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PDF Thumbnail Not Showing on Windows 10 [FIXED]

File Explorer can show thumbnail for images and videos. For audio files i.e., those that belong to music bought online or ripped from a CD, File Explorer can display album art if it’s embedded in the file.

If you have Microsoft 365 installed on your system, you may also see thumbnails for Word documents and PowerPoint presentations. These thumbnails are normally the cover or first page/slide of the file in question.

Generally speaking, documents do not show thumbnails. They tend to have a thumbnail that shows the default app that is set to open/read it. The same holds true for PDF files however, you can show thumbnails for them.

PDF thumbnail not showing on Windows 10

PDF files can show thumbnails but File Explorer alone cannot generate them. The fact is that Windows 10 (and by extension File Explorer) don’t support thumbnails for PDFs and many other types of files.

If you cannot see PDF thumbnails for your files in Windows 10, there are two simple ways to fix it.

1. Adobe Acrobat Reader

In order to show PDF thumbnails in Windows 10, you need to install an app that can generate them. 

  1. Download and install Adobe Acrobat Reader (it’s free).
  2. Run the app and click ‘Set as default’ on the home screen.
  3. In the window that opens, click the Change button.

  1. Select Adobe Acrobat Reader from the list of apps.
  2. Return to Adobe Acrobat Reader.
  3. Go to Edit>Preferences.
  4. Go to the General tab.
  5. Enable the “Enable PDF thumbnail previews in Windows Explorer” option.
  6. Scroll down and click OK.

  1. Allow Adobe Reader to install additional software.
  2. Open File Explorer.
  3. Navigate to a folder with a PDF file in it.
  4. The PDF file will show a thumbnail preview.

2. Edit Windows registry

This fix should be applied if the first one doesn’t work however, you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your system and the thumbnail option must be enabled in its settings.

  1. Tap the Win+R keyboard shortcut to open the run box.
  2. In the run box, enter regedit and tap Enter.
  3. Navigate to the following key.
  1. Double-click the AppID value.
  2. Enter the following in the data box.
  1. Click OK.
  2. Restart the system or Explorer.exe.
  3. The PDF files should now show a thumbnail.

3. PDF file view in Preview pane

Adobe’s Acrobat Reader isn’t a great app. It’s slow and poor in terms of features, especially if you compare it with other free options that are available. If you do not want to use Adobe Acrobat Reader, you can get a preview of PDF files in the File Explorer Preview Pane. 

Of course, the Windows 10 limitation still applies so you need to install a free app called Sumatra PDF reader. 

  1. Download and install Sumatra PDF reader. 
  2. Open File Explorer.
  3. Go to the View tab.
  4. Enable Preview pane from the button on the left.
  5. Navigate to a PDF file and select it.
  6. The preview pane will show a thumbnail of the first page of the file.


PDF thumbnails not showing on Windows 10 is an old bug that plagued users who had upgraded from Windows 7 to Windows 10, or from Windows 8 /8.1 to Windows 10. It was a bug on Adobe’s part which has since been patched. If you’re still unable to see PDF thumbnails, the above fixes will sort things out for you.

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