How to View HEIC Photos on a MacBook: The Complete Guide

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Apple’s newest photo format, High Efficiency Image File Format (HEIC), offers advanced compression and storage capabilities. However, HEIC files may not be compatible with older Macs or Windows PCs.

If you recently upgraded to an iPhone that uses HEIC, you may be wondering how to view these photos on your MacBook. This comprehensive guide will walk you through 12 methods to open, view, and convert HEIC image files.

Key Takeaways

  • HEIC is the latest photo format used by newer iPhones for compression and storage efficiency.
  • Older Macs and Windows PCs may not support viewing HEIC files natively.
  • You can view HEIC photos on a MacBook using iCloud, image editing apps, codec extensions, online converters, default apps like Preview and Photos, and more.
  • To view HEIC files permanently, consider converting them to the JPEG format for broad compatibility.
  • Keep your Mac’s operating system and apps updated for the best HEIC support.

Overview of HEIC Photo Format

HEIC (High Efficiency Image File Format) is a new type of highly optimized image container developed by Apple. Key highlights:

  • Offers up to 2x better compression than JPEG, resulting in reduced file sizes.
  • Retains excellent image quality and color fidelity.
  • Stores image sequences, HDR data, metadata, and thumbnails.
  • Based on the HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) standard.
  • Uses modern compression algorithms for smaller files.
  • Compatible with HEIF (High Efficiency Image Format).

By switching to HEIC, Apple devices like recent iPhones can store 2-3x more photos with no loss in quality. The downside is that older devices and apps may not recognize the format natively.

If you’ve recently upgraded to an iPhone 12 or 13 series, you’ll notice your photos are now saved as HEIC files instead of the regular JPEG format. While great for storage, this poses some compatibility issues you need to address before you can view HEIC images effortlessly.

This guide will highlight different solutions to view HEIC photos on your MacBook, organized by approach:

Method 1: Using iCareFone to View and Convert HEIC Photos

One of the most straightforward options for both viewing HEIC images and converting them to JPEG for broader compatibility is using the tool iCareFone. Follow these simple steps:

Tenorshare iCareFone

Steps to View and Convert HEIC Photos with iCareFone

  1. Download and install iCareFone on your MacBook from their official website.
  2. Connect your iPhone to your MacBook using the USB cable provided.
  3. Launch iCareFone on your Mac and select the HEIC Converter option.
  4. Click Add Photos and browse your iPhone files to select the HEIC photos you want to view and convert. You can also click Add Folder to add an entire iPhone folder containing HEICs.
  5. After adding photos, click Convert to JPG to convert copies to JPEG format. The JPEG versions will be saved to your chosen output folder.
  6. Once conversion finishes, click Open Folder to view the JPEGs in your default image viewer.

That’s it! With iCareFone, you can quickly view and convert batches of HEIC photos for full compatibility.

Key Benefits

  • Previews HEIC images so you can view them instantly.
  • Batch converts HEIC to JPEG in just a few clicks.
  • Saves converted JPEGs to your selected folder.
  • Supports easily transferring HEIC images from your iPhone to the MacBook.
  • Allows adding and removing photos from the queue.
  • Additional handy iPhone management features.

For effortless HEIC viewing and conversion, iCareFone is one of the best options to consider.

Method 2: Using iCloud Photo Library

If you use iCloud Photo Library on your iPhone, all your HEIC images can be viewed seamlessly on your MacBook. Here’s how:

  1. Make sure iCloud Photo Library is enabled on your iPhone by going to Settings > Photos.
  2. Also enable iCloud Photo Library on your MacBook under System Preferences > Apple ID > iCloud.
  3. Your entire HEIC photo library will sync from your iPhone to iCloud.
  4. On your MacBook, open the Photos app, which will display all synced photos, including HEICs.
  5. You can now view, edit, and share the HEIC photos using the Photos app on your Mac.

iCloud Photo Library automatically keeps your images synced across devices. Since the Photos app supports HEIC natively, you get seamless compatibility. An added plus is that the Photos app also allows quick bulk conversion of HEICs to JPEGs.

Method 3: Using Google Photos

Similar to iCloud, Google Photos can sync your iPhone HEIC photos effortlessly so you can view them on a MacBook.

  1. Install the Google Photos app on your iPhone and enable backup.
  2. On your MacBook browser, visit and log in to your Google account.
  3. The Photos web interface will display all synced images, including HEICs, which you can now view and manage.
  4. Optionally, install the Google Photos desktop app for quick editing and sharing.
  5. When downloading HEIC photos, Google Photos will automatically convert them to JPEG for convenient viewing.

With real-time syncing and seamless format conversion, Google Photos is another recommended cloud service for managing your iPhone HEIC photo collection across devices.

Method 4: Updating Your Mac’s Operating System

Since HEIC is relatively new, earlier versions of macOS may lack native support for viewing the format. Here are the minimum macOS requirements:

  • macOS High Sierra 10.13 or later supports HEIC.
  • macOS Sierra 10.12 added partial HEIC support.
  • Earlier versions of macOS don’t support HEIC.

To ensure maximum compatibility, update your MacBook to the latest macOS version possible. This will provide full integrated HEIC support across the system, apps like Photos, Preview, Quick Look and more.

You can check your current macOS version by going to the Apple menu > About This Mac. Then click Software Update to install any available upgrades. Keeping your OS updated is key for smooth HEIC viewing.

Method 5: Using Online HEIC Converters

If you only need a quick solution for a few HEIC photos, consider using free online converters:

  1. Go to a website like
  2. Upload your HEIC photos or drag and drop them into the browser.
  3. After conversion finishes, download the JPEG versions to your MacBook.
  4. You can now view the photos in Preview or your preferred image viewer app.

Online converters provide a fast way to preview and download HEIC pictures as JPEGs for easy usage across apps and devices. However, they may not be practical for bulk conversion of your entire iPhone photo library.

Method 6: Installing HEIC Codec Extensions on Mac

Codec extensions add support for specific media formats that are not natively recognized. There are dedicated HEIC codecs available for Mac such as:

  • HEIF-C Viewer by Mutiny Bay Software – Free HEIC codec for QuickLook and Preview.
  • Widentity HEIC Codec – Paid codec for system-wide HEIC support.
  • ikh.HEIC Codec – Open sourceHEIC codec for Mac.

Installing one of these codec packs enables nearly every app on your MacBook to seamlessly view HEIC image files. Codecs integrate at a system level for maximum usability.

Method 7: Using Image Editing Apps That Support HEIC

Many popular image editing apps have inbuilt support for the HEIC format. You can leverage these tools to easily open, view, edit and export HEIC photos on a MacBook:

  • Apple Photos – Comes preinstalled on Macs, offers native HEIC support.
  • Adobe Photoshop – Open, edit, manage HEIC photos with industry-leading tools.
  • Adobe Lightroom Classic – Import, adjust lighting and colors, export HEIC images.
  • Affinity Photo – View, edit HEICs with pro-grade filters, layers and more.
  • Pixelmator Pro – Full compatibility for manipulating HEIC photos.
  • GIMP – Open source editing app that lets you work with HEIC format.
  • GraphicConverter – Robust utility to browse, view, edit HEIC pictures.
  • XnView – Cross-platform image viewer and converter supporting HEIC.

HEIC-compatible apps provide not just viewing but also advanced image editing capabilities for your photos. Consider installing one or more of these tools for the best professional experience.

Method 8: Using an Alternative Image Viewer App

The default Preview program on Mac may lack full HEIC support in older macOS versions. A good workaround is to install a third-party image viewer with baked-in HEIC compatibility:

  • Xee3 – Fast, lightweight image viewer supporting 100+ formats including HEIC.
  • IrfanView – Popular Windows app with Mac version that can open HEICs.
  • FastStone Image Viewer – Excellent option with HEIC and wide format support.
  • Nomacs – Open source image viewer with full HEIC compatibility.
  • Honeyview – Supports HEIC alongside many other image and media file formats.

Having a dedicated app to open HEIC files ensures you can preview and access your photos regardless of system constraints. Set it as your default viewer for convenience.

Method 9: Using the Preview App Workaround on Mac

The Preview application on Mac has partial support for HEIC by utilizing a workaround:

  1. Right-click on the HEIC file and choose ‘Open With > Preview‘ option.
  2. Go to File > Export in the Preview menu bar.
  3. Save the image as JPEG format.
  4. After export, the JPEG copy can be easily viewed in Preview.

While not full native support, this trick allows Preview to display HEIC photos on any Mac running Mac OS X Mavericks or later.

Method 10: Converting HEIC to JPEG on iPhone

For a permanent solution, you can change the default camera setting on new iPhones to save photos as JPEG instead of HEIC:

  1. Open the Settings app on your iPhone.
  2. Go to Camera > Formats.
  3. Toggle the ‘High Efficiency‘ option to off.
  4. Choose ‘Most Compatible‘ instead to switch to JPEG format.

Now, all new photos you take will automatically save in the JPEG format for broader compatibility instead of HEIC.

Method 11: Bulk Converting Existing HEIC Photos to JPEG

To convert your existing iPhone HEIC photo collection to JPEG:

  1. Connect your iPhone to Mac and launch the Photos app.
  2. Import all HEIC images to Photos by selecting the iPhone tab > Albums > Recents. Click Import All New Items.
  3. In Photos, select all the albums containing HEIC pictures. Go to File > Export > Export Unmodified Originals.
  4. Choose JPEG or TIFF format when prompted to convert en masse to compatible formats.

This exports your entire library while retaining the originals. The exported JPEG versions can be shared and viewed anywhere.

Key Takeaways: Top Methods to View HEIC Photos on MacBook

  • Use iCareFone for quick HEIC previews and JPEG conversion.
  • Enable iCloud Photo Library or Google Photos syncing to auto-view HEICs.
  • Update your macOS to latest version for native app support.
  • Utilize online converters for fast web-based HEIC to JPEG conversion.
  • Install HEIC codecs for system-wide viewing capability.
  • Leverage pro image editing apps like Photos, Photoshop, Affinity that support HEIC.
  • Get a dedicated third-party image viewer with HEIC compatibility.
  • Switch iPhone camera to save photos as JPEG instead of HEIC.
  • Bulk convert existing iPhone HEIC pictures to JPEG using Photos app export.

PS: If you would like to find out how to address the MacBook Pro service battery warning, as well as how to fix MacBook Pro Trackpad not working. Just continue to know more.

FAQs: Viewing HEIC Files on a MacBook

Q: What apps can view HEIC photos on Mac?

A: The latest versions of Photos, Preview, Photoshop, Lightroom, Pixelmator, GraphicConverter, XnView, and GIMP can all view HEIC on macOS. Some may require a Mac running macOS 10.13 High Sierra or later.

Q: Do I need any additional software to view iPhone HEIC photos on my MacBook?

A: If your MacBook is running an older OS, you may need to install HEIC codecs for full compatibility. Updating macOS or using apps with native HEIC support will ensure compatibility.

Q: How do I get HEIC images off my iPhone onto my MacBook?

A: You can transfer HEIC photos directly using the Mac Photos import or via cloud services like iCloud, Google Photos. iTunes and iCareFone also allow transferring HEIC images to Mac.

Q: Can I batch convert HEIC photos to JPEG on my MacBook?

A: Yes, apps like Photos, Preview, iCareFone and online converters allow easy batch conversion of multiple HEIC files to the JPEG format for compatibility.

Q: Will converting HEIC images to JPEG degrade quality?

A: There may be minor loss of image quality when converting from HEIC to JPEG but typically not noticeable. To retain maximum quality, export using the highest JPEG settings available.

Q: How can I set my iPhone to capture photos in JPEG instead of HEIC format?

A: Open Settings > Camera > Formats and choose ‘Most Compatible’ instead of ‘High Efficiency’ to switch your iPhone to saving photos as JPEGs instead of HEIC.

Q: Is HEIC support the same across iPhone, iPad and Mac devices?

A: All Apple devices running iOS 11 or later and macOS High Sierra or later have full native HEIC support. Earlier versions may require updates, codecs or third-party apps for HEIC compatibility.

Q: Can I view HEIC images in their raw format on Mac?

A: Yes, latest versions of Photos, Preview and image editing apps on macOS provide support for viewing the HEIC format in its native compression. You can even export back to HEIC from these apps if needed.

Q: What’s the easiest way to view my iPhone HEIC photos on a Windows PC?

A: Enable iCloud Photo Library or Google Photos backup which auto-convert HEIC to JPEG when viewed on Windows. Alternatively, use an online HEIC converter to download them as JPEGs.

Also read: How to convert and transfer HEIC photos from iPhone to Android easily.


HEIC is an advanced new image format that saves storage space on your iPhone. However, compatibility issues can arise when trying to view those photos on a MacBook.

This guide outlined 12 practical methods to open, view, edit and convert HEIC pictures using built-in tools, apps, codecs and converters.

By using solutions like iCloud Photos, Photoshop, iCareFone, and Image Viewer, you can access iPhone HEIC images seamlessly on a MacBook. Converting to JPEG provides permanent backward compatibility when needed.

Hopefully these tips will help you handle the new HEIC format and ensure your photo library remains accessible across Apple devices. Leverage the right tools for your workflow to keep enjoying your photos without obstacles.


Skilled software testing specialist with expertise in comparisons and research, passionate about blogging, reviews, and creating video tutorials.

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