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What is a HEIC file and how to open it

Easy to open and convert.
By
December 28, 2022

If you have an Apple device, you may have noticed that any pictures you take with the camera now come in a HEIC file format. Or maybe your Apple device-owning friend has sent you a HEIC image that you can’t open on your Windows machine. This is definitely annoying, but it’s not the end of the world. Here is what a HEIC image is and how to open them.

Read more: How to convert Apple HEIC to JPG

QUICK ANSWER

HEIC is an image format that was adopted by Apple in 2017 as their default preferred image file format with iOS 11. It produces superior image quality at half the size of an equivalent JPG image, but not all operating systems currently recognize HEIC. This has hindered its development and popularity.


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What is a HEIC file?

Comparison between JPEG and HEIF
Wikimedia

HEIC (also known as HEIF) is an image file format that was established back in 2015. However, it wasn’t really used until Apple adopted it as their standard file format in 2017 with iOS 11. A HEIC file is much more beneficial than a JPG file because it has the same picture and compression quality as a JPG image at half the size. If you are conscious about how much storage space is rapidly being eaten up on your device, this is a pretty big advantage to have.

Some operating systems, such as newer versions of Android and Linux, do recognize HEIC images. But others, such as Windows, require a third-party tool to either view them or convert them to JPG or PNG. If you intend to only keep the images on your Apple device, then HEIC is the much better option. If you intend to share them with other types of devices, it may be better to disable HEIC entirely and use JPG instead. At least until Windows recognizes HEIC natively without the need for third-party apps.

How to turn HEIC file settings on and off

Ideally, you should keep HEIC enabled on your Apple device, as there are definite advantages over JPG. However, if you are having trouble opening them on other operating systems, it may be prudent to switch back to JPG for the time being until HEIC becomes more widely adopted.

To enable or disable HEIC, go to Settings > Camera on your iOS device and tap Formats.

ios camera settings

High Efficiency is the HEIC format, and Most Compatible is JPG. Choose which one you prefer. You can obviously switch to and fro as much as you want. As it says on the screen, though, some video formats will immediately become inaccessible if you switch to Most Compatible.

ios camera heic

How to open a HEIC file on various operating systems

If you are opening the HEIC file on an Apple device, then simply click or tap to open it. Apple has instant recognition for HEIC, and you’ll never have any problems with it on their hardware. The fun and games start when you try to open HEIC images on Windows.

  • Windows — Open the HEIC image with the Photos app. However, you will then be told you need to install HEIF Image Extensions from the Microsoft Store. Once installed, you should then be able to open HEIC images in the Windows Photos app. The extension is not very highly rated though, so you may have to pay $3 to buy this better-rated one instead.
  • Android — you can view HEIC images by tapping on them in the Google Photos app.

Read more: How to save an image on a Mac

FAQs

It stands for High Efficiency Image Coding, which is part of HEIF (High Efficiency Image Format).

Far from it. When it comes to compression and image quality, HEIC is far superior to JPG. The only thing holding it back is that not all operating systems recognize it yet, apart from a few newer Android and Ubuntu versions.

Mainly because HEIC images are smaller in size than JPG and better quality. A HEIC image takes up only half the space of an equivalent high-quality JPG image.