Fix Missing Thumbnail Images in PSE Organizer

Organizer is a very useful photo management program that comes with Photoshop Element 9 and Photoshop Elements 8 and older for a PC (PSE 8 and older for Macs came with Adobe Bridge). There are a lot of things I really love about Organizer, although I will admit for a long while I did not use it as I should. If you have it, I recommend opening it up and getting familiar with it.

Now, if you have been using Organizer, but have moved files around via the Mac Finder or PC’s Windows Explorer, your thumbnail views in Organizer may get broken. If that happens, your images will have a generic thumbnail and a question mark like in the screen print below.


If you simply moved the files around and they are still on your internal hard drive, this is a simple fix. Highlight the broken thumbnails (hold down Shift and highlight the files, or hold down ‘Control’ or ‘Command’ on a Mac, and click on the thumbnails if they are not right next to each other) and go up to Edit in the menu bar and choose Update Thumbnails.

Organizer will search your folders for the exact file names and once it has found them, the thumbnails will appear. I moved files around via Lightroom, so I have many missing thumbnails and will be doing this step a lot.

Curious why I use both Organizer and Lightroom? Well, I really don’t. However, all my images were first in Organizer because that is what I had. Now I use Lightroom for my picture management, but I still show Organizer some in my workshops, so I need to keep it up too. It’s all good. 😉

About Amanda

I am passionate about helping others learn how to use their DSLR cameras and editing programs. More information about me can be found at my About page, or by visiting my personal blog.


  1. Amanda, Thanks for all your tutorials and tips. I use several actions in PSE 8, and some of the thumbnails in the effects palette are just black boxes. When I hold my cursor over them, I can read what action it is, but it would be nice to have the thumbnail photo there – any idea what I’m doing wrong when I download them?

  2. I first download my card onto my newly purchased external hard drive,now when I open images in pse7 it says missing file with the ? mark,I cant edit it until it locates the file and this takes so long how can I restore the way it worked before. I’ve never downloaded first to the ex hard drive is this whats messed me up? I did rename the file when it was downloading into the ehd,but I cant find that folder either. Ugh so frustrating!!

  3. Sandy McRuer says:

    I have to thank you for pointing me to the update thumbnails feature. Man. I was banging my head against wall for a long time after moving a lot of files from one hard drive to another. I finally found you by Googling “thumbnails elements organizer” and looking in the images for something resembling my problem. Then going to your page. Voila! Problem solved. Thank you.

  4. I get an hour glass symbol whenenver i first upload my pictures onto my computer. I have to double click each icon just to see what the picture is. It didn’t used to do this and i haven’t changed any settings. Suggestions?


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