Step-by-Step Guide to Fix Thumbnail Stuck on Mac Desktop

Quick Fix

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Finder is a macOS feature that lets you manage files and folders on your computer. You can use it to organize your files and easily move them to different folders by dragging and dropping.

When you migrate a file to a different folder, it should be completely removed from the original folder and copied to the new one. But some Mac users reported seeing copies of the file thumbnails stuck on the screen after moving the files to a different folder.

This problem affects all types of files but happens more often to pictures. Once they are transferred to a different folder using Finder, their thumbnails get stuck on the Mac Desktop or their original folder and won’t go away even if Finder has been closed. These “ghost” thumbnails appear on top of any app the user is using, which looks just weird.

This error has caused a lot of frustration for the affected Mac users, and Apple has yet to comment on the issue. The problem of image thumbnails getting stuck on the Desktop screen is not a critical issue that would affect your system processes, but it can be annoying having these “ghost” thumbnails floating around.

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The most frustrating thing about this problem is that you can’t delete or move them to the Trash. The problem of image thumbnails getting stuck on the screen can be caused by different elements, including:

  • Corrupted Finder preferences
  • Temporary system glitches
  • Malicious software

To get rid of these “ghost” thumbnails, we need to cover all the bases so the problem won’t return. Follow our guide below if you’re being plagued by image thumbnails stuck on your Mac Desktop screen.

How to Fix Image Thumbnail Stuck on Screen

When a thumbnail is stuck on the Mac Desktop, the other elements of the Desktop are not affected, so you can easily fix the problem using simple troubleshooting methods.

Step 1: Relaunch Finder.

Your first course of action would be to close Finder and restart it. You can simply close Finder by right-clicking its icon on the Dock, then choosing Relaunch from the menu.

If the problem persists after relaunching using this method, you can try this method instead:

  1. In Finder, head to Go > Utilities, then click on Terminal.
  2. In the Terminal window, enter the following command, then hit Return:

rm – fR ~/Library/Saved\ Application\ State/ ~/Library/Caches/; killall Finder
mv ~/Library/Preferences/{,.backup}.plist; killall Finder

  1. Close the Terminal after executing this command.

Relaunch Finder by clicking its icon on the Dock and check if the thumbnails have gone away. This method is temporary because there is a huge chance that the issue could happen when you drag files from the Desktop again. To completely get rid of the problem, follow the succeeding steps below.

Step 2: Delete Finder Preferences.

If the image thumbnails are still stuck on the screen after restarting Finder, the next step is to remove the Finder .plist file to delete its preferences.

To reset Finder’s settings, follow the steps below:

  1. Click on Finder, then hold the Option key to reveal the Library folder.
  2. Inside the Library folder, look for Preferences.
  3. Find the .plist files with “Finder” in their filenames, such as:
    • apple.finder.plist
    • apple.sidebarlists.plist
  4. Move these files to the Trash, then relaunch Finder to check whether the thumbnails are gone.

Step 3: Delete Junk Files.

After deleting Finder’s preferences, the next step is to get rid of other elements that might be interfering with your computer processes. Uninstall apps that are not being used and delete the files associated with them.

You should also delete cached data, temporary files, old downloads, and other unnecessary junk from your system using Mac repair app.

Step 4: Disable Look Up & Data Detectors Option.

Some users found that disabling the data detector option works for them. Data detectors allow users to use gestures on the Trackpad as shortcuts for manipulating apps on macOS. For example, you can set a swiping gesture to launch Mail or Calendar without needing to click the app from the Dock.

To disable this option:

  1. Click on Start, then select System Preferences from the Apple menu.
  2. Choose Trackpad, then click on the Point & Click tab.
  3. Uncheck the Look up & data detectors setting.

Close the window and restart your Mac to see if the “ghost” thumbnails no longer appear on your Desktop.

Step 5: Reset NVRAM.

The non-volatile random-access memory or NVRAM stores temporary macOS settings, including display preferences. If there is something wrong with your screen, resetting the NVRAM should fix these issues.

To reset NVRAM, follow these instructions:

  1. Turn off your Mac, then turn it back on by pressing the Power button.
  2. Press this keyboard combination immediately after switching on: Option + Command + P + R.
  3. Release the keys after 15-20 seconds or when you hear the second startup chime.
  4. Continue booting as normal.

After resetting the NVRAM, check whether the thumbnails are still stuck on your Desktop.


The issue of image thumbnails getting stuck on the screen is annoying because they can’t be deleted the normal way. To get rid of these thumbnails, simply follow our step-by-step guide above. These steps should also prevent the issue from recurring.

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Larry Barnes
5 months ago

You solved my problem.. Thanks

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