Is there any solution in Windows 10 to show the Folders as Icons and Files as Thumbnails?

I'd like to change the default look of all Folders by using a different *.ico file. Unfortunately when a folder is not empty it shows a different Folder icon with its contents as a thumbnail. I do not know how to change this other than using the option "always show icons not thumbnails". By doing this however I can't see thumbnails of pdf and image files which is important for me.

There was a similar question for Windows 7 six years ago without a proper solution. I would be prepared to use a third party software to solve this issue. Can anyone suggest a solution?

  • Which Layout option are you using in the View menu? – harrymc Jun 9 '19 at 7:27
  • When i need to see thumbnails e.g. for folders containing images, videos or pdf files i am using Small Icons or Large Icons – Baka Jun 9 '19 at 19:59

It sounds like what you are trying to do is what I do for music folders. I like to show the album cover instead of the standard folder icon and when you double click on the cover, you see the files as per normal.

Find a picture you like and save it as "folder.jpg".

Open https://converticon.com/ in your browser, select the "folder.jpg" and convert it to an icon file and name it "icon.ico". I tend to select all size options, but that is up to you.

Create a file called "desktop.ini" and into it put:


Put the three files (folder.jpg, icon.ico, desktop.ini) into the folder of the image you want to change.

Open up File Explorer and navigate to


Ctrl-a and delete everything there. Not everything deletes, but what you can delete seems to be enough. Before deleting, make sure all the folders that you are wanting to update are either closed or in Display/List mode.

Next, update the read attributes of the files. Open Command (cmd) and type

attrib +r C:\<path>\* /s /d

The path of the root of your working folder is fine. In my case I just find the folder that contains the artists and let the album directories work themselves out. This command will give read only attributes to every single thing.

Finally in the command window again, type

attrib -r C:\<path>\* /s

to remove back readonly from all files, excluding the folders.

You should now see the folder as the image you desire, all other files, folders etc will be as they were before.


Windows Explorer cannot be customized, but you may do some smaller changes to individual folders, file-types and desktop shortcuts.

To change a folder icon, right-click the folder you want to change and then choose Properties, got to the Customize tab and click the "Change Icon" button. Choose the icon and click OK.

To change the icon for specific file types, use File Types Manager by Nirsoft. For more details see the article How to Change the Icon for a Certain File Type in Windows.

More information and more types of customization may be found in the article
How to Customize Your Icons in Windows.

  • Thanks harry, i will have a look at File Types Manager by Nirsoft. All other methods unfortunately don't work when a folder has files in it since it shows the folder with thumbnails and this doesn't get affected by Properties->Customize->Change Icon. Unless i turn off thumbnails, but then again i also don't see file thumbnails with image files. – Baka Jun 9 '19 at 21:30

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