How To Open ARW Files

Unsure of how to open, process and convert Sony ARW image files? This guide covers software, free tools, steps to follow and more.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at how to open an ARW file as well as cover what they actually are.

Most digital cameras have the ability to capture images in both JPEG and RAW formats – we’ll explain those in a just little bit.

Each camera brand has its own type of RAW specifications for capturing maximum image quality.

Sony RAW files are known as ARW which actually represents the Sony Alpha Raw file extension.

In this article, I’m going to give you clear guidance on how to open Sony RAW images. This way, you can access the highest quality images from your camera and edit them successfully.

Plus, I’ll supply a handy glossary so you can get familiar with the technical terms of this common image format.


ARW files are the RAW image files created by Sony Alpha cameras. Lightroom or Photoshop will automatically open files of this type, as will Windows Photos. On Mac, Preview will let you view but not edit ARW, so use Adobe Camera Raw. Raw.pics.io is another great free tool to open and convert ARW images.

What is an ARW File?


If you’re a photographer working with Sony ARW files, you’re going to need to know a little bit about them. That way you’ll easily recognise them, access them and open them, and most importantly, edit them into amazing images.

Before we cover ARW, a quick lesson on file extensions.

Digital files generally have a file extension attached to the end of their name. For example, maybe you’ve received a document via email with a .pdf extension at the end.

In photography, there’s a large range of file extensions with the most common being .jpg or JPEG.

The file extension defines the type of file it is and what software will support it. Today, most digital cameras will produce both JPEG images and some form of RAW image file.

JPEG images are easy to open with most standard computer operating systems. However, RAW files are more complicated and often need specialty software.

Any RAW image file contains uncompressed image data, making it a much larger file with a huge level of data, detail and resolution.

And, just like the early days of memory cards, most camera brands have developed their own RAW format. As a result, we need photo management and editing software that can handle all the different RAW file types.

It would have been so much easier if they’d all just agreed to the one file format – but here we are!

If you have a Sony digital camera, it uses a specific Sony RAW format known as ARW. (Canon uses CR2, Nikon uses NEF and Fuji RAF.)

An image with the ARW file type actually stands for Sony Alpha Raw – not that this makes any sense to me. ARW images use information similar to TIFF image formats. As a result, the Sony image sensor and processor capture all the image data and save it using TIFF specifications.

It’s important to know that, like most RAW images, those in the ARW file format are not compressed and hold a large amount of image data. The more data there is, the more you can achieve with the post-processing of images.

(If you want to download and practice editing some Sony RAW photos, click here.)

Let’s take a look at how you can manage and access your Sony images. But before we do, here is a quick reference glossary to help you understand all the important terms.

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Important Terms

ARW – This stands for Sony Alpha Raw and represents the RAW files produced by a Sony Alpha camera. The ARW format files are uncompressed and much larger in size, making them easy to edit but challenging to store. You need an ARW file viewer to open these files—some of which are opensource.

JPEG – This stands for, and was named by, the Joint Photographic Experts Group and has the file extension .jpg. These files are the most common for images and are compressed to be smaller in data size.

RAW – This is the general format of images captured by digital cameras. RAW files have had no compression or changes made to them. RAW images contain all the data that the camera image sensor and processor captured when the photo was taken. You need a dedicated RAW photo viewer, or program that recognizes the format, to open these files.

TIFF – This stands for Tagged Image File Format and represents a style or format of file types. ARW files are based on the TIFF specifications.

HEIC – This stands for High Efficiency Image Container. HEIC files take up half the space of other image file formats, even JPGS.

PDF – This stands for Portable Document File, and it’s very common with documents that are not modifiable.

DNG – This stands for Digital Negative Graphics and is an Adobe digital photo format. The Adobe Camera Raw application turns RAW images into DNG to make them easier to work with in Photoshop.

PNG – PNG stands for Portable Network Graphics. These files use a lossless compression format optimised for RAW file editing.

Lightroom – Adobe Lightroom is a RAW image editing and management software solution. It’s a very powerful tool with a huge range of editing options to enhance your photos. To edit ARW files, Lightroom is a great tool to use.

Photoshop – Adobe Photoshop is a software solution used to manage the graphical aspects of image editing. Photoshop is very popular with professional photographers and those who are into graphic design.

Adobe – This is the company that makes Photoshop, Lightroom as well and a range of image editing tools for desktop and mobile. They’re considered to be one of the best in the industry.

Common Questions about ARW Files

How to open and convert ARW raw image file arw - photo gallery view

There are both complicated and exceptionally easy ways that you can go about opening and viewing an ARW file.

If you already have access to either Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop, opening them is a breeze.

These applications are available for both Windows and Mac. There are other options for Sony RAW image file editing software that are both free and paid.

We will cover Lightroom in a minute, but with Photoshop, you need to first use the Adobe Camera Raw application to view an ARW. This will convert the ARW file into something more manageable like a JPEG, DNG or PNG.

Adobe products are powerful but only available via an expensive subscription service. Let’s look at some other options.

How do I open ARW Files on a Mac?

If you’re working with a Mac, then opening an ARW file is pretty straightforward.

Simply double-clicking on the file or opening it with Preview will allow you to view but not edit the images. Nor does Preview allow you to save them to a different file type or change the file extension.

As mentioned, Adobe has the Adobe Camera Raw application, and fortunately, this is free software available for Mac.

With this software, you can convert ARW images into JPEG, DNG or PNG file formats. This makes them much easier to edit and manage in less powerful editing applications.

It is that easy to open ARW files on Mac.

How do I open ARW Files on Windows?

If you’re using Windows, then you can just as easily open and view your ARW images.

Simply use the included Microsoft Windows Photos or Windows Live Photo Gallery to open the images. Keep in mind though that you may need to update your Windows software with a Sony RAW Driver first.

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There are other apps that you can download to manage your ARW files, such as File Viewer Lite. This is a free tool designed to open a wide range of file types, including ARW.

An alternative is to open your pics with an online image viewer and conversion platform. Some will let you view images, and others will take it a step further to let you edit and convert the file type too.

One such example is the raw.pics.io site – a simple-to-use platform for viewing your RAW files.

Can Lightroom open ARW Files?

Yes. In fact, Adobe Lightroom is probably the simplest way to both open and edit your ARW images.

Lightroom is a powerful image editing and file management solution that most professional photographers use. How to edit ARW files in Lightroom is quite easy too.

Adobe products are available on a monthly subscription service and include Lightroom and Photoshop. These applications are available for both desktop and mobile.

How to open arw files in Lightroom is a lot easier than you think.

Lightroom is developed to recognise almost every camera brand, camera and lens. Plus, they recognise the different colour-profiles of each camera brand.

What’s more, it instantly recognises almost every image file type and opens them accordingly.

This way, when you download your photos from a Sony digital camera or memory card to your computer, Lightroom will quickly open them ready for editing.

It is that easy to open ARW in Lightroom.

How do I convert an ARW file to JPEG and other file formats?

As we’ve discovered, there are many applications and platforms for viewing ARW images.

Fortunately, most of these will also allow you to convert your files into different file types.

By changing a file to a different type, you can edit the images with less powerful software. Being able to save your ARW image into a JPG or DNG is ideal for this kind of situation.

The raw.pics.io website is a perfect tool for viewing and converting an ARW file to a JPG. It’s free and available online. Other ARW to JPG converter tools like this one can be found by searching Google.

Another alternative is the Adobe DNG Converter – another free tool that converts ARW to DNG.

Also, some digital camera manufacturers develop their own RAW file converters specific to their file types.

For example, Fujifilm has Fujifilm X Raw Studio, and Canon has Digital Photo Professional. Sony has the Sony Imaging Edge application to open images in the ARW file format, and it’s free to download.

Regardless of what operating system you’re using, there are a number of solutions for viewing, converting and saving your ARW files.

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  1. Disappointed on August 3, 2023 at 3:20 pm

    1) ARW *cannot* be opened with Preview on MacOS.
    2) Adobe Camera Rawis *not* a “free application” that can open ARW on Mac. It’s a plug-in for Adobe Photoshop.

    0 out of 10 for this article (does thew writer even own a Mac?)

    • Mark Condon on August 11, 2023 at 7:27 am

      Yep, I own a Mac – ACR is indeed not free, so I’ve corrected that (thanks for pointing it out), but Preview (and Quick Look) both open ARW files. Maybe you need to update your MacOS?

  2. David on July 14, 2022 at 4:17 pm

    Need this explanation for a web design project since the photographer gave the photos to us in ARW. Still haven’t found a quick workaround on a mac, says image format is not supported.

  3. Ziggy on April 7, 2022 at 5:51 pm

    For info: File Viewer Lite won’t open Sony A1 lossless compressed.

  4. Eden on July 29, 2021 at 6:21 am

    How does your preview show the ARW files?
    which version do you have?

  5. Barbara on July 24, 2021 at 12:32 pm

    PS: Preview will not open the ARW files either.

  6. Barbara on July 24, 2021 at 12:30 pm

    Lightroom can’t open my ARW files. What dod I need to do please?
    Have tried downloading bAdobe Camera raw as suggested above but cannot find it on my. iMac.

    No problem with jpegs.

  7. Russian on June 6, 2021 at 10:25 am

    this little program 7.43mb help to see photos in ARW format on windows photo
    Original sony program was about 6,5mb but it is not support anymore. best luck

  8. Roy on March 29, 2021 at 12:05 am

    Thank you for this excellent article. I’m looking for recommendations on a specific issue with Sony a9 ARW files. I have a 2020 MacbookPro w/ latest update to “BigSur”. Typically the ARW files from the a9 download and process correctly in “photos”. When I shoot in APS-C (crop mode) I’m unable to download and edit the files. The thumbnail displays prior to import, but the image is blank and unable to open. The a9 has the latest firmware (6.00) and I have tried the APS-C/Super 35mm setting in all three positions (On, AUTO, and Off) with the same results-note a9 only has 3 choices and not a separate (AUTO-Manual) selection. Any thoughts on a solution or where to search for a solution? Thanks in advance.

    • Greg Cromie on March 29, 2021 at 10:58 am

      Hi Roy and thanks for your questions. That sounds like a nasty problem. I don’t believe the issue to be with the mode you are shooting in – at least it shouldn’t be. I have done a little reading on forums and there have been historical issues with MacOS not correctly recognising Sony a9 ARW files. While I couldn’t find anything specific to your problem, all forum discussions usually ended with a recommendation to contact Apple Support.

      Before you do that, I did find this help page from Apple about ensuring that your Photos library is refreshed. Check that out but then I recommend contacting Apple support:


      Best of luck with the fix. Cheers. G

  9. Z on February 14, 2021 at 7:54 am

    Wondering if I can get any help…..my MacBook randomly stopped previewing the ARW files and now says that it currently does not support this raw file format…I have not updated my MacBook. The only change I can think of is that I downloaded the Sony image edge app then deleted it and after I did that I lost the ability to preview the files with preview.. and help to get it back to normal would be great !!

    • Greg Cromie on February 15, 2021 at 3:15 pm

      Hi Z, That sounds like a real pain. I would probably recommend uninstalling preview and then reinstalling with the latest updates. Or, just run an update on your Mac OS. That may or may not resolve the issue. The only other option is to download Adobe Camera Raw which is free. Best of luck. G

  10. Rohit on February 4, 2021 at 6:14 pm

    Very articulate manner of explaining what is essentially a simple issue but complicated by unnecessary jargon. Thank you for this article !

    • Greg Cromie on February 5, 2021 at 7:27 am

      Hi Rohit. Thanks for the great feedback. Cheers. G

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