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It isn’t possible to delete an item’s thumbnail from the ArcCatalog user interface, however this can be accomplished using a simple VBA script.
Dim pGxApp As IGxApplication
Dim pGxObj As IGxObject
Dim pMD As IMetadata
Dim pXPS As IXmlPropertySet
Set pGxApp = Application
Set pGxObj = pGxApp.SelectedObject
Set pMD = pGxObj
Set pXPS = pMD.Metadata
pXPS.DeletePropertyByAttribute "EsriPropertyType", "Picture", True
pMD.Metadata = pXPS
If the thumbnail was created with ArcInfo 8.0.2, the thumbnail may reside within a Browse Graphic element that also contains a reference to an external graphic file that describes the dataset. To delete the thumbnail without deleting the other Browse Graphic information, change the Boolean parameter in the DeletePropertyByAttribute method from True to False.