are empty excepts for the thumbs file and we would like to get rid of them, but cannot. What can I do?

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