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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!