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How to enable image thumbnails on Windows 11

Some users may not be able to see thumbnail previews on a Windows 11 computer. And, the old method of enabling thumbnail previews may not be working on the Windows 11 computer. In other words, thumbnails may be missing from your Windows 11 computer. But, this issue can be resolved with a quick configuration change on the Windows 11 computer.

Image previews can be enabled on a Windows 11 computer, using the simple instructions given below. Unlike the Windows 10 based computers, on a Windows 11 computer you will make use of the Adjust Appearance settings to enable the image previews for a folder or folders.

To enable image previews or thumbnails on Windows 11, please follow the instructions below:

On the search box on Windows 11 taskbar, search for the term ‘Appearance and Performance’ and it will auto-complete the term to ‘Adjust Appearance and Performance of Windows’. Click on the option to bring up the Appearance and Performance applet within the control panel of the Windows 11 computer. The screen shot below shows you the exact term that I used to open the Appearance and Performance applet.

On the ‘Visual effects’ tab, we need to validate the setting for thumbnails. You will see the following four options on the tab for ‘Visual effects’:

  • Let Windows choose what is best for me
  • Adjust for best appearance
  • Adjust for best performance
  • Custom

If you are using ‘Adjust for best appearance’, you will need to take no further action. Thumbnail previews for images are already enabled as a default option on the ‘Adjust for best appearance’ setting.

If you are using ‘Adjust for best performance’, you will need to see the options on the tab of ‘Visual effects‘. You will need to find a setting that mentions – ‘Show thumbnails instead of icons. ‘Please ensure you have a check mark next to the setting of ‘Show thumbnails instead of icons’. This will, automatically, enable the thumbnail previews for images within the folder. Please have a look at the image screen capture below. It shows you the settings on the ‘Visual effects’ tab for a Windows 11 computer. You can notice that almost all the options are unchecked. By putting a check mark against the ‘Show thumbnails instead of icons’, we can enable thumbnail previews of images on a Windows 11 computer.

The image below shows you the ‘Visual effects’ tab of the appearance and performance settings under the ‘Adjust for best performance’ setting.

The default appearance and performance setting on a Windows 11 computer is ‘Let Windows choose what is best for me’. On this setting, the thumbnail previews are enabled as a default setting. So, no action is needed to configure thumbnail previews for the default Windows 11 appearance and performance setting.

This method is a preferred method of enabling thumbnail previews on a Windows 11 computer. The rationale that makes it a simpler option is that you do not need to get into the folder settings or enable file extensions before making the changes, as in the past. You can just choose the appearance and performance settings on a Windows 11 computer. You can choose to enable thumbnail previews or disable thumbnail previews on the computer. The change is applied instantaneously. And, the change is applied on the level of computer, rather than at the level of a local folder.


Should I use file explorer to enable thumbnails on a Windows 11 computer?

An alternate approach towards enabling thumbnails on a Windows 11 computer would be through the options on the file explorer. Below, we will enable thumbnails on a Windows 11 computer using the file explorer.

  • Press the Win Key + X + E to launch the file explorer on a Windows 11 computer. An alternate way to open the file explorer would be through the task manager. Open the task manager, and load the file explorer on the Windows 11 computer.

  • Press the 3 dots menu on the file explorer to bring up the file explorer configuration options. The image below will show you the menu that shows on the screen when you press the three dots menu on the file explorer.
  • Choose options from the menu that displays on the screen after pressing options on the file explorer.

  • When you click on the options on the file explorer title bar, you will load the folder options on your computer. Move to the ‘view’ tab of the ‘Folder Options’.

  • On the ‘View’ tab of the ‘Folder Options’, you need to find an option that states – ‘Display file icon on thumbnails’. The option should have a check mark so that the thumbnails are enabled for folders on your Windows 11 computer. If you uncheck this option from the ‘View’ tab of the ‘Folder Options’ on a Windows 11 computer, the folder contents will list in the form of icons. The screen grab below shows the ‘View’ tab of the ‘Folder Options’. It also highlights the specific option that we are looking at.

This, therefore, means that you can enable thumbnails on a Windows 11 computer through the traditional approach of ‘Folder Option’ or through the ‘Adjust Appearance and Performance settings’ on the Windows 11 computer.


Summary

You can enable thumbnails on a Windows 11 computer using either of the two following methods:

  • You need to enable thumbnail through the ‘Adjust appearance and performance settings’, or,
  • You can enable the thumbnails through the folder options.

You could any of these methods to enable thumbnails on a Windows 11 computer.

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