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.

165 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.

      1. Yah! This frustrated me for more than a year, as my Downloads folder gradually slowed down. I assumed it must be something wrong with my PC – even a virus. I didn’t even google “Downloads folder slow to open” because I couldn’t imagine that this would be a common problem – Microsoft are surely not that stupid! It turns out they are!

  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!

    1. Perfect, like another user here, mine was already set to ‘General’, but ticking the ‘apply to subfolders’ did the trick! 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…


      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!

    1. my inbox opened but my inbox contents is not displayed. some times its displayed half content with one line message. i cant read full content in my inbox.what reason i dont know sir. pleasse help me sir to solve the problem. i think my inbox contents are slowly occured.

  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?

  12. It will probably come back once in a while as Windows keeps trying to reorganize your folder(s). Had the same problem and found this on another site discussing this problem:

    12/27/13 10:39am

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    This will disable the feature once and for all:


    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\Local Settings\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Shell\Bags\AllFolders\Shell

    New -> String Value “FolderType ” -> Data “NotSpecified “

  13. thanks Long Zheng you’re a STAR! My ‘Download’ folder’s load time was pissing me off too… as I say you’re a star (and thanks for doing the homework for all of us!)

  14. Awesome thanks for this! It got to the point where I couldn’t even open the Downloads folder and it crashed explorer.exe!!!

  15. Thank you! You spend a lot of time, research, and money buying the right set up for your pc, and then you’re excited to listen to the song or tv show you bought – only to be stopped by opening that god damn, slow ass download folder. Thank you good sir! 😀

  16. Not only was mine slow but it wouldn’t even show the contents of whats inside. I must have searched 15 things on Google and all of them failed but finally this worked!!!

    Thank you so much!

  17. I had a folder containing videos that was supposed to be optimized for Videos. Indexing was taking forever so I changed it to General. This seemed to clear it up.

  18. THANK YOU so much.. This was one of the worst annoyances on my computer and now I finally got the idea to just google the issue.. I woudn’t have figured that this was so easily fixable.

  19. Thanks! My Pictures folder is redirected to a share on my file server, however whenever I opened it Windows would load the same set of ~50% of them and about four seconds later the others, which was driving me crazy.

    After changing it to “General Items”, my Pictures folder loads all files and thumbnails instantly.

  20. If I could only try this…but whenever I right click on any folder I get the spinning BCOD=Blue Circle Of Death. I can’t organize or move my documents around the way I would like. This is terrible. And I can’t seem to get into Downloads at all. Once again, I’ll have to go into cmd and copy my files from there, because the Windows UI is just about useless.

  21. omg now my utorrent folder is instantaneous YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAS

    i’ve known about this options since a long time ago, but never thought it could cause this trouble…

    today i decided to google search it just in case, and BAM!


  22. Here it id the END OF 2015 and I’m on WINDOWS FREAKING 10 and they still haven’t fixed this issue. How can a $300B+ company get away with this and stay in business? It’s past sad, it’s insulting.

  23. Thank you so much. i was thinking that my files got corrupted that’s why it is taking that much of time and i had planed to format my drive too. but this solution really works man. (y)

  24. I had the same problem, but changing the content type didn’t help.
    Until I unchecked the shortcut setting “General-Advanced-Allow this file have contents indexed”.
    Now it’s lighning fast!

  25. Thank you very much! My incoming folder (from eMule) was really slow to load, and with your tip now it loads instantly!

  26. Great to have this solved this after same experiences for best part of a year with several pcs!
    Also Picture folder become “unusable” with the feature for it
    It is simply not sensible to find a picture among thousands looking through every tiny thumbnail !

    Also, tick the box below the key one: apply to all sub folders

  27. The time required to open the downloads folder was one of several annoyances after ‘upgrading’ from Win7 to Win10. It finally bugged me enough to Google it.

    Great job! Works beautifully.

  28. Thanks. That’s AWESOME!! Honestly, the I-feel-like-dancing type of AWESOME!! That was driving me almost literally crazy.

  29. Thanks man for this solution. I also found after reading this and looking that whole drives were set to be used as picture storage so if you have a drive that takes forever to load when you click on it that is the problem.

  30. Thanks for the tip. After upgrading my Windows 7 machine to Windows 10 this started happening to me. So the problem is in Windows 10 as well.

  31. 3 years, 5 months, and 8 days, this thread is still helping people out. Thank you so much. Was driving me crazy. BTW using windows 10

  32. Why don’t I have the customize tab in my download properties? I have general, shortcut, security, details and previous versions. I’d love to try this as I’m going nuts waiting for the green bar to finish loading!
    Any ideas??

  33. I can’t find the setting on Windows 7, and I’m the “computer guy” in this family… also seems no one asked it here? 😐

    1. Okay, so I find out… neither clicking ‘Folder options’ or right-clicking –> ‘Options’ takes you to the right thing… right-clicking in empty space in the folder itself required. Really horrible UI. Great work, MS!

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