Folder Preview Picture Change

How to Change a Folder Preview Picture in Vista and Windows 7
By default a folder in Vista and Windows 7 will show a thumbnail preview picture of the folder contents in the folder icon. This will allow you to change that thumbnail preview picture in the folder icon to any image you would like instead.
How to Change a Folder Preview Picture in Vista and Windows 7

information   Information
By default a folder in Vista and Windows 7 will show a thumbnail preview picture of the folder contents in the folder icon. This will allow you to change that thumbnail preview picture in the folder icon to any image you would like instead.
warning   Warning

  • This will not work with a folder in a external device like a USB key or DVD. External devices do not retain their Windows Explorer folder view settings in Vista.
  • This will not work on folder shortcuts, only on the main folder itself.

EXAMPLE: Before and After Preview Picture Change

Here's How:
1. Right click on the folder and click on Properties.​
2. Click the Customize tab. (See screenshot below step 4)​
3. To Customize the Folder Preview Picture
A) Click the Choose File button. (See screenshot below step 4)​
WARNING: Only check the Also apply this template to all subfolders box if you want this preview picture for all of the subfolders in this folder to. You can change them individually instead if you wanted to or not at all.​
B) Go to step 5.​

4. To Restore the Default Folder Preview Picture
A) Click the Restore Default button. (See screenshot below)​

B) Go to step 7.​

5. Navigate to the location of the image you want to use. (See screenshot below)​
6. Select the image and click on Open.​

7. Click on OK to apply. (See screenshot below step 4)​
NOTE: You may need to press F5 to refresh the window to see the new preview picture you selected.
8. If for some reason the selected preview picture will not show on the folder, then try this:​
A) Do step 2 and 3 in this link: How to Hide or Show Hidden Files and Folders in Vista
B) Open the folder you want to change the preview picture for.​
C) Right click on the faded (means it is a hidden file) Desktop.ini file (if you have one) and click on Delete.​
NOTE: The Desktop.ini file will be automatically be regenerated the next time you make a change to the folder.
D) Clear the thumbnail cache.​
E) Rebuild the icon cache.​
F) Now try the above steps again.​

That's it,

Last edited:
Shawn Brink


Hi there:

I have a strange situation in this regard, I assigned a few pictures to some directories exactly the way you mentioned here, it worked fine but one of these pictures has been attached to my "Program Files" directory too!!!!!! It happened all by itself and since there's no customize option about "Program Files" directory, I can't change or remove this picture from folder preview of my "Program Files"!!!

Any suggestions?
thanks alot.
Hi Borna mir,

Go back to the one that you changed with this picture and change it back to the default (Restore Default) picture. It should restore the Program Files folder with it like it did before.

Curious, which folder did you change that changed the Program Files folder to?

My issue seems simpler but probably more intractable: sometimes it works and sometimes it does not. Initially I thought it depended on whether or not there were subfolders, but that ain't it.

Refreshing, rebooting, or simply waiting doesn't help either. I'm talking about just regular old folders with nothing but JPEGs in them but some (if not most) leopards absolutely refuse to change their spots!
Dear Shawn:

It was an ordinary folder including some pictures that I had customized!! I had similar problem with another folders too!! so finally I decided to forget customizing folders and reset everything to its default condition. using your method on "How to Reset Windows Explorer Folder View Settings to Make Vista Remember" solved the problem with "Program Files" too.

Thanks a lot, Borna

I am glad to hear that it solved your problem for you. Could you tell me the full path or location of that ordinary folder? I would like to run some tests by placing a folder in the same location to see if I can come with a way to prevent the problem you had when customizing.

Thank you for the feedback,
The method did not work for changing the preview image, but it definitely seemed to make folder settings more stable in general. Many thanks for that! :D
Dr. Zalius,

Glad to hear that it helped for your folder settings. Where are the folders located for the ones you want to change the preview picture? I have noticed that some system file folders will not change at all.

Mainly just subfolders of JPEGs in "C:\Users\DrZ\Pictures." I have found a work-around that's not really a solution but does the trick consistently on my machine at least.

I chose a single pic for the preview thumbnail, then copied and pasted it into the folder making sure it was the only image on that level.

I hoped that would set the preview permanently so the out-of-place copy could be deleted, but it wants to revert back unless you leave it. Not ideal, but easy as falling off a log!
Dr. Zaius,

I created a folder with subfolders in it that had some PNG files in both in the same location as yours. I used a JPEG from the C:\Windows\Web\Wallpaper location for the preview picture for both the main folder and subfolders. I had to hit F5 on one of them to refresh the window, but they all changed to the preview picture. I updated the tutorial with these new findings. I hope it helps.

Nice workaround you found though.

Hi, Here's the address of that "ordinary folder":

C:>Cool>Famous People>Sad But True Pictures>Our Country

This folder only contains pictures.


I created the exact same folders with the same names and location as yours. I even threw in some pictures in the folder. It allowed me to change the display picture without any problems for all the folders. Strange and frustrating that you cannot. You might try temporarily relocating these folders into the C:\Users\(your username)\Pictures folder to see if they willl change there; or/so you can recreate new folders in the original location to see if that will help and transfer the pictures back over when done.

Refreshing in and of itself didn't help, but it did give me an idea that turned out to work.


Going to properties/customize/change icon, clicking "restore defaults" then selecting the desired preview file as normal did the job. Inexplicably still have to restore the default icon again each time I want to change the preview image, but no biggie. Thanks for all your efforts Brink, and hopefully this will also work for you, Borna.
Last edited:
I have a more elaborated question about the folder preview display:
Is it possible to have the preview show more than one picture by user definition?
I'll explain: some of my folders (mostly music folders containing albumarts) have multiple folders within them + songle MP3's not in folder.
Example: The folder: H:/Avril Lavinge will have 3 Folders within it (Say H:/Avril Lavinge/Under My SKin, H:/Avril Lavinge/My World and H:/Avril Lavinge/Let Go, along with these folders there are 3 more files, MP3, named 1.mp3, 2.mp3 and 3.mp3)
The subfolders are set the way I like it, with thumbnail preview all good. My question sums to this: Whenever viewing the master folder (i.e. h:/Avril Lavgine) the preview will show one of the sub-folder's preview (which is good), but in addition it will add MP3 icon previews as well.
Can I change the preview so it will show only the subfolders' albumart/thumbnails?

Good preview.jpg
Hi Bitshifter,

Welcome to the forum.:party:

Only if you put the MP3's in an additional subfolder in that folder.

Hi, I've had a similar problem for a while now and didnt know where to turn

So I have alot of folders on my external hard Drive K: , mainly Music, videos etc. I want to change the preview picture to the album art jpeg/png in the folder. It just looks like this by default Folder.jpg So
I try the 'Properties/Customize/Choose File' method but it doesnt seem to work. Even when I do Restore Default first.

The wierd thing is though, I tried the same thing with some folders in my internal drive C: and it works :/

So it seems only my external drive wont allow me to change the folder previews, any idea what I can do??