Since iOS 11 (which was released in September 2017), HEIC has been the default way to save photos on iPhones and iPads. There are a few good reasons for the switch from JPG, chief among which is to reduce file sizes. However, HEIC can also store multiple photos (from a burst sequence, say) in a single file.
Android 9 (Pie) also added support for this high-efficiency format, and it can be worth using it if your phone doesn't already save photos in this modern format.
The drawback is that you'll probably find you cannot open these files after transferring them to you laptop or PC. Microsoft added HEIC (and HEIF) support in version 1809 (the October 2018 update), but even if you computer is running the latest version of Windows you may still have to install a couple of things (and pay actual money) before the native Windows Photos app will open these files and let you view them.
TIP: you can find out which version of Windows your computer is running by typing winver into the Windows search box, next to the Start button, then pressing Enter.
However, this is not your only option. Here we'll explain how to:
- Install the extensions and open HEIC files in Windows
- Convert HEIC files to JPG (for free) so you can open them
- Transfer photos from your iPhone in a more compatible format
- Stop your iPhone saving photos in HEIC format
How to open an HEIC file in Windows 10
Make sure you have Windows 10 version 1809 or later. If the version is below 1809 (which is very unlikely), then open the Settings app and go to Update & Security > Windows Update.
Next, you need to install the support utility, available on the Microsoft Store as HEIF Image Extensions. This should be free, but it may already be installed on your device.
Now, click the following link to get the HEVC Video Extensions. This will cost you £0.79/US$0.99, but it is required along with HEIF support - unfortunately Microsoft doesn't make this clear in the HEIF Extensions listing.
You used to be able to get this for free using the identical Device Manufacturer version, but since October 2020 it's only available if you redeem an eligible code.
See more on opening H.265 videos in our separate guide on how to install HEVC codecs on Windows.
For both tools, click the 'Get' button and wait for the software to be installed.
Now, you should find that double-clicking on an .heic file will open it in the default Windows 10 Photos app. If not, you should see a window similar to the one below where you can click on the Photos app and tick the box marked: Always use this app to open .HEIC files.
How to convert HEIC to JPG
If you have installed the HEIF and HEVC extensions mentioned above, you will find that when you open an HEIC file it will behave a lot like a JPG file. You can edit it as normal using the tools available in the Photos app, but you'll also notice that even if you don't make any changes after clicking on the 'Edit & Create' button at the top right, there's a blue 'Save a copy' button at the bottom which lets you re-save the photo in your preferred format, including JPG.
That method is fine if you want to convert the occasional photo, but there are far easier ways of batch converting a lot of photos to JPG
There are quite a few free apps including
If you want more control, such as the level of JPG compression, file renaming and more, then check out Duckhead's HEIC to JPG - The HEIC Image Converter on the Microsoft Store.
Below is iMazing converter, a small app that lets you drag and drop files and choose whether to convert them to JPG or PNG, as well as the output folder.
Apple users can easily convert an HEIC file to JPEG on a Mac.
How to make your iPhone transfer photos as JPG instead of HEIC
If you don't want to convert files in Windows, then there are various way to share those photos so they get converted to JPG automatically. To share photos, open the Photos app, tap Select at the top, pick the ones you want and then tap the share icon (bottom left) and choose an app or method to share them.
You could send them via email or upload to a cloud storage service. It's a bad idea to share via WhatsApp or other social media, as the photos are invariably reduced in quality.
When you choose to share via Mail you'll get to pick which size - always go for the original (maximum) file size if you want to retain the best quality.
And if you choose a cloud provider such as Google Drive, you should see that the files will be saved with a .jpeg extension.
How to stop your iPhone saving photos in HEIC format
Open the Settings app and scroll down until you see Camera. Tap it and then tap Formats (which is right at the top).
You'll see this screen, and you need to change it from High Efficiency to Most Compatible:
It's a similar story for videos, with H.265 files requiring a codec in order to open in certain apps. Learn more in our guide on how to install HEVC codecs on Windows.
What is a HEIC file?
If you copy photos from a recent iPhone or iPad to a PC or laptop, chances are you’ll see a lot of strange HEIC files:
The format was developed by MPEG - not Apple - so it's not Apple trying to do its own proprietary thing. In fact, HEIC is slowly usurping the established (but old and flawed) JPG format.
Images with a .heic are compressed using HEVC, which is the high-efficiency video codec. These images are then stored in a HEIF file, which stands for High Efficiency File Format
There are lots of benefits of using HEIF files, even if it is a bit confusing that the file is called HEIC rather than HEIF.
Here’s why HEIC files are great:
- Around half the size of JPG for the same quality
- Can store multiple photos in one file (ideal for Live Photos and bursts)
- Supports transparency like GIF files
- Can store image edits, such as cropping and rotating so you can undo them
- Support 16-bit colour vs JPG’s 8-bit
You might like to read our tips for taking better photos with your iPhone.