A red book with the word heic on it.

HEIC Files: What They Are, How To Open & Convert Them

Unravel the world of the HEIC image file format, from what exactly they are to how to open or convert HEIC files, in one comprehensive beginner's guide.

HEIC files are a common image format that offer a great balance of image quality and compression.

In fact, HEICs take up half the space of other image file formats like JPEGs!

You might have noticed the HEIC file format while accessing images from your smartphone.

If you’re wondering exactly what HEIC files are, how to open them, or how to convert them to other file formats, this guide can help you out.

We’ll also look at the pros and cons of HEIC files and answer all your burning questions about this popular file format.

Let’s go!

What is a HEIC File?


Have you ever taken a photo, marveled at its clarity, and then gasped at its small file size? Welcome to the world of HEIC files.

HEIC stands for High Efficiency Image Container. Sounds fancy, right?

Essentially, it’s a way to store photos that need less space but still look fantastic.

Imagine squishing your favorite cake into a tiny box without ruining it. That’s HEIC for images.

HEIC primarily uses the ‘.heic’ extension, but you might also come across ‘.heif’. Both are parts of the HEIF family. (HEIF stands for High Efficiency Image Format.)

While ‘.heic’ often refers to individual images, ‘.heif’ can sometimes be used more broadly, including for sequences or animations.

How Does the HEIC File Format Differ From Other Formats Like JPEG and PNG?

Now, JPEG has been our trusty photo buddy for decades. And PNG? Well, it’s been the go-to for transparent backgrounds.

But here’s the twist: HEIC can compress photos even better than JPEG, without losing much quality. So, you get tiny file sizes but still crisp photos.

As for PNG, while the HEIC file format supports transparency, it might still be a while before HEIC completely overshadows PNG in that domain.

Who Created the HEIC File Format and Why?

The HEIC format wasn’t just a random creation. It was developed by the experts at the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG). You know, the same folks responsible for some other major digital media standards.

With the surge in smartphones, tablets, and digital cameras, the world was suddenly capturing billions of photos every day.

These photos consumed vast storage spaces, and with device storage being a premium, there was a pressing need to innovate.

Through the creation of HEIC image files, MPEG aimed to modernize image storage for the new age, ensuring that high-quality photos could be stored without hogging all the precious space on our devices.

What Are HEIC Files Used For?

A woman taking a photo of a woman in a clothing store.

Credit: Ron Lach

Major players, especially Apple, started using HEIC in their newer devices. Why? It’s simple: store more photos, use less space.

If you’re using an iPhone running iOS 11 or later, by default, your camera snaps HEIC images.

But don’t worry, these can easily be converted if you need to share with someone on a different device or platform (more on that below).

Beyond our daily selfies and pet pictures, HEIC is making waves in the professional world too.

Photographers and designers appreciate the balance it offers between size and quality.

It’s like having a lightweight camera that delivers heavyweight performance.

While it hasn’t fully replaced formats like RAW in professional settings, it’s definitely gaining traction.

Pros and Cons of HEIC Files

Every format has its benefits and its quirks. Let’s break down where HEIC images excel and where they might trip you up a bit.


  • Efficiency: HEIC files can store high-quality images at nearly half the size of JPEGs, freeing up valuable storage space on devices.
  • Advanced Compression: The format uses advanced compression algorithms so images don’t lose much detail, even when significantly compressed.
  • Multiple Images in One File: One HEIC file can hold a series of images, which is ideal for things like burst photos or Apple’s Live Photos.
  • Rich Metadata: HEIC can store a lot more than just pictures. Things like location, time, camera settings, and even image edits can be saved right within the file.
  • Transparency Support: Just like PNGs, HEIC files can handle transparent backgrounds, giving designers more flexibility.


  • Compatibility: While growing in popularity, HEIC isn’t universally supported. Some devices or platforms might not recognize or display these files without a converter or special software.
  • Conversion Hurdles: If you need to share a HEIC image with someone on a platform that doesn’t support it, you might have to convert it first, which can be an extra step.
  • Potential Quality Loss: While HEIC offers great compression, over-compressing can lead to some loss in image quality, especially when compared to uncompressed formats like RAW.
  • Limited Software Support: Not all image editing tools or viewers have embraced HEIC yet.

How to Open HEIC Files on My Computer

A photo of a lake with mountains in the background.

Here’s how to open and view HEIC files on Windows or Mac.

Open HEIC Files on Windows 10:

  1. Check for Updates: Ensure your Windows 10 is updated to the latest version.
  2. Get the HEIC Extension: Go to the Microsoft Store and search for “HEIF Image Extensions.” Install this free extension.
  3. Open the File: After installing the extension, you can double-click any HEIC file to open it using the Windows Photos app.

Open HEIC Files on macOS:

  1. Update Your macOS: Ensure you’re running macOS High Sierra or later. These versions natively support HEIC.
  2. Open the File: Simply double-click the HEIC file, and it will open in the Preview app.

Open HEIC Files on Older Windows or Other Operating Systems:

  1. Download a Viewer: Get a third-party viewer like ‘IrfanView’ or ‘CopyTrans’ that supports HEIC files.
  2. Install and Open: After installation, open the viewer, and use it to view your HEIC files.

Tip: If all else fails, you can always convert the HEIC file to a more universally accepted format like JPEG using online converters. Converted files will retain most of the image quality, at least to the naked eye. You should also read up on how to change HEIC to JPG.

How to Edit a HEIC File Using Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop preferences

Adobe Photoshop allows you to view HEIC images and work with HEIC images seamlessly, whether you’re on a Mac or Windows.

Let’s dive into the process.

How to Open HEIC files on Photoshop on Mac:

  1. Launch your Photoshop application and navigate to Edit, then Preferences. Within this, choose Camera Raw.
  2. Now, locate the File Handling tab.
  3. Within the section labeled ‘JPEG and TIFF Handling’, you have two options. Select either Automatically open JPEGs and HEICs with settings or Automatically open all supported JPEGs and HEICs from the provided list.
  4. With these settings in place, you’re all set to open and modify your HEIC photos just as you would with any other file format, then save them in another compatible format.

How to Open HEIC files on Photoshop on Windows Computer:

  1. Begin by fetching the HEIC and HEVC support tools available in the Microsoft Store.
  2. Once downloaded, give Photoshop a quick restart.
  3. With that done, you can easily import your HEIC images into the application.
  4. Feel free to dive into editing directly. If needed, you can also opt for Save As to transform the HEIC file into another preferred format.

Can I Deactivate HEIC Format on My Phone?


The HEIC format, known for its space-saving efficiency, is the default image format on many modern devices, especially iPhones.

However, there are times when one might prefer the more universally compatible JPEG.

If you’re using an iPhone and want to deactivate the HEIC format, navigate to Settings, then Photos. Under the ‘Transfer to Mac or PC’ section, select ‘Automatic’.

This ensures that photos are automatically converted to JPEG when transferring, and when saving directly to your device, the JPEG format is retained.

Alternatively, you can change your camera app settings to save photos as JPEG files instead of HEIC. Navigate to Settings > Camera > Formats and select ‘Most Compatible’ instead of ‘High Efficiency’.

For Android users, the process varies depending on the brand and model of the phone.

Generally, you’d go to the Camera app settings and look for the image format or saving options.

If HEIC is activated, there would typically be an option to change it to JPEG or another format.

How to Convert HEIC Files



There are moments when you might need a photo in a different format than HEIC, so let’s look at how to convert HEIC files into other formats.

  • Online Converters: There are numerous online platforms, like ‘HEICtoJPEG’ or ‘CloudConvert’, where you can upload your HEIC files and get them converted to various formats. It’s quick, but always be cautious about uploading sensitive or private images to the web.
  • Dedicated Software: For those dealing with HEIC files regularly, it might be worth downloading dedicated conversion software. Programs like ‘iMazing’ or ‘Aiseesoft HEIC Converter’ can be efficient for batch conversions.
  • Built-in Converters: Some devices, especially iPhones, have settings that allow you to automatically convert HEIC to JPEG when transferring them to a non-Apple device.

How to Maintain Quality During Conversion:

  • High-Resolution Selection: Whether online or offline, always choose the highest resolution or quality setting available during conversion. This ensures the least amount of data loss.
  • Lossless Conversion: Some tools offer lossless conversion. While this might result in a larger file size compared to lossy conversion, it ensures that the image quality remains untouched.
  • Regularly Update Software: Conversion tools get better over time. Regular updates can ensure you’re getting the best quality conversions with the latest algorithms.

How do I Convert HEIC Files to JPEG?

  1. Online Converters: Visit websites like ‘HEICtoJPEG’ or ‘CloudConvert’. Upload your HEIC file and select JPEG as the desired format. Once converted, download your JPEG file.
  2. Using Software: If using software like ‘iMazing’, open the software, drag in your HEIC files, select JPEG as the output format, and start the conversion process.
  3. iPhone Direct Conversion:
    • Go to Settings on your iPhone.
    • Navigate to Photos.
    • Under the ‘Transfer to Mac or PC’ section, select ‘Automatic’. This ensures photos are automatically converted to JPEG when transferring.

HEIC Files: Frequently Asked Questions

Why do my photos become HEIC instead of JPG?

Modern devices, especially iPhones running iOS 11 and newer, use HEIC as the default format because it offers better compression and quality than JPG.

Are there any security concerns with HEIC files?

As with any file type, HEIC files themselves aren’t inherently insecure. However, always be cautious of files from unknown sources, as malware can be embedded in any format.

Are HEIC files universally supported?

No, not yet. While HEIC is gaining traction, especially with Apple’s adoption, not all devices or platforms support it natively.

Does Windows 10 support HEIC?

Yes, but with a caveat. Windows 10 introduced support for HEIC, but you might need to download a free codec from the Microsoft Store to view and work with HEIC files.

What’s the difference between HEIC files and HEIF image extensions?

HEIC and HEIF are closely related terms in the context of image file formats.

HEIF (High Efficiency Image Format, or High Efficiency File Format) is a file format for storing individual images and image sequences.

HEIC is the file extension that Apple chose for their implementation of HEIF. In other words, when you see a “.heic” file, it’s an image saved in the HEIF format

HEIC and the HEIF image extension are often used interchangeably, but HEIF is the overarching file format and the HEIC image extension is a specific implementation of that format, most commonly associated with Apple devices.

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