How does one refresh thumbnails in nautilus? In my videos folder I have some MKVs and only half of them have the movie border and a excerpt from the movie and the others (also MKVs encoded in the same way) just have the ordinary film icon.

(F5 doesnt do it.)


easier way just delete the failed to cache icons by deleting the following directory.

It will make nautilus to refresh only those thumbnails which currently have folder like thumbnail. It will not help if you want to refresh for file/folder which currently have any thumbnail.

Most of the time you should delete this then deleting all the thumbnails.


  • Check out this answer for an updated version. – David Kennedy Jun 6 '15 at 23:47
  • 3
    the new path (ubuntu 14.04 LTS or later) is ~/.cache/thumbnails/fail. So just do: rm -r ~/.cache/thumbnails/fail – iuridiniz Nov 14 '16 at 23:06

Updated for 14.04 LTS (or later)

From 12.10 onward, thumbnails are stored at ~/.cache/thumbnails

Corrected commands:

rm -r ~/.cache/thumbnails

Then either restart, or:

killall nautilus

Original answer: (for 12.04, and earlier)

Here the commands:

rm -r  ~/.thumbnails
killall nautilus
  • "do do not need to killall nautilus... after running rm -R ~/.thumbnails/fail simply pressing F5 while the desired nautilus window is active to force a reload.. otherwise it will reload next time you access said folder..." PrimeFalcon said this... I think you should include this in your answer – Abraham Murciano Benzadon Jul 7 '17 at 15:11

There is a hidden directory in your home called .thumbnails.

If you delete a file (or all) there, its thumbnail will be recreated by nautilus the next time that you visit the dir where it's stored.

I don't know if there is some more convenient way.

Edit: Nautilus will store the thumbnails in memory. You will need to close and start again Nautilus to force it to recreate them.


do do not need to killall nautilus... after running rm -R ~/.thumbnails/fail simply pressing F5 while the desired nautilus window is active to force a reload.. otherwise it will reload next time you access said folder...

if its something your doing often... you can have it run automatically via cron https://help.ubuntu.com/community/CronHowto


Easily force reloading the thumbnails by simply touching the file(s).

touch *

Make sure you cd to the folder first.
If you want more control on what you touch (eheh), just update the glob to taste, e.g. *.mkv.
No need to put your hands in automated configuration folders.

The problem often happens because the thumbnail manager is called as soon as the file is created, often fast enough that it is not completed yet. When creating (encoding videos, creating plots, merging documents, etc.) large files, the thumbnail manager may (try to) create the thumbnail (and fail) before the file is complete.
The command touch updates the 'last edit' time. The thumbnail manager finds the thumbnail to be obsolete (you 'edited' the file since it was last taken) and updates it.

EXTRA: if you happen to need more control on the files (e.g. include subfolders, file patterns, etc.), you can use something like this:

find . -name '*finished*.mkv' | while read f; do touch "$f"; done
  • Don't parse the output of ls! You could also easily use shell globbing here: touch *. – David Foerster Jul 5 '16 at 12:51
  • Good point @DavidFoerster! I'm often defaulting to the "while read" parsing even when the extra control is not needed. I'm updating the answer straight away! Thanks! – Giuse Jul 5 '16 at 13:33

On 14.04 and beyond

To accomplish this without killing nautilus, Issue the command rm ~/.cache/thumbnails/fail/gnome-thumbnail-factory/* This approach has the benefit of refreshing only those thumbnails that failed to be generated. If you feel the need to regenerate them all, refer to this answer.

protected by N0rbert Jan 20 at 10:14

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