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In Windows XP, there used to be a folder setting like "Do not cache thumbnails." I can't seem to find something similar for Windows Vista and Windows 7, and every folder on my network containing a photo or video continues to get littered with "Thumbs.db". I appreciate that caching thumbnails makes some sense, but I still would like to turn this off because I also value not having litter in my network folders.

What's the easiest/quickest way to solve this problem?


Update 1: Here's a link to Wikipedia's info about the Windows thumbnail cache.


Update 2: My solution is below and now includes a registry equivalent that you can save in a .REG file for simpler application to any of your Windows Vista or Windows 7 boxes.

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6 Answers 6

up vote 33 down vote accepted

So, with more specific googling, I've discovered how to do it from a post here, for editions of Vista and Windows 7 that come with Group Policy Editor. (Unfortunately, GPE doesn't come with Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic, or Home Premium. If I discover the registry-equivalent, assuming one, I'll post it here.)

Here are my own detailed instructions, written against Windows 7 but likely the same for Vista:

  1. Run "**gpedit.msc**" directly using the Start menu. (You may also be able to find an "**Edit group policy**" control panel searching by name, but I couldn't find its icon listed anywhere under "All Control Panel Items". Go figure!)
  2. In the left-hand pane, expand User Configuration, then Administrative Templates, then Windows Components.
  3. Under Windows Components what was just expanded, select Windows Explorer.
  4. In the right-hand pane, sort by Setting, then scroll down and find the setting named "**Turn off the caching of thumbnails in hidden thumbs.db files**". Double-click it, set it to Enabled, and then click Apply.
  5. Log off Windows, and then log back on again.

Within Windows Explorer, you should now be able to delete the Thumbs.db files that you come across on the network (as long as another machine isn't currently locking the file), and the computer shouldn't create them again.

Also worth knowing: In Vista and Windows 7, Thumbs.db applies to network folders only. For local folders, Vista and Windows 7 instead save thumbnail cache information to a database in a local folder at "**%userprofile%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Explorer**"


UPDATE: I just had to do this on another machine and was irritated by the steps, so I did a before/after comparison of a complete registry export. So, the registry equivalent for disabling Thumbs.db creation on network shares in Windows Vista and Windows 7 is:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Explorer]
"DisableThumbsDBOnNetworkFolders"=dword:00000001

If you place that content in its own text file (e.g. with Notepad) with a .REG extension, you can double-click to import on any Windows Vista or Windows 7 machine to apply the setting. Be careful editing your registry directly.

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Thumbs.db is a hidden file, so the easiest way to not see it as litter would be to simply tell Windows to not show hidden files. Of course if you use the command line a lot or have other hidden files you need to see then this won't help.

I found an article that mentions the ability to disable thumbnail caching by modifying a registry key. If the option to disable thumbnail caching is missing in Vista / Windows 7 then maybe you can still do it that way.

  1. Open the Registry Editor (regedit.exe).
  2. Navigate to the following registry branch:

    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\ CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced\

  3. On the right pane, double click on DisableThumbnailCache value, and set its value data as 1. If the registry key of DisableThumbnailCache does not exists, create a new DWORD value with that name.
  4. Exit Registry Editor.
  5. Logoff and login again, or restart the computer for the changes to take effect.

Another option may be to simply turn off the display of thumbnail previews in Windows Explorer:

  1. Click on the Start button, then on All Programs, follow by Accessories.
  2. Run Windows Explorer.
  3. In Windows Explorer window, click on Organize button on the menu/shortcut bar.
  4. In the pull down menu, click on Folder and Search Options.
  5. Folder Options dialog window will appear. Click on View tab.
  6. Under the Files and Folders tree heading, check (tick) the checkbox next to Always show icons, never thumbnails option.
  7. Click the OK button.
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2  
Sadly, this doesn't actually appear to disable the creation of Thumbs.db on network folders. I made the registry edit, logged out and in again, but I am still seeing Thumbs.db created in my network folders. –  Chris W. Rea Jul 24 '09 at 0:51
2  
-1 for "not show hidden files". OP wants to stop the actual generation of Thumbs.db and as he comments below, as a power user I prefer to see everything all the time. There is a consequence that I find even more annoying where I access a network folder, decide I don't need it anymore, but can't completely remove it since Thumbs.db was generated on viewing the folder and is now locked by Windows. –  KalenGi Mar 2 '13 at 12:54

There's a registry key you can change to turn off thumbnail caching.

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced\DisableThumbnailCache

Set it to 1 to disable caching.

Details here.

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2  
Sadly, this doesn't actually appear to disable the creation of Thumbs.db on network folders. I made the registry edit, logged out and in again, but I am still seeing Thumbs.db created in my network folders. –  Chris W. Rea Jul 24 '09 at 0:52

I generally keep hidden files hidden and unhide them if I need to grab something. The Thumbs.db files are annoying, yes, but they can speed up folder load times.

If windows had to re-generated all those thumbnails every time every media folder loaded I'd be in trouble.

If you turn off the thumbnail cache, I'd recommend changing the display to "list" and reset all folders to use that mode from the Tools -> Folder Options -> View menu.

NB: The tools menu is still there in Windows 7, just hit "Alt" in an explorer window.

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I wish the thumbnails were instead cached on my system drive or other designated folder, in a cache similar to Internet Explorer's where I could empty it myself, set a storage limit, etc. –  Chris W. Rea Jul 18 '09 at 12:44
5  
As for keeping hidden files hidden: Those of you who are power-users and can't stand the thought of not seeing everything all the time, up-vote this comment :-) –  Chris W. Rea Jul 18 '09 at 12:46
    
cwrea: As someone who uses both Windows and Linux, I hate seeing TONS of .dotfiles and directories in my Ubuntu home directory. (Even though I created half of them.) I just want the "everything" mode to be easily toggleable (as is with ls -a). –  grawity Jul 26 '09 at 18:15

In Windows 7 Explorer (the standard "files and folders" viewer):

Organize -> "Folder and search options" -> View -> "Always show icons, never thumbnails"

I don't know precisely how broadly this is applied, but it seems to have done the trick for me.

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Hate to necro this thread, but it's lacking an all inclusive answer:

Merge the following registry script into your Windows 7 registry to disable thumbnail caching in local folders and network folders:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer]
"NoThumbnailCache"=dword:00000001

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Explorer]
"DisableThumbsDBOnNetworkFolders"=dword:00000001
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1  
Thanks, but my accepted answer above was already complete. Only your second registry entry is required. Local thumbnails (i.e. for images on local drives, not network drives) aren't stored in a Thumbs.db file, but in a local folder under "%userprofile%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Explorer". This differs from the Windows XP behavior, where Thumbs.db was created in folders on local drives as well. –  Chris W. Rea Jun 27 '13 at 21:15
    
@ChrisW.Rea I modified my answer to include disabling of the local thumbnail cache (e.g., %userprofile%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Explorer). Now it's complete! ;) –  2Toad Jun 28 '13 at 0:26

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