How to fix blank thumbnails in the WordPress Media Library

Ways to solve blank thumbnails in WordPress Media Library

Over the last few months, we’ve received a number of requests for assistance on a WordPress Media Library-related issue. Specifically, WordPress users were reporting that their Media Library image files weren’t showing up as proper thumbnails – it seemed as if the thumbnails were missing. Instead, they were getting only greyed-out and blank document icons in the Media Library, like so:

Grey Thumbnails
Image Source: Screenshot –

Fortunately, there are solutions that will fix this issue, if it happens to you. Start with the procedure outlined in the next section, then we’ll walk you through the other possible solutions if that doesn’t work. So far, however, every user who requested help reports one of the following solutions worked to resolve the issue regarding blank thumbnails showing up in the WordPress Media Library.

Usual preliminary troubleshooting steps

Before trying any other solution, you should first run through a quick version-check and plugin testing process. Start by ensuring that all your files are up to date, and that your WordPress website is currently running the most recent version of WordPress and all activated WordPress plugins.

It’s crucial to use the most recent iterations of WordPress core files. For instance, WordPress version 3.9.1 apparently had a known issue due to the way images were handled. Updating your WordPress to the most recent core version should resolve those issues.

Manual backup
Image Source: StockSnap – / License: CC0 Public Domain

So follow good updating protocols – make a full backup of your WordPress website files, including your database, then update your core files first and your plugins next. Follow up by checking to see if the thumbnails display correctly after updating. Assuming that updating your files doesn’t help, or that your files were already current, move on to the plugin test.

Start by deactivating all of your plugins, then checking your thumbnails. If the issue resolved, then your problem is one of the plugins you just deactivated. Try reactivating them one at a time, checking the Media Library in between, until you pinpoint which plugin is creating the problem.

From that point, it’s a simple matter of deactivating and deleting that particular WordPress plugin, and finding a workable alternative plugin if need be. However, if this process doesn’t reveal a likely culprit, then it’s time to move on to more specific solutions as provided below.

Change permissions for uploads folder

Next, please check the permissions for your uploads folder. Start by navigating in your WordPress dashboard to Settings => Media. Make sure that the option Organize my uploads into month- and year-based folders is checked. Next go into your Cpanel or other file manager interface for your domain, whatever your hosting company provides for you to work with your website’s files.

WordPress Media Settings

In your /wp-content folder, you should find your /uploads folder. Check the permissions assigned to this folder. If it’s anything other than 755 (or 777, though this might present a security risk), change the permissions. Go back to your Settings => Media page in your WordPress dashboard, and then uncheck the Organize my uploads into month- and year-based folders option. Now check again to see if the thumbnails are loading. If so, great! If not, move on to the next and final solution.

Install the Force Regenerate Thumbnails plugin

Assuming none of the above suggestions resolve the greyed-out or blank thumbnail problem for you, then this final suggestion most likely will: First please download, install, and activate the free Force Regenerate Thumbnails plugin from the WordPress Plugin Directory.

Force Regenerate Thumbnails
Image Source: Screenshot –

You’ll find the plugin’s controls in the Tools menu of your WordPress dashboard, and you’ll note that there are two options here. You can either force regenerate all thumbnails – that is, the plugin will regenerate thumbnails for every single image in your Media Library. Or you can force-regenerate thumbnails for the specific images with greyed-out or blank icons in lieu of actual thumbnails.

Let’s look at the global approach first. To force regenerate thumbnails for all of your images, simply navigate to the plugin’s page in your Tools menu. Next click the Regenerate All Thumbnails button. And that’s it. Depending on how many images you’ve uploaded to your WordPress blog or website, regenerating all of your thumbnails could take a while.

Force Regenerate Thumbnails Options

If you would rather simply try to sort out the specific images for which you’re seeing the greyed-out icon, please navigate to your Media Library page. Hover your mouse over the image in question, and you’ll see the Force Regenerate Thumbnails text link pop up underneath the image file name.

Now click that link to regenerate the thumbnail for that particular image only. After the plugin has completed its task and the thumbnails are regenerated, you’ll see a summary page showing how long the process took, and whether the process was successful for the images selected.

Conclusion: Fixing blank thumbnails in the WordPress Media Library

There you have it – a troubleshooting sequence that will help you resolve the greyed-out thumbnail problem. And if you have a different solution to recommend, let us know in the comments below!

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    • Hi Jason, if you’ve already tried everything from the article and if you’ve also tried disabling your plugins, then you could contact your hosting company for further analysis. Maybe there is an issue with your server environment.

  1. The Force Regenerate Thumbnails plugin fixed it for me. I inherited a screwed up WordPress install wherein many photos had non-ASCII characters in them, and they were accompanied by a SQL dump that also had the non-ASCII characters, and so the filesystem was unhappy about the images and MySQL wouldn’t even import the SQL file.

    So after doing global file renames of the files and corresponding string replacements in the SQL dump, I was able to get everything working except (shocker) many of the thumbnails were screwed up. The plugin saved the day!

    • Hi Sean, I have the same problem as mentioned earlier and I tried to use the plugin you named – Force Regenerate Thumbnails but it didn’t work. I still can’t see my photos in WP library. Do you know what could be the issue? I’ve tried to deactivate all the plugins I use but nothing.

  2. For me the Force Regenerate Thumbnails plugin made it worse. Before most pictures were showing, now after using the plugin they don’t show at all.

  3. I have a lot of thumbnail images in the media file (hundreds as my site grows). I followed all of the steps in the sequence above, and at the end of it all the images were still “clear” / blank.

    All I did was to leave the website “unlocked” overnight as if I was still working on it (risky) and by morning all the images were ‘loaded’ and visible. I’m running a MacBook Pro, 2.5 GHz Intel Core i7 with 16 GB 1600 MHz DDR3 – which is relatively quick – but it is still slow to process the application’s code for the “add media” file.

    I think there is an opportunity here for the WordPress editing crew to look at how they have the code written for this part of the application. I suggest that there should be a way to sort images by date loaded, and by “title” given to each image by the user in the ‘add media’ window.

    A “sort” option would make it a lot easier to find and delete old images so that an updated image could be substituted and thus save memory usage.

  4. After struggling for a day and a half and not much help from Google, I landed here and tried the Force Regenerate Thumbnails plugin. Media library has roared back into life! Many thanks.

    • I had the same experience as Narayan. Deactivated plugins, went back to previous versions of plugins and WordPress, reinstalled a backup and nothing worked. Many thanks to this plugin for solving the issue!

  5. I have an even stranger issue. WordPress is running on IIS / Windows 2012 Enterprise Server with MySQL backend. I have no problems seeing the images in the media library when connected and within our corporate network but can’t see anything when connected and using outside network. This is strange…

    • Hi Larry, it seems this is something related to your corporate network. Maybe there is a firewall or else which is causing your issue. We recommend that you contact your hosting company or system administrator for further analysis.

  6. Hi, I recently updated a plugin and now I cannot see any pictures in the media library. They are all gray. I already contacted my hosting provider, but they don’t know what to do. Can you help me please to solve this issue?

    • Hi Lynda, since your issue started after the plugin update, it’s very likely related to the particular plugin. What you can do is disable the plugin and then check again. If that doesn’t help, then you could do some further troubleshooting and perform the steps from the article to possibly solve your issue with the gray images in the media library.

  7. Hello, I moved a site to another host and since then I can’t upload files nor see some of the files that where on my site. I do have a library folder plugin which is also acting a bit off. I ran your whole article and see no change. Two questions, why would the hosting matter and what can be done about it? What does (and do you recommend) disable and re-active plugins do exactly?

    • Hi Mike, hosting matters a lot, especially if not configured correctly. Also when moving your site to another host, there are lots of things that can go wrong. In your case it seems there possibly is an issue with file permissions on the server or the files just aren’t there. It probably would make sense to contact your hosting company for further analysis.

      Regarding the question about disabling plugins. This is a common way of troubleshooting WordPress sites. One of the most common reasons for issues on WordPress sites are plugins that are causing a conflict. That means by disabling plugins, you can quickly check if there is a plugin conflict on your site or not. Here you can learn more: Troubleshooting in WordPress.

  8. My WordPress problem is entirely different. The images appear on the website, but they don’t show up when I share the link on social media. The preview is just blank. Also, when I copy the image / media link and paste it in the browser, it goes to 404. May I know the solution for this too?

    • Hi Syed, if the images aren’t accessible when you copy & paste their URL in the browser, then it’s very likely that the images either don’t exist anymore on the server or they are blocked somehow. You could contact your hosting company with this issue for further analysis.

      The reason why you still may see the images when visiting your website could be that the images are cached or maybe there is a CDN involved as well. This requires further analysis.

  9. Thanks for the solution! Finally, I tried the last solution and it worked as a charm… I’ve tried to change the permission for each files, but it didn’t work.

  10. Hello, I would like to know if this regenerate plugin works automatically for all posts I made or has it to be used manually whenever a blank thumbnail box shows up in the media library.

    • Hi Jay, this is up to you. The Force Regenerate Thumbnails plugin either allows to regenerate thumbnails for all images on your site or you can do this for specific thumbnails only.

  11. I battled with the issue of an unseen thumbnail for many days, trying to delete files, re-upload them, re-name them, and every trick that came to mind. I tried so long on this that I finally just realized that it wasn’t worth the battle, so I gave up and felt pretty defeated (and confused as heck).

    I decided to come back to the issue a few days later with a Google search, and I came across this article. The “Force Regenerate Thumbnails” plugin was incredibly simple to use, and I wish I would have found it earlier in the process. The problem was solved within seconds of installing!

    Thanks for the tip!

  12. My solution turned out to be a bit different, but this article got me on the right track. I had made a copy of my WordPress installation to prep it for transfer to an existing domain. Everything seemed to be working properly, but when I uploaded new images they were grayed out.

    When I went into Settings => Media, I realized that the upload dialogue was still saving images to the old file location. So, I updated that to the new folder, deleted the images, and re-uploaded them. Everything’s fine now. Thanks!

  13. I had the same problem after migration to a new server. I did everything above, nothing worked. THEN I noticed in “Settings => Media” that the path to store uploads was an older folder. I changed that and it fixed the problem. Noting: New uploads working fine, I had to FTP images in the older folder to the new folder path.

  14. All images (jpg, png) in media library display as gray boxes. Images in pages or posts from the media library will not display at all in edit mode or in view mode. Also, images for additional WordPress themes are only gray boxes.

    Image files (originals and thumbnails) are in uploads directory by year month. Download of files will display properly. Upload of new jpg will generate thumbnails but will not display in media lib or edit or view pages/posts.

    Images have (apparently) correct URL. However, if I use an address for a jpg from another website, that image displays properly in page/post. Followed procedure a couple of times, without change. Host cannot find any issues or errors on server. Only have a few jpg/png but was planning to add more over time now stuck. This looked most like my problem, but issues of even themes not displaying seems new/different.

    • Hi David, if none of the suggestions from the article or from the comments here have solved your issue, then it’s very likely an issue at your hosting company, even if they say that it isn’t.

  15. It looks like there is a redirect loop that’s causing this issue on one of the sites I manage. While this does come under the umbrella of “an issue at your hosting company”, it might be helpful to some if you add this to your list of potential causes.

    • Dear Hannah, I am facing a similar issue and I was unable to solve it using the steps above. So I would like to explore your suggestion. Could you please explain what you mean with “there is a redirect loop that’s causing this issue”. Thank you. Luis

  16. Hi all, I am facing a similar issue that appeared after changing a relative path for a figure in sidebar-home.php in my WordPress theme. After this change thumbnails went blank in the media library and are not visible at all in the site pages.

    I put everything back in sidebar-home.php to no avail. I also tried to change my theme and even removing it but images still don’t show up. I tried also all the above steps with no success. Can someone help? Thank you in advance. Luis

    • Hi Luis, if your issue even remains after restoring the original codebase of your WordPress theme, then you could try to disable your plugins and clear the cache on your site to see if that helps. If it doesn’t help, then you could contact your hosting company and ask them to restore a backup from before your issue occured.

  17. Hi all, take a look at the .htaccess file in ../wp_content/uploads! Some plugins (in my case Membership 2) create this file to protect the media library. I can say a bit too much! Removing the file (or, better, changing the instructions) makes the thumbnails in the media library all visible again… I hope this helps. Norberto

  18. If you do not wish to use a plugin (the plugin simply scales the images, and renames the thumbnails, putting them in the correct directory), you can ‘inspect’ any missing thumbnail by right clicking / inspect. The image directory will show in the editor, the trick is to click the arrows to see more coding to get to it.

    For instance, click the arrow next to … to get to … just to see your image “”. Look in the file manager, /wp-content/uploads/(year)/(number), in this case /uploads/2017/04 – notice anything missing? There is no ‘about-us-headshot-3-300×300.jpg’, there are only photos named ‘about-us-headshot-3’ for instance. All thumbnails are missing and need to be scaled.

    You can do so using cPanel image scaler, or some other software, and just rename the photos to be EXACTLY the name from ‘inspect’. In this instance, after scaling, I would rename photo ‘about-us-headshot-3-300×300.jpg’, and voila! One missing photo appears. So, up to you, use the plugin to do all of this for you? Or go through one by one and replace… Choices…

  19. The above ‘inspect’ was referencing clicking past the divs to get to the images, here is the correctly written HTML element you would click past:

    <div class="thumbnail">

    … just to get to:

    <img src="http://yourwebsite/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/about-us-headshot-3-300x300.jpg" draggable="false" alt="">

    Sorry, I forgot HTML boxes call actual written code, speaking of which, you guys should put a captcha on your entries!!

  20. FYI, I had this problem recently and the solution was that the .htaccess file got screwed up after I’d moved the WPress folder within my directory structure. The solution is to backup the .htaccess, delete it, and regenerate it by going to Settings => Permalinks and hitting save.

  21. Same problem here. I tried all these solutions but none of them worked for me. I contacted my host provider and they say it is not a server permissions issue. I feel totally lost and do not know what to do.

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