Best Methods to Open RAW Files on Windows/Mac Free

RAW files are unprocessed image files created by digital cameras. The difficulty of opening RAW files is that most digital cameras adopt their own exclusive formats for storing RAW images, including but not limited to NEF(Nikon), CRW(Canon), ARW(Sony) and RAF(Fuji). Until the day when all major manufacturers agree using a unified format, we still need special solutions for opening RAW files without spending money on paid RAW file viewers. Luckily, in this tutorial, you will learn 2 methods to open and view RAW files in Windows computer free.

Best Methods to Open RAW Files on Windows/Mac Free

Method 1. How to Open RAW Files with Camera Codecs

Camera codec works as a translator between Windows computer and RAW files. Camera codecs are usually provided by camera manufacturers and software developers.

Now the problem is how to install the right codecs. In this method, we are going to introduce how to download and install Windows Camera Codec Pack and codecs by manufacturers. Freeware for viewing RAW files will be recommended in the next method.

Install Windows Camera Codec Pack

Windows 10 users may have realized that they can open some RAW files, like CR2 and ARW. It is because Windows Camera Codec Pack is preinstalled in Windows 10. If you are using Windows 8 and Windows 7 or earlier OS, please follow steps below to download Windows Camera Codec Pack.

You need to restart your system in order for the codec pack to work. Once the system is rebooted, you will notice the icons of RAW files are changed to thumbnails. Now you can open RAW files with Windows Photos app.

Install Camera Codecs from Manufacturers

Since Microsoft has stopped updating the Camera Codec Pack, it is possible that even Windows 10 computer is not able to open some RAW image files. In this case, we can install specific camera codecs from digital camera manufacturers.

Camera codecs can be found on manufacturers’ website, or third-party sites. We will take the latter option as an example to show how to install Nikon NEF codec.

Once the process is completed, you should be able to open the specific RAW file with Windows Photos app. Both of the two options in this method will change the icons of RAW files into thumbnails in Windows File Explorer. This would be a perfect result if it works, but you can also keep reading another method below, especially when you are not using a Windows computer.

Method 2. How to Open RAW Files with Free RAW File Viewer

If you failed to find the right codec to view RAW files, you can also resort to RAW file viewers. It would be better to be freeware, of course. Here we are going to recommend several free RAW file viewers. Please note that some RAW files will still need RAW loader or plugin to be installed, but you will get links or instruction from the RAW file viewers to finish the task.

The list is short, but any one of the 3 free RAW file viewers will help you open RAW files easily. Additionally, you can view detailed metadata with darktable, manage RAW files between camera and external storage devices with digiKam, and edit RAW files with GIMP.

Besides the difficulty of opening RAW files, RAW photo recovery is also a common problem. Luckily, with a free photo recovery software, it will never be a problem to recover deleted photos from Fujifilm, Canon, Nikon or other digital cameras.

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If you have any question as per how to open RAW files, RAW file viewer or RAW file recovery, please feel free to tell us in the comment area.