Is there some way to get explorer to generate thumbnails without actually having to navigate and scroll through every folder?

All I could get was a command prompt script that would load an explorer window for all subfolders, however only images that were visible would have thumbnails created.

  • 2
    I was sorting my photos and struggling with same thing, but suddenly i realized that the explorer is far from being the right tool to do it. Now i do this in Picasa and it's a great tool. If you're up to the same thing, i suggest you to try it too. – iTake Feb 8 '12 at 21:11

I made a free open source tool for that purpose: WinThumbsPreloader.

It requires Windows 7/8/10 and .Net Framework 4.5 (included in the installer).

Just right click on the folder to call the context menu and select WinThumbsPreloader > Preload thumbnails recursively in the menu.

  • Worked great. Deserves accepted answer. – Christopher Galpin Apr 27 '18 at 6:26
  • Wow, what a fantastic application! Where's the donate button!? – RemarkLima Oct 19 '18 at 12:01
  • Wow, this is a fantastic program! Good job man! – Clonkex Dec 5 '18 at 2:56
  • Totally outstanding; where has this been all my life? Saves a ton of time (of course), but additionally for me, a ton of work since I was about to write it myself... – Glenn Slayden Nov 24 at 3:36

Go to the top level folder and in the search box (top right), search for *.jpg or whatever your image file type is. Change the view to "thumbnails" and shrink it down as small as it'll go. You may need to page down a few times to get them all to generate.

That's the only method I'm aware of.


There is a setting in the personalize section in control panel that makes all files show thumbnails of all folders but this drastically increses time to go into folders with many items.


No. Thumbnails are generated on-demand by explorer. The only way to get explorer to generate the thumbnails is to "demand" them by having the image visible in the window in one of the thumbnail modes.


Not sure about other versions, but for Windows 10: Go to Windows/Administrative Tools / Disk Cleanup Select what you want to cleanup, but make sure that you also include Thumbnails.

Once Completed, the next time you open the File Manager it will generate new thumbnails from within each folder.

To display them from within file manager, you'll also want to change File Manager's view options to make sure that the first check box "Always show icons, never thumbnails" is unchecked

  • “the next time you open the File Manager it will generate new thumbnails from within each folder”  — for all subfolders? – Scott Jun 21 at 4:05

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