Windows 10 finally has built-in support for RAW images, thanks to the May 2019 Update. You’ll just need to install an extension from the Store. There are other solutions for opening RAW files on older versions of Windows, too.
Windows 10: Download the RAW Images Extension
To install and use the RAW Image Extension, you must be using the Windows 10 May 2019 Update (version 1903 or later). If you’re unable to install the extension, you will have to install the update from the Settings app or download it manually from Microsoft’s website.
The codec for this free extension is brought to you by the people at libraw.org and doesn’t support every format of RAW images yet. To see if yours are compatible with this extension, check out the project’s website for an up-to-date list of supported cameras. The RAW Image Extension enables viewing images in the Photos app as well as thumbnails, previews, metadata of RAW images in File Explorer. You can open a RAW file’s properties window to see the metadata.
Head to the Microsoft Store and search for “Raw Images Extension,” or go directly to the Raw Image Extension page. Click “Get” to install it.
Now click “Install” to install the extension.
After the extension downloads and installs, close the Store and navigate to the folder with your RAW images. Thumbnails instantly generate inside of File Explorer without using an external viewer.
Double-click on the image, click “Photos,” then click “OK.”
Your RAW image will now open directly in the Photos app without the need to download and install a third-party application like Photoshop.
To always use the Photos app with the RAW files you use, you can change a specific file type’s default program with our guide.
If you haven’t updated to the newest version of Windows yet, you can still view and edit RAW images with the use of third-party software. One of the biggest and most feature-rich programs out there is Adobe Photoshop but if you aren’t a professional photographer and don’t want to shell out the hundreds of dollars for it, here are a couple of programs you can use instead.
FastRawViewer is the viewing software created by the LibRaw codec developers and supports the same formats as the Windows extension. FastRawViewer, as its name suggests, opens RAW files extremely fast and on-the-fly, rather than displaying an embedded JPEG preview, as most RAW viewers would. Instead, it renders images directly from the RAW files which let you see the true uninfluenced image—with the RAW histogram—making FastRawViewer the ultimate photo culling tool.
FastRawViewer is only for viewing images and does not modify them at all. It’s available as a free 30-day trial; then it’s a $25 one-time payment if you choose to continue to use it.
RawTherapee is a cross-platform, open-source RAW image processing program. It features advanced color handling (white balance, hue-saturation-value curves, color toning, etc.), exposure compensation, batch conversion processing, support for most cameras, copy/paste editing parameters across images, file browser, and so much more.
While it isn’t a fast way to view RAW images, you can use it as an alternative to Photoshop to view, edit, and batch-convert all your photos into a more widely used format. You can even install it as a plugin for GIMP if you already use it as an image processor.
RawTherapee is updated with new features regularly and 100% free to use under the GNU General Public License Version 3.
PhotoPea in Your Web Browser
PhotoPea is a lightweight browser-based photo processing app, that’s up and running just as fast as it takes to load a webpage. PhotoPea runs entirely on the server, meaning your computer doesn’t need the extra resources programs that Photoshop or Lightroom require. It supports hundreds of file formats, including most RAW images.
PhotoPea features exposure control, curve adjustments, levels, brightness, filters, and numerous brushes, layers, wand, healing tools to choose. You can even convert your RAW images into more commonly used formats to download to your computer.
PhotoPea is free to use, all you need is an internet connection and a web browser to access this powerful image processor.