HEIF image filesSo there you are, trying to view holiday photos and video from friends and family.

The files in question have the extension HEIF or HEIC, which you’ve never seen before.

No matter what you do, they just won’t open. They also don’t have a thumbnail preview in Explorer.

Right…

So how the heck do you view these things? And why aren’t they just simple JPEGs or MP4 files?

HEIF and HEIC

You might think HEIF files have something to do with cows, but alas, no…

HEIF stands for High Efficiency Image File, and HEIC files are HEIF files that use the HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) format.

In short, HEIF is a new image file format that’s about 2X smaller than JPEG, but with the same quality.

Some HEIF files use HEVC, which is a newish compressed video format.

HEIF image files are pretty cool, because they can contain transparent pixels, multiple frames like animated GIFs, and all kinds of other nifty features.

That’s nice and all, but…

How do I view the dang things?

On Windows 10, first you need to install the HEIF Image Extension. It’s free!

Now, most likely, that’s not going to work. The HEIF extension reviews are full of people complaining that they still can’t view HEIF files even after installing it.

On the HEIF page on the Microsoft Store (just click More to read the note):

Images that are stored in HEIF files that have the .heic file extension are compressed using the HEVC format. Such files require the HEVC Video Extensions package to be installed as well. If the HEVC Video Extensions package is not installed, the HEIF Image Extension will not be able to read or write .heic files.

The reason that the HEIF extension alone isn’t enough is that most HEIF files you’ll encounter are from iPhones and iPads. iGizmos spit out HEIF files that use HEVC compression.

AHA!!! No wonder it doesn’t work…

So, you’ll also need to install the HEVC Video Extensions.

Now, this one is NOT free – it costs a whopping $0.99.

You’ll need to buy the HEVC Video Extensions and install it.

The good news is that if you have 2 puters, you won’t have to buy the HEVC Extensions twice! Just log in to the Microsoft Store on the 2nd puter with the same account, search for ‘HEVC’ again, and click Install.

That’s all, folks

That’s it.

You should now be able to view all HEIF and HEIC image files – and HEVC video files – in any Windows application that uses the native extensions you just installed.

That means Photos, the old Windows Photo Viewer, Paint.net, etc. will just work with HEIF files. You’ll also see thumbnails in Explorer.

Finally, because you installed the HEIF and HEVC extensions from the Microsoft Store, you’ll automatically get security updates and patches as both extensions are updated over time.

Happy New Year!!

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