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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  • http://twitter.com/S1ckBeard SickBeard

    awesome tip

  • Mickey McMickey

    Wonderful. I’ve been fighting this for months, since I upgraded to Windows 8.

  • http://www.facebook.com/luc.bloom.9 Luc Bloom

    In windows XP there was an option to see the preview of images but not create the Thumbs.db file. I’m still looking for that one.

  • nicknugget

    I cant find folder options

  • berserk47

    Windows 8 sucks.. i prefer 7. So i did this but now, i cant view the thumbnails on the image ..this is just stupid. i never had this problem on window 7

  • https://soundcloud.com/dignan-1 Dignan

    i want my icon pictures! is there going to be a fix for this? i hate those damn thumbs.db icons!

  • Karl

    not a solution. preview thumbnails are important, you’re throwing away the baby with the bathwater. there is a way to do this via group policy editor (but only in win8 pro) and some registry tweek discussed in some forums, but so far I have not gotten any of these to work…

  • kroks

    or better yet.. refresh the folder containing the folder you want to delete
    example: i want to delete “new folder” on the desktop, refresh the desktop and now you can delete “new folder” and its thumbs.db..

  • geo

    I’m with @30515b8b9b0b2640eee7b1e57d1794ef:disqus! This isn’t a “solution”.

  • geo

    BTW, here’s the way to disable “thumbs.db” WITHOUT giving up your Explorer thumbnails (This is for Windows 8. I don’t know about previous versions.)…

    In your system registry, navigate to:

    HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionExplorerAdvanced

    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 almost certainly have to reboot to make the change take effect.

    • Alenbolt03

      For anyone that can’t find the “DisableThumbnailCache” DWORD value, look for “ShowSuperHidden” and change that from 1 to 0. I couldn’t find the “DisableThumbnailCache” value so I kept looking for something similar in the same location; it worked for me. I couldn’t find it without geo’s directions, so thanks geo.

      • TheOiulkj

        If you don’t see the “DisableThumbnailCache” DWORD, then just make it in the location that geo pointed out.

        • PCnoob

          can’t find ”DisableThumbnail–” but saw ”ShowSUperHidden” but the value is already 0, im lost now. . . oh god this ”your folder is still in use” crap is so annoying.

  • Just Me

    So this basically sucks, I found historykill did the job and showed what was being stored in the past. Not the best solution but cleans it up