Is your Windows computer no longer able to open image files from your Apple device?

iphone 11
HEIF/HEIC came in with the iPhone 11
We have been using the “jpg” format for images (particularly photographs) since 1992. This is a very long time for anything to last in the digital world. The term “jpg or jpeg” (pronounced “Jay Peg”) stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group, who created the standard (ie the “rules”) for jpg files.

The purpose of the standard was to create a commonly used method for compressing image files so that they took up less space. This is achieved by by trading off the quality of the image against the size of the file.

If you have a fairly new iPhone or iPad (IOS 11 or later) and transfer images to a Windows PC, then you may end up with a black image on the PC, with or without a warning message saying that the image format is “currently unsupported”.

What has happened is that Apple has introduced a new format for image files. This new format claims to retain the quality of JPG files while, at the same time, managing to compress them into smaller files. These files have a file extension (the bit after the dot in the filename) of HEIC or HEIF. Windows computers, however, do not natively support these new files. The new file formats have not supplanted the jpg format in the world outside of Apple devices.

There are two options for solving this problem:

1) Pay Microsoft for a utility that will allow the Windows PC to deal with the new files. It may only cost £0.79 but it seems a bit thick to charge for this.

Microsoft Store logo
Some Microsoft Store descriptions defy understanding
To buy the utility, open the Microsoft Store. Either click on the icon for this on your taskbar or click on the Start button and just start typing “Microsoft Store” until you are given the option to click on the app. Once in the app, search for “HEIF Image Extensions”. and buy the app. You don’t then have to open the app in order for it to display HEIF/HEIC files.

The description on the Store page comes out with some very confusing stuff about also buying the “HEVC video extension package”. I did not need to buy this to be able to view either HEIC images, or videos taken on my iPad, on my Windows PC, and think that this functionality is probably now contained in Windows 10/11.

The information given with apps on the Microsoft Store is sometimes very, very poor. I gave up trying to get a full understanding of the description relating to the HEIF Image Extensions. At some point a little while later, I got to an app in the store that was a “codec”, whose description begins “The sole and major function of HEVC Video Extension Codec…..”. How on earth can anything be both the “sole” and the “major” function at the same time?

2) Change a setting in your iPhone or iPad so that it goes back to saving files in JPG format. The way to do this is as follows:

  • Go to settings
  • Go to Camera
  • Click on Formats
  • Place a tick against “Most Compatible”

iphone image format setting
Click on “Most Compatible” to go back to creating JPG files
This won’t change the format of any images you have already taken (you would need to take option one above to solve that problem), but you won’t have the problem for any new images.

Taking option two also means that you are not getting the benefit of the latest format, but at least things will work the way they used to and you don’t get your brain twisted out of shape trying to understand the “Description” accompanying Microsoft Store apps.