Displaying thumbnails of 3ds Max files

Displaying thumbnails of 3ds Max files in Windows Explorer helps much easier to navigate to the files you work with. Thumbnail handlers allows display thumbnails in Explorer which can be created by third-party developers, as in the case of the .max files. If instead of thumbnails in Windows Explorer .max files are displayed as icons, the following solution should help you.

Windows explorer with 3dsmax files thumbnails

The problem of displaying .max thumbnails in Windows Explorer well known for many years, but not so long ago, Autodesk reported that the problem was solved. However, if you install multiple versions of 3ds max simultaneously the problem persisted. The fact of the matter is that the installer 3ds max fails to register the MaxThumbnailShellExt.dll file that is responsible for displaying thumbnails in Windows Explorer. This file is in the root folder of the 3ds max, starting with version 2014+.

So, to solve this problem you should register MaxThumbnailShellExt.dll manually:

  1. Register 3dsmax thumbnail provider for windows explorer
    Run regsvr32 "X:\3dsmax root folder\MaxThumbnailShellExt.dll"
    example for 3ds max 2016: regsvr32 "D:\Autodesk\3ds Max 2016\MaxThumbnailShellExt.dll"

  2. Success 3dsmax thumbnail provider registration message
    If the operation is successful, you will see the following message in the window.
  3. Perhaps, you may have to restart the system and cleaning thumbnails cache.

I actively use several more thumbnails handlers to view preview of the video files and pictures in Windows Explorer, I recommend you to get acquainted with them:

Additional thumbnails handlers

Icaros – displays thumbnails for all types of video files that supports FFmpeg (free)
FastPictureViewer Codec Pack – displays thumbnails of images : .PSD, .RAW, .EXR, etc..

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Comments ( 28 )

  • curious – what exactly does this do? I have the same issue and am interested in this but haven’t dug into the registry much. seems your approach is simple. do i just open CMD and type in : c:\regsvr32 C:\Program Files\Autodesk\3ds Max Design 2014\MaxThumnailShellExt.dll or do i need the “” marks? also is this different for a 64bit? Thanks

    • Hello Juri!
      I think you can switch of overlayed icons only for all files in folder.
      Windows explorer -> Folder options -> View -> Display file icon on thumbnail

      p.s. 3dsmax.exe file doesn’t have beautiful icon and Windows Explorer shows only icon that is in .exe file.

  • Hi,
    I am with Windows 8.1 and I get the following error message from RegSvr32: “regsvr32 “C:\Program Files\Autodesk\3ds Max 2016\MaxThumbnailShellExt.dll” was loaded but the call to DllRegisterServer failed with error code 0x8007005.” Can you please advise how to get past this issue?

  • Not sure if this helps any of you however I work with “Mystic Thumbs” from mysticcoder.net. A really great little and inexpensive program that displays thumbnails for .max, .psd, .hdr,….and many other file formats. Even .txt files. Couldn’t live without it!

  • for windows 8.1 users or higher who had the proplem that the file was loaded but the call to DllRegisterServer failed with error code 0x8007005 >open the command prompet as administrator and type the same line and it should work >thanks a ton

  • I’m on Windows 10 with 3ds 2017, and I’m still running into some issues with this. I was able to get it to register successfully, but it still is not loading the icons. I’ve cleared my thumbnail cache and have restarted multiple times. Any thoughts?

  • Thanx for the info. Curious, is it possible to change the generic exe overlay icon of max thumbnails. I know 3dsmax.exe doesn’t have any icons, all of them are in external ico files.

      • Actually 3dsmax.exe (2017) does have the stylish icons, but in second place. And this ugly meaningless generic exe icon takes first place, that’s because Windows uses it as a default icon. So I did it in barbarian style: I just changed the first icon in the exe with the stylish one and overwrite the exe. Dumb but works.

      • Found the solution! There’s a branch in the registry, here: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\SystemFileAssociations\. So if you add .max extension to it, then add String Value “TypeOverlay” and add a path to 3ds max icon (for 2017 it’s here: C:\Program Files\Autodesk\3ds Max 2017\Icons\icon_main.ico), the overlay icons for max files will be changed. Maybe you need to rebuild the icon cache for this patch to work.

  • Hi!
    This solution works with my 3dsmax 2014 on windows 7 x64. Thank you very much. Just learning modelling and it was annoying to not be able to preview the files from within explorer.

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