How to increase Windows Explorer default thumbnail size for photos

Here’s something about Windows XP that really bothers me: why can’t you increase or decrease the thumbnail size in Explorer like you can in Windows 7 and Windows 8? If you’re going to have thumbnails from the start, is it hard to include a small slider so you can increase or decrease the size? I hate looking through a folder in Explorer and not being able to clearly see the details of the picture.

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

small thumbnails

That size simply isn’t big enough, especially for anyone with vision problems! Luckily, there’s an easy way to modify these settings so the thumbnails can be any size you want up to 256×256. Unfortunately, the maximum size for icons in Explorer is 256 × 256 pixels. If you want to see them bigger than that, you’ll have to use a third-party program. Scroll down through Tweak UI to learn about adjusting thumbnail size in Windows 7/8.

User Interface Tweaks

Previously, I wrote about a cool little utility that you can download for free Microsoft calls it Tweak UI allows you to modify and tweak a wide range of Windows XP installations. Using this program we can quickly and easily change the default 96 pixels size of the thumbnail to a more visible size.

After you install the program, go to Start Menu and click All Programs – Powertoys for Windows XP – User Interface Tweaks. After you have opened the program, click Explorer from the menu on the left and then click Small picture.

windows xp thumbnails

Change the default size from 96 to a higher size. In my case I chose 256. Also, make sure to keep the Image Quality close to high so the thumbnails look good. Of course, it will take more resources when browsing photos, but if you have a fairly new computer that should not be an issue.

Now when you browse your photos in My Photos or wherever you have thumbnails enabled, you’ll see something like this:

large thumbnails

Now that’s much better! 😉 I can actually see what’s happening in a picture! Congratulations! The second method to resize thumbnails is to modify the registry.

Hack Registry ThumbnailSize

If you decide to go with the registry hack method, then you can change the size of the thumbnails on Windwos XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 because the same hacking methods work for all this version. The only obvious advantage of using a registry hack in Windows Vista and later is if you want to use custom sizes for the 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.

thumbnail slider

In Windows 8, the Explorer interface has changed a bit, and Microsoft has removed the entire slider option. Instead, you must click View and there you will see the same options in Presentation box.

windows 8 thumbnail size

Anyway, back to the registry hack. If you want a custom size for your icons, you can open the registry editor by going to Start and then typing regedit. Then navigate to the following registry key in the left pane:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER – Software – Microsoft – Windows – CurrentVersion – Explorer

Now in the right pane you should find a key named ThumbnailSize. If it’s not there, you’ll have to right click in the right pane and select NewDWORD (32-bit) value. Give it a name Miniature size and then double-click it to edit it. Choose Decimal give it a value from 32 to 256.

subscribe thumbnail size

You will be able to see the effects immediately when you open a new Explorer window. Note that the thumbnail size will apply to all folders and files regardless of any other settings you may have previously selected. You can still manually resize the thumbnails for a specific folder, but when you browse back to the same folder later, the thumbnails will show up with the custom size you set. in the registry.

Preview Pane in Windows 7/8

If you are still not satisfied with the maximum size of 256 for thumbnails in Windows and you do not want to install any third-party software, you have another option. Both Windows 7 and Windows 8 have a Preview Pane option that basically allows you to see a preview of the same size as you can create the preview pane yourself.

preview pane

As you can see, the preview is much larger. You can expand the discovery window as large as your monitor, and the preview will expand as well. In Windows 7, just click the little windows button on the top right. In Windows 8, click View and then click PReview Pane to enable it.

Hopefully, whether you’re running Windows XP or Windows 8, you now have enough options to view thumbnails at the desired size. If you have any questions, feel free to post a comment. Interesting!

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