How to Preview Files, Images and Videos in File Explorer on Windows 11

Published by Nyau Wai Hoe - Updated on

In Windows 11, you can enable the preview pane which will appear as a column on the right in File Explorer. The preview pane is able to show a preview of currently selected photo, video, text file, PDF file, word document, and other supported file type. This short tutorial will show you how to enable the preview pane in File Explorer on Windows 11.

Unlike thumbnail preview which has a fixed size depending on which view mode is selected, the preview pane is a resizable column which allows users to preview media in a much larger size.

Below are a few screenshots that show how it looks like to preview images, videos and text file via preview pane in File Explorer on Windows 11.

How to preview photos images in Windows 11 File Explorer

How to preview videos in File Explorer Windows 11

How to preview file in folder Windows 11 File Explorer

Note that video preview this way will only show a still image randomly taken from around the start of a video. It does not play the video in the preview pane.

How to preview files and medias in folder on Windows 11

To preview files, photos, videos and other supported file type directly in the folder without opening them, you need to first enable the preview pane in Windows 11 File Explorer. Follow the steps below to do so.

  1. In Windows 11, open File Explorer.
  2. On the menu bar, click on View.
  3. Next, hover your mouse over the Show option.
  4. Then, click on Preview pane.How to enable preview pane in Windows 11

A new pane will appear on the right side in the File Explorer window. When you select a file in the current folder, a preview will be shown in the preview pane. Now try to select/highlight any file in any folder, a preview of the selected item will be shown in the preview pane, provided if the file type is supported.

How to preview photos and videos thumbnails in File Explorer

Another method to preview media files in file explorer is by simply enabling thumbnail viewing and change the view mode to larger icons such as “Large icons” or “Extra large icons” mode.

The view mode is saved separately in each folder/directory. This means that if you change view mode in folder A, it won’t affect the view mode in folder B.

To change the view mode of a folder in File Explorer, browse to the folder, click on View on the menu bar, and then select a view mode you want to change to.

How to change view mode for larger thumbnail size in Windows 11 File Explorer

Thumbnails of files are only viewable in “Extra Large icons”, “Large icons” and “Medium icons” mode. Other view modes will only display the icon of the app used to open the file type. The extra large icons mode is the largest view mode you can set for thumbnails in Windows 11 File Explorer.

File Explorer shows app icons instead of thumbnails for images and videos

If you see app icons instead of the actual thumbnails of the image or video files, for example, all image files shows Photos app icon (the default app to open the image file) instead of the actual images as the thumbnails, here’s what you need to do.

File Explorer shows app icons instead of thumbnails for images and videos

In File Explorer, click on the triple dotted icon on the menu bar, then select Options.

View Options File Explorer Windows 11

In the Folder Options window, click on View tab. Under Advanced settings, uncheck the checkbox for “Always show icons, never thumbnails” option. Click Apply, then OK to save the changes.

Disable Always show icons never thumbnails Windows 11

The thumbnails of the media files should show the correct images now.

Preview photos and videos thumbnails in File Explorer Windows 11

For video files that still fail to show the thumbnails but instead showing the app icon of the video player, it likely indicate that the video file type does not support displaying thumbnail in File Explorer. To solve this, you may need to install video codec packs to add supports for displaying the thumbnail of various video file types. We recommend K-lite Codec Pack by

Nyau Wai Hoe
Nyau Wai Hoe is the Founder and Chief Editor of With a degree in software engineering and over 12 years of experience in the tech support industry, Nyau has established himself as an expert in the field, with a primary focus on the Microsoft Windows operating system. As a tech enthusiast, he loves exploring new technologies and leveraging them to solve real-life problems.

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