Finding the Thumbs.db files in Vista
While using Windows Explorer (in XP or 2003), if you set the “View Icon Type” for a particular folder to either Thumbnail or the Filmstrip view, a Thumbs.db (which is a database file) is generated and stored in the same folder. These database files store small cache versions of the various graphical content of the different files in the folder. This way, the thumbnails do not have to be generated for display every time you access the folder.
Although in the Media Center Edition of Windows XP, thumbnail previews of video files are supported, they are stored in an ehThumbs.db file instead of a Thumbs.db database file. In addition, all of the thumbnail database files are typically stored in the ‘Hidden’ mode.
Windows Vista, however, has a different system regarding the thumbs.db files. Here, the thumbs.db/ehThumbs.db files are not scattered around in the folders. Instead, the thumbnail database files that are generated in the folders are stored in one single directory that allows centralized storage/access to all the thumbnail database files. The location of this centralized directory is:
\Users\[User Account Name]\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Explorer
In the above directory, you will find files with the “thumbcache” prefix – they will have a filename of the form: thumbcache_xxxx.db.
This move to a centralized thumbnail database for Vista reduces the clutter in your normal directories and prevents unnecessary and accidental deletion of Thumbs.db files. As it is not possible to delete the thumbs.db files in this case, it is best to use Disk Cleanup whenever you want to delete the thumbnail cache stored at the above location.
Disabling Thumbnail Cache Generation in Windows
In Windows XP and 2003, Thumbs.db files can be found in all folders that have the thumbnail/filmstrip view enabled and contains photos, graphics and certain kinds of documents (such as PDF or HTM files). Thumbs.db is a database file that is used to store the details about the thumbnail preview of the concerned folders so that the preview image does not have to be generated every time that folder is accessed using Windows Explorer.
Although these thumbs.db files are always stored in the ‘hidden’ mode, many users have the ‘show hidden files’ option turned on, and they feel that the thumbs.db files are an unnecessary clutter that needs to be removed. Manual deletion leads to the creation of a new thumbs.db file as long as the thumbnail preview is enabled for the folder.
Here is how you can disable/turn off the thumbnail generation feature:
- Go to the Folder Options. You can do this by seeking out Folder Options in the Tools tab of the menu bar in the Windows Explorer, or by finding Folder Options in the Control Panel itself.
- Go to the View tab in the Folder Options dialog.
- There is an Advanced Settings menu– in which the Do not cache thumbnails option is clearly visible.
- Normally, the check-box next to the Do not cache thumbnails is unchecked. Select (tick) this checkbox.
- Click on OK.
Otherwise, you can also use the registry to disable the thumbnail cache generation:
- Enter regedit in the Run command to start the Registry Editor.
- In the Registry Editor dialog, the navigation on the left has different trees for different categories. Go to the following location:HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced\
- As soon as you click on the Advanced tab, the right panel will display a list of registry values. Right-click on the DisableThumbnailCache value and select Modify. Enter the new value data as 1. [Note: If the DisableThumbnailCache registry key does not exist, right-click on blank space in the right panel and select New-> DWORD Value. Then create the new DWORD with the name DisableThumbnailCache, and enter the value data as 1.]
Close the Registry Editor dialog and reboot.