Picture thumbnails stop working in Windows 7

A Dell user had to jump through a series of hoops before Office 2010’s Service Pack would install. Each time, it appeared that the update worked, but upon reboot, Windows update sadly announced that it had failed, and was reverting.

To fix the problem, many things were tried, including installing and uninstalling myriad Windows updates and hot fixes as well as dropping back to previous restore points. After dropping back to earlier restore points dozens of times and trying just about every trick up the Dell support center’s sleeve, I suggested that she perform an in-place upgrade… to the same version of Windows 7 she’d already been using. That, apparently, was finally enough to overwrite the corrupted Windows update records in a way that would let Windows update work.

In the process, though, Windows Explorer’s thumbnails stop displaying. All she saw were icons, regardless of her view setting. This is all she saw:

She tried changing the default program for viewing pictures, but that did not help. Fortunately, after she called me, the problem was fairly easy to fix.

Apparently, the process of countless attempts to fix the Windows Update had changed a setting. The solution:

  1. In Windows Explorer, choose Organize – Folder and search options

  1. In the View tab, remove the check next to Always show icons, never thumbnails.

  1. Click Apply, and the icons instant switch to thumbnails. You could have just clicked Close, but watching the icons change to thumbnails is a satisfying experience. Now, click Close.


How did this unwanted change happen? We don’t know. If your Windows 7 computer is slow, you might sometimes want this setting. It uses fewer resources. And it might be that in flailing, she chose one of Windows 7’s packaged sets of options that optimize speed over functionality. Or, it might be that Windows 7 was just being snarky. Regardless of how it happened, it did happen, and now it’s fixed.


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3 Responses to Picture thumbnails stop working in Windows 7

  1. Sharon Blackwell says:

    Thank you for the great support!

  2. bah says:

    bah, i have this issue, but your solution didn’t work for me 🙁

  3. herbt3 says:

    If you create a new Windows user, does that new user have the same issue? If not, then the problem might be a corrupted registry entry.

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