How to increase Windows Explorer default thumbnail size for photos / Windows XP

Here’s something about Windows XP that really annoys me: why can’t you increase or decrease the thumbnail size in Explorer like you can in Windows 7 and Windows 8? If you are going to have the thumbnail in the first place, is it difficult to put in a small slider so you can increase or decrease the size? I hate going through a folder in Explorer and can’t clearly see the details of an image.

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

That size is simply not 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 to Tweak UI to learn about adjusting thumbnail size in Windows 7/8.

Refined User Interface

Previously, I wrote about a cool little gadget that you can get for free from Microsoft calls it Tweak UI allows you to modify and adjust a wide range of Windows XP settings. Using this program we can quickly and easily change the default 96 pixel size of the thumbnail to something more visible.

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

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

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

Now it’s much better! I can actually see what’s going on in a picture! Congratulation! The second method to resize thumbnails is to modify the registry.

Thumbnail Sign Up Hack

If you decide to use a registry hack, then you can change the size of the thumbnails on Windwos XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 because the same hack works for all these versions. The only obvious advantage to using registry hacks in Windows Vista and higher is if you want to use custom sizes 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 a bit, and Microsoft has removed the entire slider option. Instead, you have to click View and there you will see the same options in Arrange box.

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:

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HKEY_CURRENT_USER – Software – Microsoft – Windows – CurrentVersion – Explorer

Now on 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. Name it Miniature size and then double click on it to edit it. Select Decimal give it a word value 32 to 256.

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 settings you may have previously selected. You can still manually resize the thumbnails for a specific folder, but when you browse the same folder again, the thumbnails will show up with the custom size you set in the registry.

Pane preview 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, which basically lets you see a preview as large as you can create the preview pane yourself.

As you can see, the preview is much larger. You can expand the explorer window as large as your desktop, and the preview will also expand. In Windows 7, just click the little window button at the top right. In Windows 8, click View and then click on Preview to activate 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, post a comment. Enjoy!

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