Apple started using the High Efficiency Image File (HEIF) format with photos captured by iOS devices in 2017. Usually called HEIC files because they use HEIC as their extension, this file format has some advantages over JPGs, because it promises better quality, smaller file sizes and built-in support for HDR. However, opening HEIC files in their native format can be a challenge if you’re not using an Apple device.
iOS, iPadOS, and macOS all ship with the ability to use HEIC files, but Windows users aren’t so lucky; Microsoft doesn’t offer a way to open those files by default. Fret not, however, because viewing HEIC files in Windows is fairly painless on Windows 11.
Just know that adding the ability to open HEIC files to Windows 11 isn’t free, and Apple will automatically convert photos to JPEGs if they’re shared with people outside its ecosystem. Simply downloading the original HEIC file via iCloud.com is a bit of a hassle because Apple just assumes that Windows users want the JPEG version by default. So for many people viewing HEIC files won’t be mission critical, but if it is for you, be prepared to part with a dollar.