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How to Increase Windows Explorer Default Thumbnail Size for Pictures

Here’s what really annoys me in Windows XP: why can’t you increase or decrease the size of thumbnails in File Explorer like in Windows 7 and Windows 8? If you have thumbnails first, is it really difficult to add a small slider that you can use to increase or decrease the size? I hate looking at a folder in explorer and not seeing the details of the image.

I guess Microsoft didn’t think about this issue when it released Windows XP. They also didn’t add the option in Service Pack 3, XP’s last major non-security update. By default, thumbnails in Windows XP look like this:

This size is simply not enough, especially for those with vision problems! Fortunately, there is an easy way to change these settings so that thumbnails can be any size up to 256 × 256. Unfortunately, the maximum size for icons in File Explorer is 256 × 256 pixels. If you want them to be larger, you will have to use a third party program. Scroll down past Tweak UI to learn about customizing thumbnail sizes in Windows 7/8.

Tweak UI

Earlier I wrote about a cool little utility that you can get for free from Microsoft called Tweak UI, which allows you to change and tweak a lot of Windows XP settings. Using this program, we can quickly and easily change the default thumbnail size of 96 pixels to something more noticeable.

After installing the program, go to the Start menu and click All Programs – Powertoys for Windows XP – Customize User Interface. Once you have opened the program, click on “File Explorer” in the left menu and then click on “Thumbnails”.

Change the default size from 96 to something larger. In my case, I chose 256. Also, make sure the image quality is close to high so that the thumbnails look nice. Of course, viewing images will require more resources, but if you have a fairly new computer this shouldn’t be a problem.

Now when you view your photos in My Pictures or anywhere you have thumbnails enabled, you should see something like this:

This is much better now! ? I can really see what’s going on in the picture! Hooray! The second way to resize thumbnails is to change the registry.

ThumbnailSize Registry Hack

If you decide to use a registry hack, you can resize the thumbnails on Windwos XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 as the same hacks work for all of these versions. The only clear benefit of using a registry hack on Windows Vista and later is that you want to use a custom size for thumbnails.

By default in Windows 7 and Windows 8, you can choose from Small, Medium, Large and Extra Large icons. You can adjust the size by moving the slider in Windows 7.

In Windows 8, the Explorer interface has changed slightly, and Microsoft has removed the entire slider. Instead, you have to click on the View tab, and there you will see the same options in the Layout box.

Anyway, let’s get back to hacking the registry. If you need a custom size for your icons, you can open the Registry Editor by selecting Start and typing regedit. Then navigate to the next registry key in the left pane:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER – Software – Microsoft – Windows – CurrentVersion – Explorer

Now in the right pane you should find a key called ThumbnailSize. If it’s not there, you will need to right-click in the right pane and select New – DWORD (32-bit) Value. Name it Sketch Size and then double-click it to edit. Select Decimal and set it to a value between 32 and 256.

The effect should be visible immediately after opening a new explorer window. Please note that thumbnail size will be applied to all folders and files regardless of any other settings you may have previously selected. You can still manually resize the thumbnail for a specific folder, but when you return to the same folder later, the thumbnails will be displayed at the custom size set in the registry.

Preview pane in Windows 7/8

If you’re still not happy with the 256 thumbnail size limit on Windows and don’t want to install any third-party software, you have another option. Both Windows 7 and Windows 8 have a “Preview Pane” option that basically lets you view a preview, the size of which depends on the size of the preview pane itself.

As you can see, the preview is much larger. You can expand the explorer window to the size of your monitor, and the preview will expand as well. In Windows 7, just click that little button in the upper right corner of the window. In Windows 8, click the Preview tab and then click the Preview Pane to enable it.

Hopefully, no matter if you are using Windows XP or Windows 8, you now have ample opportunity to view thumbnails of the desired size. If you have any questions, please leave a comment. Enjoy!

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