High Efficiency Image File Format (HEIF) is an image and video file container that uses codecs like the High Efficiency Video Codec (HEVC) to significantly improve file compression, while still providing better image quality and additional benefits over older formats, such as JPEG, PNG, and GIF.

If you've never heard of this format, you're forgiven, because it's not until Apple started using HEIF to save photos on its products that the format began to gain popularity. (Google also supports HEIF since the release of Android P.)

Originally, Windows 10 didn't include native support for HEIF, but starting with the April 2018 Update, you can now open photos and videos wrapped in this file container. However, it's not a feature that comes enabled by default. Instead, you need to download and install two extensions to open HEIC images and videos encoded using HEVC (also known as H.265 and MPEG-H Part 2).

In this Windows 10 guide, we'll walk you through the steps to add support for HEIF to Windows 10, so you no longer have to convert HEIC to JPG anymore to view pictures taken with your iPhone or Android phone.

How to add HEIF support to Windows 10

Without the extensions, the Windows Photos app offers a link to get them from the Microsoft Store, but you'll be directed to a paid bundled extension. However, it's possible to get these packages for free with different Store links. Here's how:

  1. Use this Microsoft Store link to get the HEVC extension.
  2. Click the Install button.

  3. Use this Microsoft Store link to get the HEIF extension.
  4. Click the Install button.

While you may think that installing the HEIF codec will be enough to open this file format, you must also install both codecs in order to view images and play videos.

Once you complete these steps, Windows 10 and the Photos app will be able to read and write HEIF files, which are usually found with .heic, .heif, and .avci file extensions.

The only caveat about HEIF is that files using HEVC codecs requires modern hardware, such as Intel 7th Gen Core processors and newer graphics cards. Otherwise, the extension will not work as expected when playing videos.

Also, note that adding support for HEIF to Windows 10 doesn't necessarily mean you'll be able to open images and videos with any app. These extensions has been designed to work with the File Explorer and the Photos and Movies & TV apps.

If you need to remove these codecs, you'll need to uninstall them just like any other application from Settings > Apps > Apps & features.

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