Quick fix for very slow to load “Downloads” folder in Windows 7 & 8

I don’t usually post “tips” but this issue has frustrated me to no end for many months and I finally found a simple but instant effective solution. It’s too good not to spread the word about.

In the last couple of months, I started noticing that clicking the “Downloads” folders in Windows Explorer took around 15 seconds to load. This become quite annoying as I frequently access downloaded files from browsers. I tried deleting clearing out the folder but that didn’t have a lasting effect.

After a bit of research, it turns out apparently Windows 7 (and Windows 8) tries to guess-timate what the contents of the folder are and assigns special “rules” to them to optimize the view settings and sorting.

For some reason, the “Downloads” folder likes to be categorized as a “Pictures” folder (I’m guessing because people store a lot of JPGs in it). The problem with this view is that it tries to generate thumbnails for all the files in this folder, even if they’re not pictures.

The fix is to ensure the folder settings for “Downloads” is optimized for “General items”. This should have an instant effect (the next time you add files to the folder since the thumbnails are otherwise cached anyway).

Unfortunately, this change doesn’t seem to always stick as Windows may change the option as you download more files, so you may have to check this setting once in a while.

62 insightful thoughts

  1. Mine was already set to General Items. But I’ve noticed this with a lot of my other folders…Windows wanting to display everything as a picture when I have mostly documents. Nice to know it’s easy enough to fix.

    1. Because they are stupid… Putting down extra work in adding a feature that makes something worse is a high level of stupidity.

  2. mine was already selected to general, so i just ticked box underneath for changes to affect sub folders now i got instant access not 10 mins of green bar accross the top!
    Thanks

  3. OMFG thank you! . What the fuck is wrong with mixrosoft that that would fit this!!!! IT would take 10 min + to load up the fucking folder and my PC is FAR from slow . thanks for making sense of it and stopping it.

  4. not at all working .. mine was not slow… it didnt open .. shows loading for some time then explorer becomes nonresponding….

    1. It begins to sound like you might have a bigger problem than just thumbnail loading issues then. This actually did the trick for me as well. I was about to put my fist through my screen and this did the trick for me. You may in fact just have a corrupted video or image file in the folder and you may have to delete it from the command line if that’s the case. I would also run a malware scan on it just to be sure something else isn’t going on.

  5. Whoops, my Download properties dialog box doesn’t have a Customise tab. The tabs, left to right, are General, Shortcut, Security, and Details. I’m running Windows 8. Any suggestions?

    1. I had the same problem… You have to navigate to the downloads folder through the normal C:\Users\[username] hierarchy, not the dynamic link to ‘downloads’ that shows up when you open an explorer window.

      so I went to…

      C:\Users\Brent

      then right clicked on the ‘downloads’ folder and the ‘Customize’ tab was there.

      And thanks very much for the post! This has been annoying me for years!

  6. Help – I’m in Vietnam with a Windows 8 with the same problem! Can anyone please tell me the way to reset the downloads in simple W8 language?

  7. Thanks a lot! It’s been a small frustration, but it’s been months since it was doing this. Thanks for devoting your time to share about this fact, which undoubtedly helped many many people. Also, this log-in-less commenting is awesome.

  8. Thanks brutha , i kept restarting my comp ,doing virus scans, clearing temp and cache memory , even check my index options..

  9. BIG thank you! I used to open Downloads folder, go for a cup of coffee, drink it, go to university, finish a master, doctorate, and return to see if Windows 7 was done.

    Now it is instant!

  10. Damn it, thank you a lot for your tips sharing ! I’m begining to be crazy with my download folder which loading really slowly. I think it was indexing problems ^^

  11. I don’t have the “Customize” tab in my Downloads folder’s Properties, running Windows 8.1. Any idea how to fix slow folder load time under Windows 8.1?

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