On Windows 11, the File Explorer’s Preview pane can give you a glimpse of a file without opening it. You can use the Preview pane to a glimpse of images, videos, documents, and more. Quite useful to see the snapshot of file type before opening it.
At times, the Preview pane may not detect some obscure file types. Worst, the Preview pane may not appear to show all the thumbnails of your files. Luckily, there are some troubleshooting tricks to get the Preview pane back to normal. So, let’s check them out.
1. Enable Preview Pane
If the Preview pane is missing from File Explorer, it may have got disabled. Here’s how you can get it back on your Windows 11 computer.
Step 1: Press the Windows key + E to open File Explorer.
Step 2: Click the View menu at the top, go to Show, and check the Preview pane option.
The Preview pane will appear on the right of the Explorer window. You may browse a folder and select any file to preview it.
The Preview pane may not appear if the File Explorer window is too narrow. You’ll need to maximize the window view to make the best of the Preview pane.
2. Check File Explorer Options
While the Preview pane is enabled, it may fail to function normally if the handlers are not enabled. These handlers are responsible for displaying the read-only style snapshot of the file you select. Here’s how to do it.
Step 1: Right-click the Start icon and select File Explorer from the list.
Step 2: Click the three-dot menu icon at the top and select Options.
Step 3: In the File Explorer Options window, switch to the View tab, and tick the ‘Show preview handlers in the preview pane’ checkbox.
Step 4: Uncheck the ‘Always show icons, never thumbnails’ box. Then, hit Apply followed by OK.
Restart File Explorer after this and see if the issue is still there.
3. Restart Windows Explorer
Windows Explorer is a critical process that provides the graphical user interface (GUI) for several Windows utilities, including File Explorer. If the process encounters any problems, certain features like the Preview pane may stop working. You can fix such issues by simply restarting the Windows Explorer process.
Step 1: Right-click the Start icon or press the Windows key + X to access the Power User menu and select Task Manager.
Step 2: In the Processes tab, locate Windows Explorer. Right-click on it and select Restart.
The Taskbar will disappear for a few seconds before reappearing. After that, check if the Preview pane is working.
4. Tweak Performance Options
The advanced system settings in Windows 11 allow you to change visual effects, memory usage, processor scheduling, etc. If you’ve previously tweaked any of these options to prioritize performance, the Preview pane may stop working. Here’s what you can do to fix it.
Step 1: Open the Start menu and click the gear-shaped icon to launch the Settings app.
Step 2: On the System tab, scroll down to select About.
Step 3: Click on Advanced system settings.
Step 4: On the Advanced tab, click the Settings button under Performance. This will open the Performance Options window.
Step 5: Select ‘Adjust for best appearance’ followed by clicking on Apply and Ok buttons.
5. Run a System File Checcker (SFC) Scan
Certain Windows functions may not work correctly if some of your PC’s system files are corrupted or missing. You can run an SFC (System File Checker) scan to detect and repair such damaged system files on Windows.
Step 1: Press the Windows key + S to access the search menu and type Terminal in the box. Right-click on the first result and select Run as administrator.
Step 2: In the console, type the following command and press Enter.
SFC will scan all protected system files and if it finds any errors, you’ll get the instructions to fix them.
After the scan is complete, restart your PC and see if the Preview pane is working.
6. Reset File Explorer Settings
If nothing works, you can reset the File Explorer settings as a last resort. Here’s how to do it.
Step 1: Open the search menu, type File Explorer Options, and select the first result that appears.
Step 2: Under the General tab, click the Restore Defaults button.
Step 3: Next, switch to the View tab and click the Restore Defaults button. Then, hit Apply followed by OK.
Restart File Explorer after this and the Preview pane should work as before.
Preview Files on Windows
It’s no secret that File Explorer isn’t the most reliable utility on Windows 11. However, such issues with the Preview pane shouldn’t force you to open each file to view its content. Going through the solutions above should help you fix the Preview pane on Windows 11 in no time.
Last updated on 02 August, 2022
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Here’s what worked for me: Uncheck the ‘Always show icons, never thumbnails’ box. Then, hit Apply followed by OK.
Thanks. Preview Pane is now working again.
Thank you so very much, Pankil. The SFC scan corrected the issue. Life is good now 🙂
I ran through all 6 ways and none worked.
This is helpful info…except in the 1st step: my Windows 11 Pro file explorer doesn’t have “Show Preview” listed as an option – only “Show Details Pane.” Has this changed? I’m still not seeing previews (at least not how I’d like to see them/the way they used to). ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Thank you so much, I had the preview function on in windows 10 but on windows 11 explorer competely froze upon even clicking a file as it could not ‘read’ the preview, making work impossible. With your solutions, like Nick, the unticking of the ‘Always show icons, never thumbnails’ box already solved all my problems.
Although I’m very happy with your solution, I wonder how it can possibly happen that upon ‘upgrading’ to W11 my settings were not converted properly and causing these ‘fatal’ problems.
I hope the day will come that Microsoft will compensate for the days lost on trying to figure out WTF happened. My full compensation would go to you! Many, many thanks!