Restore Windows Thumbnail

by Erick Vega

You know this icon, don’t you?  I think it’s safe to say that if you’re reading this that you do. When this shows up it can be difficult to quickly find the one part you are looking for.

Why does it happen?

It sure beats me, but we know windows and .dll files don’t like to play nice at times especially with Microsoft updates and antiviruses on the prowl. Fortunately, we have a couple of ways to try to coax them into playing together again.

Let’s begin with SOLIDWORKS by going to Tools > Options > System Options > General > Show thumbnail graphics in Windows explorer. Make sure this option is checked. If unchecked you will have to save the files without thumbnails for the icons to be refreshed.

If the option was already checked then let’s try to persuade windows. Let’s check the folder options.

For Windows 7:

Click the windows button and type and select “Folder options” and go to the “View” tab. Here we want to uncheck the option “Always show icons, never thumbnails”, scroll down and check the option “Show preview handlers in preview pane”, see picture below.

For Windows 10:

Click the windows button, type and select “show hidden folders and options” and go to the “View” tab. Here we want to uncheck the option “Always show icons, never thumbnails”, scroll down and check the option “Show preview handlers in preview pane”, see the same picture for windows 7 above.

If this step does not restore the thumbnails, let’s follow to the next.

For Windows 7 and 10:

Click the windows button, type “Adjust the appearance and performance of windows” and select the matching result. In the “Visual effects” tab check the option ”Show thumbnails instead of icons”

Default Administrator

If none of these settings fixed the problem it is time to bring out the big guns. Beware, you must have access to the Default Administrator account on your computer for the following steps to work. If you do not then you will need to get your IT team involved in this.

For Window 7 and 10:

Click the windows button and type “cmd”, right click the result and select “Runs as Administrator”. This will launch the command prompt.

Here we will try to register the .dll files that may not have registered properly during installation. Keep in mind it is possible for these files to become unregistered after Windows or SOLIDWORKS updates.

Now for the fun part, type the following in the command prompt, keep in mind these path names are the default paths. If you changed the name of the Solidworks installation folder or selected a path different from default please use the correct path.

** Make sure you include the quotations **

  • regsvr32 “C:\Program Files\Common Files\SOLIDWORKS shared\swdocumentmgr.dll”
  • regsvr32 “C:\Program Files\Common Files\SOLIDWORKS Shared\sldwinshellextu.dll /u”
  • regsvr32 “C:\Program Files\Common Files\SOLIDWORKS Shared\sldwinshellextu.dll”
  • regsvr32 “C:\Program Files\SOLIDWORKS Corp 20XX\SOLIDWORKS\sldthumbnailprovider.dll”


The successful messages will look like this:

You will get a message telling you if the .dll file was successfully registered or not. If you do not have administrative permissions, these commands are likely to fail so be sure to get a hold of your IT team for some assistance.

You will want to restart your computer for these changes to take full effect. Your thumbnails should now show the parts or assemblies themselves instead of that pesky icon.

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