What Is a Thumbs.db File?

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If you're still using Windows XP, you may have noticed that folders of digital images usually contain a file called Thumbs.db. You've probably wondered what it is and whether you can safely delete it.

Thumbs.db is a system file that contains the thumbnail cache--a collection of thumbnail images for photos, documents, Web pages, and so on--for a particular folder. It saves Windows XP from having to render the thumbnails individually each time you open the folder, instead displaying them lickety-split. Vista and Windows 7 each store their thumbnails elsewhere, which is why you don't see such a file on newer systems.

Can you delete Thumbs.db? Yes, but I wouldn't recommend doing so. Instead, tweak Windows so that it no longer shows system files like that one. Run Windows Explorer, and click Tools, Folder Options. Select the View tab, and scroll down to ‘Hidden files and folders'. Clear the box next to Show hidden files and folders, and then click OK. Presto: Though Thumbs.db will still be there, you'll no longer have to look at it.

(For more solutions to perplexing PC problems, see "The 21 Greatest PC Mysteries--Solved!")

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