What are Thumbs.db Files and Can I Delete Them? (Windows)

Got thumbs.db in Windows Explorer? Here's what they are and what you can safely do with them.

I spend a good amount of time in Windows Explorer doing various tasks. Every now and then I run across a file I'm not familiar with and I'm not sure what to do with. Thumbs.db is a good example, it has an odd extension: .db.
You won't see any thumbs.db files unless you've checked "Show Hidden Files and Folders" in the Folder Options panel and are using the icon mode in Explorer, so if you haven't seen them that's probably why. :)
Thumbs.db is much like its name. It stores graphics, movie, and some document files then generates a preview of the folder contents using a thumbnail cache.
These folders are generated automatically by Windows so that folder content doesn't need to be recalculated every time the folder is viewed.

You can disable thumbs.db from being created, which can be useful if you are low on disk space. I've used both modes (enabled and disabled) extensively and haven't noticed any system slow down or increased speed in viewing files. I usually have them disabled because, well, I don't like seeing them when I'm in Windows Explorer. :)
You can safely delete any thumbs.db file although Windows will automatically recreate it unless thumbs.db is disabled.

Here's how you can disable thumbs.db:

For Windows XP:

  • Open My Computer
  • Click on Tools
  • Click Folder Options
  • Click the View tab
  • Put a check in the box next to "Do not cache thumbnails"
  • Click on OK

You're done. :)
(you can close My Computer if you like)

For Windows Vista and Windows 7:

  • Click the Start button
  • Click on Control Panel
  • Click on Folder Options
  • Click on the View tab
  • Under the Files and Folders section check the button next to "Always show icons, never thumbnails"
  • Click on Apply
  • Click on OK

You may need to run Disk Cleanup in Vista or Windows 7 to remove any thumbs.db files that have already been created.
Here's how:

  • Go to Start
  • Go to Accessories
  • Go to System Tools
  • Go to Disk Cleanup
  • In Disk Cleanup: Drive Selection make sure the (C:) drive is showing
  • Click OK (disk cleanup will run a brief calculation and then end)
  • On the Disk Cleanup Menu make sure there's a check next to the Thumbnails entry.
  • Click OK, then on the Delete Files pop up - the files you selected will be cleaned, and you're done.

Off for now,
Rhiannon

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Comments

by IanL on 8. November 2014 - 11:26  (119522)

I am runing windows 8.1 and you did not offer any options for this only for XP and windows 7. Why?
FYI, I see them every now and again. I always delete them. (not sure if this is wise) please prvide suggestions for windows 8.1
I am not a techie :)

by rhiannon on 13. November 2014 - 2:52  (119593)

@IanL

To the best of my knowledge, the process for Windows 8x is the same for previous Windows versions, but you access the Control Panel via the Charms bar. I had no problems running through the process on my Windows 8.1 system.

Windows will re-create any thumbs.db as needed so deleting them isn't an issue.

As to not updating the article...........well, I've written 500 or so articles for the site and it's very difficult to try and keep them all updated and provide new information as well. I truly wish I had the time to do both. :)

by JesterTheCat on 23. September 2014 - 14:31  (118758)

Thank you for posting about .Thumbs.db . I have noticed this file for awhile and just haven't taken the time to look it up. Gladly I came across you website and found the answer with some other good guides for new people to OS. Excellent post. I can't wait to check out more on this site. Thank you agahin,
`Jester

by rhiannon on 23. September 2014 - 23:00  (118766)

@JesterTheCat,
I'm glad you found the article helpful. :)
The rest of the site has great content too.

by vivek14 on 25. July 2014 - 4:18  (117567)

Thanks.

by movestill on 10. June 2013 - 0:49  (108429)

Just came here to say what Killjoy999 mentioned. Bravo

"So, it's a good habit if you don't know the app and it just becomes automatic after a decade or so."

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