Ah! Thumbnails! They show us tiny previews of stuff so we don’t have to open each one. Plus they’re tiny, so they hide that crazy look on your face on your Christmas pics. Nevertheless, their internal workings have put some of us in hard places. I won’t go on to tell you that the culprit is an elusive file called “Thumbs.db” (‘cause it’s already on the title, and besides, you’re already here!). We’ll cut straight to the chase and tell you how to delete them –or more precisely; the folders they’re in.

Now hold up! We can’t just tell you how to exterminate them straight out, now can we? You’ve gotta learn why they’re a pain in the you-know-where first! If you’re too busy read, skip the next paragraph.

First, they’re there to help. Problem is, they don’t work right (I reckon ‘tis a bug on Microsoft’s side). You see, they store tiny versions of your files within them (Hence the name). And, when Explorer needs to display thumbnails, those tiny pics’ll be displayed. This is not the problem. The problem is that Windows Explorer keeps accessing “Thumbs.db” even after the source media is no longer in that folder. This can lead to the general “Can’t delete file. Windows Explorer is still accessing this file” error. Now, in order to fix this, we have to refresh Windows Explorer (and no, not right click > refresh, ‘cus that be way too easy?). Truly refreshing Explorer requires an application restart. But you can’t go around all day restarting Explorer every time you delete a folder! That’s where we come in.

Before we begin, note that we’re not gonna be disabling thumbnail previews (personally, I use thumbnails more than actual pictures! But hey, that’s on a Mac, and this is all ‘bout PC). Instead we’ll show you a couple of solutions. Again remember that some may not always work.

The best way to circumvent this nag is by disabling the generation of “Thumbs.db” (nope. Somehow –magically- disabling it doesn’t hinder thumbnail generation). You can do so with a Group Policy flag (given below). But you probably knew that (it’s one of the two key methods that come up on Google when you search “Thumbs.db can’t delete”. Nevertheless, it can still work.

If it doesn’t work for you (it didn’t for me), or you don’t have Windows Pro or Enterprise (heads-up: Group Policy editing can only be done on those two), read on for more ways to delete Thumbs (That’s what I’ll be calling it. Sounds cuter!)

Remember how I said we could refresh Explorer to fix our problem? Well, there are ways to do so without restarting it. You can try toggling “Hidden Files”, “File Extensions” and “Item Check Boxes”. Confused? Here’s your typical problem:

When you get that dialog (or something similar), open a new window and toggle one of the three-circled options in the “View” tab. Then click “Yes” on that Thumbs dialog. You should be able to delete it.

If that didn’t work (perhaps you’re on Windows 7?), you can try toggling “Show Desktop Icons” in the desktop context menu (although this didn’t always work for us).

Chances are, your problem is now fixed. Hurray! But if it still isn’t, you can try to delete them with a privileged file manager, like 7zip. Simply download 7Zip, install it. Then, run the “File Manager” part of 7z with elevated privileges (Ctrl+Shift+Esc > File > Run new task > 7zfm). Or just find the “7zfm” executable and run it as Admin.

A window like this will open up:

Now all you gotta do is navigate to where Thumbs lives and click the big “Delete” button on the toolbar. That’ll get rid ‘o the nasty sucka for sure.

If even that didn’t work, try waiting and retrying every so often, ‘cause we’re all outa ideas!

Well, this is the end. Hope your problems fixed!

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