Full Fix: PDF thumbnails not showing on Windows 10, 8.1, 7

By: Milan Stanojevic
7 minute read

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Many users have documents in PDF format on their PC, and sometimes it’s easier to recognize different PDF files by their thumbnail. Unfortunately, many users reported that PDF thumbnails aren’t showing in File Explorer on Windows 10. This can be an annoying problem, but fortunately there are several solutions available.

PDF thumbnails not showing in Windows 10 File Explorer, how to fix it?

Thumbnails are quite important since they allow us to find the desired files quickly. However, many users reported problems with PDF thumbnails, so today we’re going to cover the following topics:

  • How to show PDF thumbnails in Windows 10 – In order to show PDF thumbnails on Windows 10, you need to have a default PDF viewer installed. Most users prefer Adobe Reader, but there are many great third-party alternatives.
  • Enable PDF thumbnail previews in Windows Explorer – In order to enable thumbnail previews in Windows Explorer, you need to set a default application for PDF files. After doing that, the issue should be resolved.
  • PDF thumbnails not showing Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 7 64-bit – This problem can occur on any version of Windows, and even if you’re not using Windows 10, you should be able to fix the issue using one of our solutions.
  • PDF thumbnails disappeared, don’t show, gone, no longer showing – If PDF thumbnails are missing, the issue is most likely Adobe Reader. To fix the issue, be sure to check its settings and update it to the latest version.

Solution 1 – Install the latest updates

If PDF thumbnails aren’t showing on your Windows 10 PC, the problem might be the missing updates. Certain glitches with Windows can occur once in a while, and in order to keep your Windows working properly, it’s important to keep your Windows up to date.

By default, Windows 10 installs the missing updates automatically, but sometimes you might miss an important update due to certain bugs or errors. However, you can always check for updates manually by doing the following:

  1. Open the Settings app. You can do that quickly by using Windows Key + I shortcut.
  2. When Settings app opens, go to Update & Security section.
    Enable PDF thumbnail previews in Windows Explorer
  3. Now click Check for updates button.
    How to show PDF thumbnails in Windows 10

Windows will now check for available updates and download them in the background. After you download and install the latest updates, check if the problem still persists.


Solution 2 – Install the fix for Adobe Acrobat

According to users, Adobe Acrobat isn’t showing thumbnails for PDF files on Windows 10, and in order to fix this issue, many users are suggesting to install a fix for it. Supposedly this third-party fix fixes the problem on 64-bit versions of Windows 10 with Adobe Acrobat X, so be sure that you try it.


Solution 3 – Use PDF Preview

By default Windows 10 can’t show thumbnails for PDF files, but you can easily fix that by using third-party solutions such as PDF Preview. This is a freeware tool available for both personal and commercial use. This tool will generate thumbnails for all PDF files regardless of their version, therefore this application can be perfect if you work with PDF files on a frequent basis.


Solution 4 – Install Adobe Reader 11

Many users reported that thumbnails aren’t showing for them in File Explorer, and if you have the same issue on Windows 10 we suggest that you install Adobe Reader 11. According to users, the problem was caused by Adobe Reader DC, therefore if you have that tool installed be sure to remove it and download Adobe Reader 11. Users are also advising to turn off automatic updates for Adobe Reader during the installation, so be sure to disable them by going to Edit > Preferences > Updater and turning on the Do not download and install updates automatically option.

After doing that your PDF thumbnails should return automatically. Bear in mind that you can keep using Adobe Reader DC, but you’ll need to install Foxit Reader in order to view thumbnails. After installing Foxit Reader you have to set it as a default program for PDF files by doing the following:

  1. Press Windows Key + S and enter default programs. Choose Default app settings from the list.
    Enable PDF thumbnail previews in Windows Explorer
  2. Select Choose default apps by file type.
    PDF thumbnails disappeared
  3. Find .pdf format on the list and double click it to set the default application. Set Foxit Reader as a default application.
    PDF thumbnails not showing Windows 10
  4. Repeat the same steps but this time set Adobe Reader DC as a default application.

Solution 5 – Make sure that you have the latest version of Adobe Reader installed

Some users claim that a recent Adobe Reader update fixed this issue, so be sure that you have the latest version of Adobe Reader installed. To ensure that you have the latest updates installed do the following:

  1. Open Adobe Reader.
  2. Go to Help > Check for updates.

If you have the latest version of Adobe Reader installed be sure to enable thumbnail previews by going to Preferences > General and selecting the Enable PDF thumbnail previews in Windows Explorer option.


Solution 6 – Uninstall Adobe Reader X

If your PDF thumbnails are missing, the problem might be Adobe Reader X. Many users reported that this application was the cause for this issue, and after removing it, the problem with thumbnails was resolved.

To completely remove this application from your PC, it’s advised to use uninstaller software. If you’re not familiar, these types of applications are specially designed for removing applications and they will remove all files and registry entries associated with a specific application. By doing so, you’ll completely remove the desired application from your PC and ensure that the problem doesn’t appear anymore.

If you’re looking for a good uninstaller software, you should try out Revo Uninstaller or IOBit Uninstaller. All these tools offer great features and simplicity, so you should be able to completely remove Adobe Reader X from your system by using these tools.


Solution 7 – Use a preview pane

This is just a workaround, but it might be useful until you find a permanent solution. If PDF thumbnails are missing in File Explorer, you could use the preview pane to view your PDF files. This is a built-in feature of File Explorer, and you can activate it by doing the following:

  1. Locate the PDF file that you want to preview in File Explorer.
  2. Now go to the View tab and enable Details pane.
    How to show PDF thumbnails in Windows 10

Now you should be able to see the preview on your documents in the preview pane simply by selecting them. If needed, you can also show or hide the Preview pane by using Alt + P keyboard shortcut. Keep in mind that this is just a workaround and not the best long-term solution, but until you manage to solve the problem, you might want to keep using this workaround.


Solution 8 – Preview files using Adobe Reader

If you’re having this problem on your PC, there’s a simple workaround that you might want to try. According to users, you can temporarily fix the issue by previewing your PDF files from Adobe Reader. To do that, follow these steps:

  1. Open Adobe Reader.
  2. Now choose File > Open.
  3. Navigate to the directory that has your PDF files. Your thumbnails should now be generated. Don’t open or select any PDF files.
  4. Close Adobe Reader.
  5. Now open File Explorer and go to the directory that has your PDF files.

Many users reported that this workaround worked for them, so if your PDF thumbnails are missing, be sure to try this workaround.


Solution 9 – Use Disk Cleanup

If PDF files aren’t showing on your PC, the problem might be your temporary files. Sometimes temporary files can get corrupted and that can cause this and many other problems to appear. Your thumbnail cache is a temporary file, and if your thumbnails aren’t showing, it’s rather likely that your temporary files are corrupted.

However, you might be able to fix this issue simply by using Disk Cleanup to remove temporary files. Once your thumbnail cache is removed, your PC will regenerate your thumbnails again. To learn more about Disk Cleanup and see how to remove your temporary files, feel free to check our guide on how to use Disk Cleanup for detailed information.

Although Disk Cleanup can fix this problem for you, some users prefer third-party solutions. If you want a tool that can remove temporary files while offering some advanced features, you might want to consider using CCleaner.


Solution 9 – Use third-party tools

If PDF thumbnails aren’t showing on your PC, the problem might be Adobe Reader. While Adobe Reader is a great application, there are many other great PDF viewer apps. All these applications have similar features as Adobe Reader, so they are a perfect alternative if you need a new PDF viewer.

Speaking of PDF viewers, many users reported that they fixed the problem with thumbnails simply by using Nitro Free PDF Reader. According to users, after installing this application, the issue with PDF thumbnails was resolved, so be sure to try this application.

If you’re still having issues on your PC or you simply want to avoid them for the future, we recommend you to download this tool (100% safe and tested by us) to fix various PC problems, such as file loss, malware and hardware failure.

Not being able to see thumbnails for PDF files in Windows 10 can be inconvenient, but you can easily fix that problem by using one of our solutions.


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2016 and has been since completely revamped and updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.


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