Have you ever tried to open a folder containing your documents, videos, or pictures only for the thumbnails to take ages to load? It’s a common problem on Windows 10, and it can be quite infuriating. This is especially true if it’s a file you forgot to send to your boss and he’s on the other end waiting for it!

In our Windows 10 tutorial today, we explore different methods of how to speed up slow thumbnail loading.

Why Do Thumbnails Load Slowly on Explorer?

Windows 10 keeps a cache database with images for every file and folder on your PC. This enables Windows to quickly display a preview for each item before you open it. However, there is one problem. Over time, the thumbnail cache grows, getting bloated the more you create new folders and add new files to the system.

Due to this accumulation, the database can sometimes become corrupted. That’s why the thumbnails could be loading annoyingly slow in Explorer. Other issues you might experience include:

  • The thumbnails fail to generate the right way, and the system ends up displaying incorrect previews of the files.
  • Some files fail to show the thumbnail preview.
  • Sometimes the thumbnails may not.

Thankfully, Windows has a few tricks up its sleeves to fix slow-loading Windows icons. Let’s get started!

Method 1: Check if the Thumbnail Option Is Disabled

Possibly, someone or something messed up your settings, and that’s why the thumbnails are not displaying. To check if this fact is true, follow the guide below:

  1. Press the Windows logo on your keyboard and look for Control Panel.
  2. Once you launch it, click the System and Security setting, and then select the System link.
  3. On the left pane, you should see the Advanced System Settings option. Click on it to open System Properties. The window should open with the Advanced tab selected by default.
  4. Under the Performance option, select Settings.
  5. Now, all you have to do is check if the “Show thumbnails instead of icons” checkbox is checked. If it is not, tick the box and click Apply > OK.

Method 2: Rebuild the Search Index

Every time you create or add a new folder or file, File Explorer indexes those files. This allows you to find the files quickly whenever you need them. If the thumbnails are not loading as quickly as they did, or you are getting incorrect thumbnails, the search index may not be up to date. Rebuilding it may force it to update, speeding the process up.

Here’s how to go about it:

  1. Repeat the steps above to open Control Panel.
  2. Select one of the icons views in the View By dropdown list, locate and select Indexing Options.
  3. On the Indexing Options window, select the Advanced button and click Rebuild.

Method 3: Configure Group Policy

Windows allows you to tweak a few settings through Group Policy. In this case, the caching of thumbnails option might not be configured or it may be disabled. To verify if that is true, follow the steps below to configure the Windows 10 Group Policy.

  1. Press the Windows Key + S, type in “Group Policy” (without quotes), and hit Enter.
  2. The Edit Group Policy window should open. Once it does, go to the following path:

User Configuration > Windows Components > File Explorer

  1. Locate the “Turn off the caching of thumbnails in hidden thumbs.db files” setting, and double-click on it to its Properties.
  2. If it is set to Not Configured, set it to Enabled and click Apply > OK.
  3. Restart your PC for the changes to take effect.

Method 4: Modify the Thumbnail Cache Size

If you tend to keep all your images and pictures in one folder, another clever trick to increase thumbnail loading speed in Windows 10 is to change the thumbnail cache size. By default, the default icon cache size in Windows is around 500KB, which can quickly fill up. To change the cache size, you have to edit the Windows Registry values.

Here are the steps:

  1. Launch the Registry – press the Win + R shortcut keys, type in “regedit.exe” (without quotes), and hit Enter.
  2. Click Yes on the UAC prompt to proceed.
  3. Navigate to the following path:
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer
  1. You should see a bunch of values on the right pane. Right-click on an empty space and click on New > String Value.
  2. Assign the new value the term “Max Cached Icons”.
  3. On the Edit String window, enter the value 4096 and click OK. This creates a 4MB cache file. You can enter a higher figure like 8192 to create a higher thumbnail cache size.
  4. Once you’re done, click OK.

Method 5: Tweak the Registry

If the method above doesn’t speed up the loading of thumbnails in Windows 10, you can prevent Disk Cleanup from automatically cleaning up the cache by changing one registry value.

Important note: The Windows Registry contains all the settings and configurations that your Windows system requires to run as it should. Therefore, it is highly advisable that you create a backup of the registry values before you proceed to make the modifications. Additionally, take care not to make any other changes other than those described in this post.

Once you back up the registry, follow our guide below:

  1. Go to your Start menu, type in “regedit.exe” (no quotes), and hit Enter.
  2. Click Yes when you get the UAC prompt.
  3. Go to the following path:
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\VolumeCaches\Thumbnail Cache
  1. You should see two values here: Default and Autorun.
  2. Double-click Autorun and change its value to “0” (zero).

Bonus Tip: Use a Third-Party PC Maintenance Tool

Running too many autorun items can drastically affect the speed of loading the system and other files. If you don’t know what autorun items are, these are items that are set to automatically run at startup. The shorter the list is, the faster the system will operate.

On your Windows 10 PC, you normally interact with elements like the desktop, File Explorer, Control Panel, Action Center, and Start Menu. Combined, these are known as Windows Shell. File Explorer allows you to explore the entire shell namespace. Now, every time you install a new program, shell extensions are also installed. Some of these programs are scheduled to run whenever you boot up your computer.

As we’ve mentioned, autorun programs can slow down how the system responds to commands like loading thumbnail cache you can disable. So, we recommend removing or terminating the associated shell extensions, using Auslogics BoostSpeed’s Shell Extensions manager. This tool is located in All Tools > Startup Manager.

When you open it, you’ll see a long list of shell extensions that are running on your PC right now. Note that a checked box means that the extension is running. When you double-click on any file, you’ll see its details – things like what it does and whether it is trustworthy. This is important to prevent you from deleting crucial extensions.

Once you are sure a specific extension is unnecessary, simply select it and click Delete from the options at the top of the page. You can also disable an extension that is marked Disable Dangerous.

We advise you to use this tool with caution since deleting an important extension might cause other issues. Additionally, always make sure the Back Up Changes option in Auslogics BoostSpeed is enabled. This way, you can always undo the changes if they negatively affect your PC’s performance.

Were you able to fix slow-loading Windows icons on your Windows 10 PC? Let us know by commenting below.