Delete Thumbs.db files with Spotlight

Apr 9, 2007 - 16 Comments

Finder Any Mac user that has shared files from a Windows PC has surely found the always annoying and completely useless Thumbs.db files scattered around their directories. We’ve been asked about deleting Thumbs.db files a few times before, and typically we run a simple script from the command line, but there’s another even easier way of removing all Thumbs.db files from Mac OS X by using only Spotlight.

This quick little tutorial will show how to delete all Thumbs.db files from your Mac in one fell swoop.

How to Delete Thumbs.db files from Mac OS X

  1. Launch Spotlight (hit Command-Spacebar)
  2. Type “Thumbs.db”, when a list is gathered hit the return key
  3. Click the ‘more’ button to show all search results (in new versions of OS X, click the “Show All in Finder” option at the bottom of the Spotlight search window)
  4. Now simply drag and drop all of the Thumbs.db files into the trash, and empty the trash
  5. Done! Your Mac will now be rid of all Thumbs.db files

As you can see, this tip is very simple and for many it is easier than launching the Terminal and doing it through the command line.

If you’re wondering what Thumbs.db files are, they are simply a small cache file that holds thumbnail preview data for folders in Windows, it is not a crucial system file, so do not worry about deleting them from your Mac (where they serve no purpose anyway). In this way, the thumbs.db file is kind of like a Mac DS_Store file, which are frequently encountered in OS X by users who have hidden files visible, but also on network environments from Windows users – for that latter situation, users can stop the DS Store files from being created to begin with using a defaults command, a similar option exists in Windows for those looking to stop the creation of Thumbs.db files as well.

Thumbs.db in Mac OS X

Good idea from LifeHacker, cheers to them for the handy tip!


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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in How to, Mac OS, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Leninvinod says:

    thanks a lot mate, really I was wondering what is this but got rid of it, thanks a lot cheers :)

  2. […] you may notice that Windows PC’s have similar metadata files in all directories called “Thumbs.db“, those can also be removed separately by using […]

  3. moby says:

    What about when you’re using a mac to view files on a server. I wouldn’t want to delete these thumbs.db files every day. Is there a way to hide them?

  4. Robyn says:

    Perfect. This simple and simply put tip is such a relief. No more annoying, extra thumbs.db files annoying me. It’s just one more reason why I love a Mac way more than I ever even liked my PC. Thanks :)

  5. TJ says:

    I have another problem with the thumbs files. I have just bought a mac and have a pretty old pc. I have been using an external hard dive to transfer files, but all of my pictures have come up on the mac as thumb files. Is there any way to convert these back to pics as my pc has absolutely had a fit and pretty much deleted everything off it. There are some beautiful photos i would really like to get back. IM FREAKING OUT!!
    Thanks if anyone can help me@!

  6. […] a largely Windows network, you’ll probably be running into these all the time. You can easily delete Thumbs.db files in Mac OS X by using […]

  7. S.Koibito says:

    Oops, forgot the final bit. We found a more reliable method using this procedure, but we do it through FileBuddy. Takes a little bit longer, but gets every single one of the files, no matter where they are, and you can easily exclude the windows drives that are currently attached.

  8. S.Koibito says:

    This doesn’t work very well for us. Spotlight has so many bugs that I can actually do this procedure three times in a row, and actually still have files to delete on the third run.
    We (work colleagues and I) do not know why this happens, but on most of our Macs, running 10.4 to 10.6, this is pretty much standard.
    It comes down to either corrupt spotlight DBs (and we have given up deleting and re-creating them) slow building of the DBs, or the massive bug in spotlight, where it ignores the Privacy selection on drives. Which is a big no-no, because for some reason it insists on building DBs on our windows drives. We have to repetitively turn privacy on, only to find a half-dozen drives including the windows ones, being scanned by spotlight, all over again.
    On top of that, it considers all sorts of areas on the boot drive as inaccessible, even though that’s an area we need to get to. And “Size” isn’t included in the table list?!?

  9. Nathan says:

    Cool beans I was wondering what the heck those were for and how the heck to get rid of them..:)

  10. Sir Tux says:

    I hate those _MACOSX folders in windows. Worst part is they’re usually read-only.
    Good thing Linux and Vista don’t do stupid metadata in extra files anymore. They take the centralised approach. Which may use anual cleaning up, but doen’t clutter other folders, or other OS’s.

  11. You know, I absolutely hate those files… Thanks for the guide.

  12. juna says:

    that is the best tip ever. i love you. thank you so so so so much.

  13. […] Mac OS X isn’t the only operating system to create annoying system files though. If you ever access your Mac from a Windows PC, you’ll likely find a few Thumbs.db files laying around in your Mac’s folders. Thumbs.db serves much the same purpose in Windows as the DS_Store file does for Mac OS X, making it useless for a Mac user. If you want to get rid of the equally annoying and useless Thumbs.db , read the easy how-to article to remove Thumbs.db files quickly with Spotlight. […]

  14. The BaldGuy says:

    Nice tip, but I figured there had to be a way to automate this. So, I did. The result is here

  15. Munin says:

    Hi there, OS X Daily! I just wanted to say that I stumbled upon this website earlier this morning and I’ve read all the articles.

    As a soon-to-be “Switcher”, this is a wonderful website that I’ll keep tabs on. Even though I don’t have a Mac yet, I think it’s EXTREMELY useful to watch over.

    Thank you for making my life easier as a “Mac noob”.

  16. regis says:

    wow, another usefull feature of spotlight….

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