Thumbs.db:
Individual hidden files in their associated folders.

Starting from Windows Vista, Thumbcache:
<SYSTEMDRIVE>:\Users\<USERNAME>\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Explorer\thumbcache_<RESOLUTION>.db files.

Overview

The Thumbs.db and Thumbcache files contain cached thumbnail previews for files (pictures, some document and media file types) in folders that were interactively accessed with the Windows Explorer. Some document types, such as PDF files, will have their first page as their thumbnail preview.

The thumbnail previews are stored in these databases as it takes less system resources (CPU time and memory) to retrieve an already generated thumbnail as opposed to generating it every time the directory is accessed.

For a Thumbs.db file to be generated in a given folder, or for entries to be added to the central Thumbcache files, the access must have been done with some sort of files’ thumbnail / icon preview enabled.

The cached thumbnail previews persist even after deletion of the associated files.

Information of interest

Thumbs.db

The Thumbs.db files are stored in their associated folders, with one individual Thumbs.db file per folder (that was interactively accessed with files preview). However, since Windows Vista, Thumbs.db files are only generated for access through UNC paths (such as \\<HOST>\<SHARE_NAME>\<FOLDER> or \\<HOST>\c$\<FOLDER>) in the remote / share directory.

Each thumbnail created in a directory is represented in the Thumbs.db file as a small JPEG file, regardless of the file’s original format. The images are resized to 96 × 96 pixels by default. As each Thumbs.db file is associated with a given directory, the location of the cached thumbnails can be easily deduced.

Thumbcache

Starting with Windows Vista, the Thumbcache files centralize thumbnails in a central location. Each Thumbcache file, labeled thumbcache_<RESOLUTION>.db, contains thumbnails from all locations. The <RESOLUTION> indicate the resolution of the thumbnail previews, such as the thumbcache_1280.db file for thumbnails in 1280 x 720 pixels resolution.

The location of the file linked to a thumbnail is not stored in the Thumbcache file. However, each thumbnail in the Thumbcache file is associated with an unique identifier ThumbnailcacheID. This identifier / hash can be used to retrieve the location of the associated file, mostly for non deleted files:

  • By scanning and computing the identifier for every files on the volume. This requires the file to still be present on the volume.

  • By searching the Windows Search database (Windows.edb) for the ThumbnailcacheID, as a table of this database notably references the file original full path and size. As the Windows Search database is updated in near real time and does not store information on deleted files, this also requires the original file to still be present.

Tool(s)

The Thumbs Viewer and Thumbcache Viewer can be used to, respectively, parse Thumbs.db and Thumbcache files.

The command-line version thumbcache_viewer_cmd can be used to extract thumbnail images and generate HTML and CSV report(s) on the thumbnails extracted. The Execute-ThumbcacheViewer.ps1 PowerShell script (KAPE associated module PowerShell_Execute-ThumbcacheViewer) can recursively process the specified input folder to execute thumbcache_viewer_cmd.exe over each thumbcache subfolder found. The PowerShell script is basically a wrapper to make thumbcache_viewer_cmd.exe recursive, as the tool can natively only process a thumbcache subfolder directly.

References



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