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What are Thumbs.db files for? I've seen them mostly in picture folders. Wherever pictures like icons and wallpapers are located, a Thumbs.db is automatically generated. I've deleted them many times, but they just appear again after some time.

I initially thought that these files were related to a virus, but they are not because my antivirus gave them a clean chit. I also tried Combofix and malwarebyte.

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4 Answers 4

up vote 30 down vote accepted

thumbs.db is where the thumbnail images for files are stored. They will only be visible if you have your folder options set to display hidden and system files. They are not viral.

If you delete a thumbs.db file, the next time you open that folder, Windows will have to re-determine the thumbnail for each file.

Also, in Folder Options, selecting "Do not cache thumbnails" will prevent the thumbs.db files from being created.

However, these files help the computer navigate through your directories more quickly, so unless you have a specific reason for not needing or wanting them, just leave them alone.

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This means that if you delete images, the thumbnails may still be recovered. There is forensic software available to recover images from Thumbs.db files. –  TRiG Sep 1 '11 at 17:14
    
Historically, there was an exploit where Microsoft allowed executable code in thumbs.db which lead to some very nasty viruses. –  Malfist Sep 1 '11 at 18:03
    
So if I don't use the thumbnail view till then they will not appear? –  avirk Sep 2 '11 at 11:17
    
@avirk: Yes and no. It's always more complex than that. I believe the application icon images may be cached there too, but I am not completely sure. You will probably see fewer of them if you turn off thumbnail previews, but they won't go away completely. But you can rest assured, a thumbs.db file is one of the least likely files to end up being viral. If they are annoying, you should probably not set your computer to show hidden files. –  music2myear Sep 2 '11 at 14:21

From https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Windows_thumbnail_cache

On Microsoft Windows operating systems (starting with Windows 2000), a thumbnail cache is used to store thumbnail images for Windows Explorer's thumbnail view. This speeds up the display of images as the smaller images do not need to be recalculated every time the user views the folder.

...

Thumbs.db files are stored in each directory that contains thumbnails on Windows systems.

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From http://www.morgantechspace.com/2013/05/what-is-thumbsdb-file.html

Thumbs.db is nothing but the cache file for thumbnails view. Anytime thumbnails view is enabled or has been enabled in Microsoft Windows the hidden file thumbs.db is automatically created in the same directory as where the thumbnails have been viewed. This file contains the information required by Windows to display the thumbnails for each of the icons and will be placed in every folder thumbnails are viewed.

This file can be safely deleted from any directory, however, it will be automatically recreated if thumbnails view is still enabled and you view that directory again.

How to disable creation of thumbs.db?

For Windows XP:

  • Open My Computer
  • Click on Tools
  • Click the Folder Options Click
  • the View tab Check the box next to "Do not cache thumbnails"
  • Click Apply and click OK to save settings.

For Windows Vista and Windows 7:

  • Click the Start button Click on Control Panel Click on Tools

  • Click the Folder Options Click the View tab Under the Files and Folders section

  • check the button next to "Always show icons, never thumbnails"

  • Click Apply and click OK to save settings.
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As an addendum to the other answers, to prevent creation of thumbs.db in Windows Vista and above (7 etc) you should not go into folder options and disable thumbnails, you can have your cake and eat it too.

Just open the Local Group Policy Editor (Windows Key+R and enter gpedit.msc) and go to;

User Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> Windows Components > Windows Explorer

or File Explorer for win 8

And edit Turn off the caching of thumbnails in hidden thumbs.db files. Enable it and hit OK.

To delete ones already created you can right click -> Properties on the drive from My Computer, hit Disk Cleanup, tick only Thumbnails and hit OK.


If you cant access the LGPE (e.g. MMC could not create the snap-in) or it just plain didn't work you can dabble in the registry;

HKEY_CURRENT_USER -> Software -> Microsoft -> Windows -> CurrentVersion -> Explorer -> Advanced

set DisableThumbnailCache to 1

If DisableThumbnailCache doesn't exist, create it as a new DWORD

reboot may or may not be required

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+1 Excellent answer since these Thumbs.db might be annoying. –  harper Jan 4 at 9:33

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