Solved: Cannot open a photo or image in Photos in Windows

When a photo or image is double clicked in Windows, it should open in the Photos app. If it does not, there are several causes, but they all have solutions. Fix the problem with these tips.

There are many photo viewers and editors for Windows PCs, but why install extra software when you have a reasonably good photo app already installed on the computer? The Windows Photos app has some useful features and it is all a lot of people need. There are alternative apps, but if Photos does all you need then stick with it.

Windows Photos works well for most people, but if you have been having problems opening photos, there are several possible causes and solutions. Most of them are quite simple and straightforward, so if you cannot open a photo in Photos, try these tips.

Unsupported file type: Convert it

There are dozens of image file types and the Photos app in Windows can only open certain types. It cannot open all types of photo and image files. All of the most common are supported, like .jpg, .png, .gif and so on, but unusual and rarely used formats are not.

If you cannot open a photo in Photos, the solution is to convert the image file to a different type, one that the Photos app can read. It is possible to convert images using online or offline tools. Using an online file converter means that no software has to be installed on the computer and you just visit a website in a browser, then drag an image from an Explorer window and drop it on the browser. Select what to convert it to, such as JPEG, and it can be downloaded seconds later.

There are dozens of online image converters and many have similar features and capabilities. FreeConvert is a good one and it enables you to convert batches of up to five files at a time for free. Some converters only allow one or two files at a time and many require a monthly subscription to bulk convert images online. Convertio is another good online converter, but only allows two files at a time.

Pixillion image converter software for Windows
Pixillion image file converter

If you have a lot of image files to convert, an app for the computer will be quicker and easier. For example, Pixillion Image Converter is free for non-commercial home use. It supports more than 50 image file formats and there is no limit to the number you can convert.

XnConvert image converter software for Windows
XnConvert converts image files from one format to another

XnConvert is another useful image converter that is free for non-commercial home use. It can read 500 file formats and write 70, so no matter what type of image file you have, it should be able to convert it to a format that Windows Photos can read. It is a multifunction tool and image conversion is just one of a large number of functions. It is well worth installing.

Add HEIF extensions

Some phones save photos in a file format called HEIF or HEIC because it offers higher quality images and smaller file sizes. If you transfer the photos to a Windows PC and you cannot open a photo in Photos, what can you do? There may be a setting in the phone to save to the more common JPEG file format, so any photos you take in the future will be compatible with Windows Photos. That’s an option to avoid future problems, but what about previously taken photos?

It is possible to add support for HEIC images to Windows. Open the Microsoft Store app and search for ‘HEIF Image Extensions’ and then install it. It has a very poor rating on the Store, but I find it works for me and HEIC photos taken on an iPhone can be opened in Photos.

Wrong file associations: Fix them

An app can be associated with a particular file extension so that double clicking a file in an Explorer window or on the desktop opens it in that app. Double clicking a .jpg file for example, should open it in the Photos app.

This association can be changed by software and after installing and uninstalling several photo editors and tools, it may become broken. Double clicking a .jpg or other image file type may not open it as expected in the Photos app. File associations can be fixed.

Select an app to open a file with in Windows
Use Open With to open a file in an app in WIndows
  1. Right click an image file like a photo .jpg and to select Open With.
  2. A list of apps appears and Photos should be one of the apps listed. Select it.
  3. Tick the box Always use this app to open .jpg files.
  4. Click OK.

The association between .jpg and Photos is restored. You may need to repeat this for other image file types, like .png, .gif, .tif and others.

Selecting the default apps in WIndows Settings
Set default apps in Windows Settings

Another way to fix wrong file associations is to open the Windows Settings app, type ‘default’ into the search box and click Default Apps in the search results. Click Photo viewer in the list of items and select the Photos app in the list that appears.

Photos app is faulty: Repair it

It is rare, but it is possible for the Photos app to become corrupted. There are a couple of solutions and one is to check for updates.

  1. Open the Store app.
  2. Click the Library icon in the left sidebar, it looks like some books.
  3. Click Get Updates and Update All.
  4. Open the Settings app.
  5. Click Update & Security.
  6. Check for Windows updates.

An update may repair Photos, but if there is still a problem, reset and repair.

Reset or repair the Photos app in Windows
Repair and Reset for Microsoft Photos app
  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click Apps.
  3. Scroll down the list and click Microsoft Photos.
  4. Click Advanced options.
  5. Scroll down to the Reset section.
  6. Click Repair.
  7. If there is still a problem, return and click Reset.

A faulty file: Repair it

If you cannot open a photo in Photos, the problem may be because the file is corrupted and there are two options, one is to restore a backup and try that. You do have a backup of your photos somewhere don’t you? Google Photos, iCloud photos, OneDrive, Dropbox or an external USB drive are all places you might have a backup. If you don’t have a backup, start backing up now, they can fix problems like corrupted files.

It may be possible to repair the corrupt photo file, but it all depends on the type and extent of the corruption. Small errors may be fixed and it is worth trying online tools like Office Recovery and JPG.Repair.

Try converting the photo to another image file format using one of the tools mentioned earlier. A corrupt file may not be viewable, but it may be possible to convert a .jpg to a .png or a .png to a .jpg to repair it.

Use another editor or viewer

The Windows Photos app is OK, but is it the best photos app? There are so many alternatives, some of which are free, that if you are really struggling with it, you could simply switch to an alternative.

XnView MP photo viewer software for Windows
XnView MP app for Windows for viewing photos

XnView Classic and XnView MP are free for non-commerical use, like home and education. It has an extensive range of features and is a great app. It can be used to view photos and make adjustments to them, like the color, brightness and contrast. Photos can be rotated, resized and cropped, and filters applied. It is a great app.

IrfanView is a popular free photo viewer and photo toolkit that seems to have been around forever. Well, at least 15 years. Some of the features may seem complex compared to the Photos app, but it is a powerful tool once you get to know it.

FastStone Image Viewer is another old favorite that has been around for years. You can browse thumbnails, full screen images and view slideshows. Adjust the color, contrast, size and other photo attributes, apply effects like sepia, add frames and shadows, fix red-eye and more.

There are many more alternatives to Photos for Windows PC, but these three are good to try and are among the best.

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