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Setting the File Preview Option

Hailey writes:

I have a lot of photos in My Pictures folder. The thing is, I can’t see the little pictures of the photos for preview, I can only see icons. Can I change this so that I can see my little pictures again? I have Windows Vista.

Hi, Hailey!

Yep, you can change the icons to the little picture preview (thumbnails) and back again if you want to. Here’s how:

My Pictures is usually stored in your Documents folder. To get to your Documents folder in a really easy way (if it’s not already on your desktop) is to first go to your Start button and left-click. When your Start menu pops up, at the very top of the right side you will see an icon preview (how ironic is that?) and below it, your user name. Below that is Documents. Left-click on it.

After you left-click on your Documents, go up to the top left of your folder to Organize (it’s under the Menu bar – File, Edit, etc.). Left-click on the little upside-down triangle to the right of that. A list of options will drop down; go down the list until you find Folder and Search Options (it’s right under Layout). Left-click on that.

If you’re using XP, instead of Organize, you want the Tools menu. In there, you’ll find Folder Options.


After you click on Folder and Search Options, a (dialog) box will pop up with three tabs: General, View, and Search. Left-click on View.

Under View (in the middle), the first thing you’ll see is Folder Views. Under that, there is a white box with a bunch of settings (labeled Advanced Settings) that you can change so that you can customize your computer. The very first setting in this box is the one we need, which is Always show icons, never thumbnails. Uncheck this box.

Left-click on Apply, and then left-click on OK.

Now you can see your pictures!

I would like to note here that when you enable the option for thumbnails and not icons, you may notice a difference in your computer performance. When you change this option, thumbnails will be displayed instead of icons on your whole computer, not just My Pictures. When Windows pulls up a thumbnail, it draws on more resources than it does when it pulls up an icon. In other words, Windows has to work a little harder with thumbnails. It’s just like you said, it’s a little picture, and pictures are larger files (even little ones). Thus, a thumbnail (a little picture) is larger than a plain ole itty-bitty icon, so it takes more for Windows to open it than it does to open an icon. If you find that your computer is running a little slower than you would like, follow the tutorial above, and this time put a check in the box where it says Always show icons, never thumbnails. If your computer speeds up a little, you have found your culprit.

Then again, it may not make a bit of difference (it doesn’t on mine). And you may not care if it’s a little slower, because not only is your computer prettier, you can see your little pictures again!

If this does slow your computer down, you can also change the view temporarily by clicking on the View menu and selecting different views. However, if you’re using Vista or Windows 7, you may not see a View menu. If not, take a look at How to Setup Classic Menus in Vista and Windows 7 [2].

Thanks for writing, Hailey!

~ Lori Cline