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I'm one of today's best-selling computer book writers, with more than 15 million books in print.

This website keeps you up-to-date on my books, and your computers. Each week, I answer a reader's question on-line.

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When photo thumbnails turn to a generic ocean illustration…

Q: When I opened my Pictures folder today in Windows 7, I could no longer see thumbnails of my photos. Instead, each thumbnail showed a generic illustration of an ocean view. What on earth did I do, and how do I see thumbnails of my actual photos?

A: It sounds like you may have used one of Windows 7’s many performance-enhancing tweaks. In this case, Windows 7 sped things up by neglecting to resize any of your photos as thumbnails. Instead, Windows 7 simply slips in the generic ocean scene (shown above) as a substitute.

Luckily, you can keep the other performance tweaks Windows 7 has made, but bring back your photo thumbnails by following these steps:

  1. Click the Start button and choose Control Panel.
  2. Choose the “System and Security” category.
  3. Click on the System icon.
  4. From the System window’s left pane, click on the Advanced System Settings link. (The Systems Properties window opens to the Advanced tab.)
  5. On the Advanced Tab’s “Performance” section, click on the Settings button. (It’s the top-most Settings button.)
  6. In the Visual Effects tab, click to put a checkmark in the box called, “Show thumbnails instead of icons.”
  7. Click the OK button.

Your thumbnails should return to normal.

Update: Jason Cole points out that you can also toggle between displaying icons and thumbnails by following these steps:

  1. Open your Photos folder (or any other folder, for that matter).
  2. Click the Organize button, and choose Folder and Search Options from the drop-down menu.
  3. Click the View tab, and click “Always show icons, never thumbnails.”
  4. Click the OK button to save your changes.

This post explains how to fix the same photo thumbnails problem in Windows Vista.


Comment from Tom
Time December 12, 2015 at 10:11 am

Thank you, I lost my pictures and this fix worked !
Good job

Comment from Michael
Time April 22, 2017 at 7:16 pm

I will echo previous thank you notes! I had the same problem – one morning I woke up and all my pictures have turned into blue ocean generic icon. Your advice fixed it. So thank you!

Comment from Mark
Time November 19, 2017 at 11:00 am

Since I got my first computer I found out about you, years ago. Not once, ever, has your advice failed for me. It’s uncanny, to me.

Thanks, Andy

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