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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Is this tip for just Windows 7 Pro? I have W 7 Home Premium and do NOT have a “Customize” Tab!

Any suggestions on settings to get that tab?


I suspect that you have tried to find it on a shortcut. The customize tab is not available on a shortcut, only on the actual folder that the shortcut points to. The "Downloads" folder usually has a shortcut in Windows Explorer "Favorites". If that is where you found your "Downloads" folder then you can use the "Shortcut" tab to click on the button "Open File Location" and the actual Downloads folder should be then be visible for you to work with.

Thanks, that is even faster than the way I found the actual Download folder. There are always more than one way to do things in Windows. It's nice to know some "shortcuts'!

Thank You!

I am traveling and do not have access to a computer with Windows 7 Home Premium but your User-Downloads folder properties sheet should have a Customize tab. Are you using a different downloads folder from the Users\UserName\Downloads folder? Are you in a restricted account?

Thanks Vic,

I went to the wrong Download folder...Used the "Download" folder Under my Favorites.

That's probably the only Download Folder that does not have a Customize Tab.

Thanks for making me look at your directions more closely and it is set on "General" now!

Always learning!

Thanks for the reply and and Tip!

With Windows 7 Pro you do not click on your user account. Open the start menu and you'll see on the right column the download folder. Right click that, then properties and finally customize. If I do it the way explained I will not see my download folder, it's a minor point but you might lose people if they follow his guide.

I have Windows 7 Pro and it works the way I have described. I don't know why it is different for you but thanks for pointing out an alternate way to get to the folder. In Windows, there are always several ways to do anything.

Is there any way to do this globally across all folders? I'd rather use my own choices than Microsoft's. Besides, I'm getting tired of that little blue circle that wastes my time every time I open a different folder.

You can apply settings to all folders of a given type but I don't know of an easy way to apply global folder settings. If anybody knows how, please let us know.

Is there a possibility it could be done in the registry?

I imagine a Registry script could be written that would do some global configuring.

Like howiem, I don't use the Windows downloads folder, either. Everything I download is via Eagleget and goes straight into the Eagleget download folder.

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".

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!

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.