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How to Fix a Very Slow Windows 7 Downloads Folder

Do you ever find that the user Downloads folder in Windows 7 seems to respond very slowly? Here is a quick fix for the problem.

You may think that one folder is the same as any other folder but Windows doesn’t see it that way. Windows classifies folders according to the types of files that it thinks will be stored there. According to this post, Windows 7 will often decide that the user Downloads folder is for pictures. It then tries to create thumbnails for all the files in the Downloads folder. If some of the files are really not pictures, this causes the Downloads folder to be slow to open. To fix this problem, tell Windows that Downloads is for general purposes. Here is the procedure:

  1. Open the Start menu
  2. Click the user account name in the upper part of the right pane
  3. In the Explorer window that opens, right-click the Downloads folder
  4. Select “Properties”
  5. Select the tab “Customize”
  6. Under “Optimize this folder for:" open the drop-down menu, as shown in the figure below
  7. Choose “General items”
  8. Click “OK” (Button not shown in the figure)
  9. Close the Properties dialog

Downloads properties

Note that this procedure can be applied to other folders as well. If you have a folder with some pictures mixed in with other types of file, Windows may sometimes decide to treat the folder as a pictures folder and cause it to open slowly. Then you should customize the folder for general items.

Of course, Windows being Windows, there may be a little glitch now and then. Sometimes, Windows will forget which way you designated a folder. So you have to do it over again.

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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs several websites with Windows how-to's, guides, and tutorials, including a site for learning about Windows and the Internet and another with Windows 7 tips.

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by DesertRat on 13. November 2013 - 6:30  (112202)

I've never noticed this slowness, but perhaps this is because I always disable thumbnails. To do this, in any normal folder, tap "Alt", select "Tools" from the menu bar, then "Options". Put a check mark next to "always show icons, never show thumbnails".

I also recommend UNchecking "Hide extensions for known file types".

by ssoundman on 10. November 2013 - 21:41  (112151)

Awesome! I've wondered why this folder was unbearably slow. I generally use the folder I added to a Library since it was much, much faster, but will make this change immediately.

Thanks, Vic!

by howiem on 10. November 2013 - 13:35  (112150)

1. Open the Start menu
2. Click the user account name in the upper part of the right pane
What is the "Start Menu? If I click Start in Win 7 Pro I get no user account name that I can see.

But I do not have the problem addressed here, because I never use the Windows Download folder for downloads. I set up a downloads folder on another drive and use that. It works fine.

by Jojo Yee on 2. December 2012 - 1:02  (103181)

A good tip Vic as I used to hate to wait for the files to appear in the Downloads folder. Windows should optimize this folder for general items by default :)

In Windows 7 Starter edition, the "Customize" tab doesn't appear in the "Downloads Properties" window when I right-click the Downloads folder. But it does appear when I select from the Windows Explorer's menu View > Customize this folder. Weird.

by v.laurie on 2. December 2012 - 1:22  (103183)

Thanks for pointing out how it works in the Starter edition. If only Microsoft would be consistent...

by Jojo Yee on 5. December 2012 - 12:15  (103375)

Sorry Vic a correction here. The "Customize" tab didn't appear when I right-clicked the "Downloads" shortcut listed under "Favorites". I've found that it does appear in the Downloads folder itself. This seems to be the same as other versions of Windows including 8.

by Hopalong on 11. November 2013 - 6:58  (112155)

>>I've found that it does appear in the Downloads folder itself.>>
I agree. I navigated thus (in Win7 Pro x64):

My Documents\Downloads - then right mouse click on the Downloads Folder for "Properties", and then to: "Customize"