What is Thumbs.db files and How To Disable and Remove Them?

Thumbs.db, as its name states, is a file based database that stores thumbnails of image files, certain types of documents and video files, mostly for Windows Explorer’s thumbnail view. They are stored locally in each directory that contains thumbnails on Windows system and are created to prevent system wide use of the data. Thumbs.db files are hidden system files, so you will need to turn off “Hide protected operating system files” in order to see them.

This idea of caching thumbnails in a spread thumbs.db local file has been around since Windows XP. While it seems to be a good idea, it sometimes could be annoying seeing this “File in Use” dialogue box pops up when trying to clean up the directory in Windows Explorer. And it seems to happen quite often in Windows 8 for some reason.

Thumbs.db File in Use

Since they don’t seem to be very useful to me, I’d like to disable them to 1) prevent this “File in Use” from happening so often; and 2) save some disk space for being good to my SSD.

To disable it, all you need to do is just to enable “Always show icons, never thumbnails” option in Folder Options. To open Folder Options window, the easiest way in Windows 7 and 8 is to press Win key, type “folder options”, and click it.

Enable Always show icons in Folder options

Your image folders will become so plain and boring once you Apply the change.

Now, to free up the disk space if you like, you can fire up Disk Clean Up utility, check Thumbnails, and delete them.

Thumbnail clean up

/updated on Oct. 7, 2013/

You can also do a registry hack to disable the thumbnail option as well. Thanks to Geo who left this tip in the comments below.

In your system registry, navigate to:

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

In that key, you’ll find a DWORD value named “DisableThumbnailCache”. Change the setting from 0 to 1. That will disable the creation of the thumbnail caches. You may have to reboot your computer to make the change take effect.

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