How to: Change Default Icon View in Windows 10 (for All Folders)

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader 'Brad' writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I just upgraded to Windows 10 and the File Explorer (previously Windows Explorer) looks much different than it did previously. I would like to know how to change the default settings in File Explorer so that my icon view is set for Large Icons. Before I upgraded to Windows 10, my folder settings all looked the same (using Large Icons). I want this setting so that when I view a folder full of images, I can see their thumbnails. Can you help? "

My response:

Generally speaking you can set 1 folder to view with the 'Large Icons' setting, and then tell File Explorer that you want all folders to look the same.

To do so:

  1. Click Start and then click This PC; this will open a File Explorer window.
  2. Navigate to any folder on your C drive. If you have your picture files stored in a Pictures library, you can click that.
  3. Once you are viewing a folder, right click an empty space within the File Explorer window and select View from the dialogue menu, then choose Large Icons. Alternatively you can use the following shortcut keys on the keyboard to change your view:

    CTRL + SHIFT + 1 Extra Large
    CTRL + SHIFT + 2 Large Icons
    CTRL + SHIFT + 3 Medium Icons
    CTRL + SHIFT + 4 Small Icons
    CTRL + SHIFT + 5 List
    CTRL + SHIFT + 6 Details
    CTRL + SHIFT + 7 Tiles
    CTRL + SHIFT + 8 Content
  4. Once you have the view set, you can make it the default view for every folder you open from now on. To do so, click the File tab in File Explorer, then click on the "Change folder and search options" option.
  5. The Folder Options window will appear. Click the View tab, then look at near the very top for the heading "Folder Views". Click the button that says "Apply to folders". This will set all your folders to open under the same view you just set in Step #3.
  6. Click the Apply, then click OK, and the Folder Options window will disappear.

You can test your changes by viewing other folders on the C drive to see if they all look the same.

If you've followed the steps above but would then like at least one or two folders to look different than your main view, then simply follow the same steps above, omitting Steps #4 through #6. For example, I might want all my folders to view with Large Icons, but I don't want "This PC" to have Large Icons; instead I want "This PC" to view with "Details". In this case, I would simply go to This PC and set the view as Details and leave the rest the same.

Viewing Thumbnails instead of Icons

If you are setting the view as Large Icons and you intend to view thumbnails (instead of icon placeholders which won't show you a picture preview), then you will also want to ensure that your PC Performance Settings allows for thumbnail views.

To do so:

  1. Click Start and then right click This PC, and choose Properties.
  2. The System window will appear; click the Advanced system settings link at the top left of the window.
  3. The System Properties window will appear; look for the Performance heading and click the Settings button.
  4. The Performance Options window will appear; under the Visual Effects tab, ensure that "Show thumbnails instead of icons" has a check mark beside it, then click Apply and OK to close the window.

I hope that helps.

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About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.

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TG2's picture

Dennis I'm sorry but I have to cry foul on this.

"The Folder Options window will appear. Click the View tab, the look at near the very top for the heading "Folder Views". Click the button that says "Apply to folders". This will set all your folders to open under the same view you just set in Step #3."

You're missing a very key phrase "... of this type."

Why it matters? Because the view you applied in step three will only apply to a folder *of that type*

If you do these settings inside a pictures folder, it will ONLY effect other folders whose files within are pictures, and whose folder (microsoft in its stupferfluous wisdom <yes, that's a mash of stupid and superfluous>) is deemed by the OS to be of type "Pictures".

If our "Brad" did these changes in his My Documents folder (renamed just "Documents" now) the view that he'd change, would *only* effect other folders of type "Documents"

Its a double edged sword. Microsoft picked up the idea to have a class or "type" of document inside a folder would be what that folder was used for, and then they created this way to apply a default view selection to all folders deemed to contain content "of type".

The problem is where you have people like me.. I want my folder views saved, but I want them *ALL* (every G.D.One.Of.Them) to start or default to "Details", and yes I want my last view of that specific folder to be saved in what ever way I last viewed said folder, so the "remember folder view" in previous versions of windows would be selected (this option now missing for me in windows 10.x)

Oh, and within the "details", I generally want it to always be as File name, Date, Type, Size, and Attributes ... I don't want to go into a folder of my MP3's and see "mp3" related tags, or "duration" or any of that crap .. I want details, and I want them *my* way.

Further goes the problem, that even if you go into each folder "of type" whatever, and reset that folder to a "Details" view, it won't really do it for *all* folders. And that's because plugging your phone in, and viewing its files .. all get set to an assumed type. damned be the user that preferred everything one way with only those items the user *chose* to be different, saved in that different view.

To see what I'm talking about .. open Explorer, go to your user folder (c:\users\<your user name>)

Here you'll see folders like "Desktop" "Documents" "Downloads" (more) and one will be named "Pictures"

Right click on your "Documents" folder, and select properties. Move the properties dialog box off to the side.

Back in Explorer, right click "Pictures" and select properties..

Arrange both "properties" dialog boxes so you can see both at the same time..

now in both properties dialog boxes, select the "Customize" tab.

at the top you'll see "What kind of folder do you want?" and "Optimize this folder for:"

and in that drop down, you should see two different types.. one for Documents .. one for pictures.

There's where part of that magic sauce happens.

My problem .. is that there's no easy way to tell Explorer to default *ALL* folders to be of type "General" or "Documents" so that I can apply *my* preferred "Details" view to every folder one time.

.. its a sore point for me, because plugging in a cell phone applies a folder view based on a folder type we can't see here.

or plugging in an SD card ... and other types of external devices and media..

So.. Damned if you do, damned if you don't, either way with microsoft you can't win.

Even for this edit ... I hadn't realized they took away the "remember folder view" option.

When I initially get onto a computer (eg, company under my user name, or pc's and laptops I'm initially setting up for myself) I would open Explorer, then double click on the C drive to show the folders ..

I would then set the "Details" view, and then go into the View -> Options -> Change folder & search option ... I would set the option to "Show full path" "Show all files" and now in win10 keep the "hide merge conflicts" and keep the "Hide empty drives" but not keep "hide extensions"

In days of old the "Remember folder view" was there, and I would *uncheck* it, then hit apply, and then "apply to all folders", then I would put the check mark back into "remember folder view".

The effect of this, was to set *all* folders to my "details" view.. BUT .. should I manually change the view of a folder .. it would "Remember" that folder view ..

this "Remember view" option isn't visible in my version of windows 10 ... I'm pretty sure it was there in 8 and 8.1 .. and thought it was there in the first Win 10 release.. but now its missing and I'm on the october update (not Creators update yet).

And yes, even when microsoft started categorizing folders under a "General" "Documents" or "Pictures" type the "remember" option would still have the effect of applying that view and remembering for "that type" of folder and that specific folder if I'd changed it. Sorely missing those options :(

sidugec_9240's picture

I want to have icons on my desktop and thumbnails on some folders. No matter where I change the "Always show icons, never thumbnails" setting and click "OK" or "Apply" ( not "Apply to Folders") the setting is applied to all of my folders. Any ideas on that?