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How to enable thumbnail previews for RAW images on Windows 10

Cameras, real ones and not the ones on your phone, save RAW photos. RAW is a format in itself though RAW files may not always have this extension. Some will use DNG, others will NEF, ORF, etc. The format often depends on which camera was used to capture a photo but RAW is the general name given to these uncompressed photos. By default, Windows 10 can generate a thumbnail preview for a large number of file formats but many RAW formats are not included in this list. Here’s how you can enable thumbnail previews for RAW images on Windows 10.

Thumbnail previews for RAW images

These thumbnail previews will appear in File Explorer. To enable them, install Microsoft’s free RAW Image Extension from the Microsoft Store.

Once installed, close all File Explorer windows that are open to a folder with a RAW file in it. Open a new File Explorer window and navigate to the folder with the RAW images. This time, the generic image thumbnail should be replaced with a proper preview of the image file.

This extension should also add the ability to read some of the metadata that is written to the RAW file though it may still miss some of it. It will not add any special editing abilities to any app.

Out of the box, Windows 10 does provide thumbnail previews for some RAW file formats but not for all of them. If your RAW files already show a proper thumbnail preview, then they’re in a supported format and you don’t need to install this extension. If you’re unable to view metadata for a file even though you get a thumbnail preview of it, this extension may or may not help.

This extension is a File Explorer extension so, if you need to remove it, you can do so from the Settings app. The extension is highly unlikely to slow your system down though in some cases, the preview might take a little time to generate if you’re copying/moving lots of files. Remember that RAW files are large.

If you’re still unable to get thumbnail previews for RAW images on Windows 10 after installing this extension, it is possible that your particular file type is much too niche. In that case, you should look for file managers or photo managers that the maker of your camera may have released and use it to browse your photos. Don’t change the file extension of your files to RAW or anything else. That may damage it.

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