I do a lot of photographic editing and often use the thumbnail previews in Windows Explorer folders in Windows XP and Windows 2000 to identify images. However, I can no longer view thumbnail preview images for certain graphic file types in Windows Explorer folder windows. For example, I can't preview JPEG (.jpg and .jpeg) and .gif files, but .bmp and other graphic file formats display thumbnail previews correctly. I've used the Windows Explorer Tools\Folder Options menu option to restore the default settings for the folders, but that didn't help. What can I do to fix the problem?

I bet that you recently uninstalled Microsoft Photo Editor from Microsoft Office (XP, Win2K, or Windows 97) or perhaps uninstalled and reinstalled Office without including Photo Editor in the reinstallation process. In either case, you've lost your association between JPEG and .gif files and the now-missing Photo Editor application. To address the problem, you need to manually associate JPEG and .gif files with Microsoft Paint by editing the registry. Because this problem can occur with other graphic file types such as .bmp, I will make my explanation general.

To edit the registry data, you must navigate to the following registry location associated with each file type

HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\file_extShellEx\\{BB2E617C-0920-11d1-9A0B-00C04FC2D6C1\}

where file_ext is the extension for the graphic file type in question (e.g., .bmp, .gif, .jpg, .jpeg).

In many cases, you might find that the ShellEx and/or \{BB2E6...\} subkeys don't exist. If so, you need to create them. Next, you must make sure that the value of the \{BB2E6...\} subkey is set to exactly the following data: \{7376D660-C583-11d0-A3A5-00C04FD706EC\}, which Figure 2 shows.

After you complete these steps for each graphic file type, you should be able to again correctly view graphic thumbnail previews. When you verify these settings or make changes, remember that JPEG files have three possible extensions by default: .jpe, .jpg, and .jpeg.

Because this problem occurs frequently on my systems, I've created a registry settings (.reg) file, which Listing 1 shows, that I can double-click to reenter the required data into the registry to repair any problems with my primary graphic file types. For me, those primary graphic file types are .bmp, .gif, .jpe, .jpg, .jpeg, and .wmf files. However, the .reg file also resets .art, .dib, .jfif, and .png file associations.

One final tip: When I use this file on my systems, I find that a .jpe class typically has the same subkey structure and values that you're manually creating with the steps I've outlined above. If this situation is true on your system, you could use copy and paste functions to copy the subkey and value to the .jpg class key to avoid mistyping these values.