How-To view Sony Alpha RAW files on Windows 10

Introduction

One of the best pieces of advice I got given by an ex-PRO photographer is to shoot in RAW. After making the switch over to shooting in RAW, I have never looked back. However, there’s one annoyance that comes with shooting in RAW – software support.

Unlike JPEGs, which all computers can interpret and show you the image; RAW files on the other hand require specialist drivers/profiles in order for computers to decipher their contents and show you the image.

And if you have ever tried to view a RAW file without having the necessary drivers/profiles installed, you’ll see an error message like in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Windows Photo Viewer showing error message cannot open RAW file.

The good news for Sony Alpha owners is, Sony has these drivers readily available for you to download off one of their websites. Once you have the drivers installed, you’ll be able to view the RAW files in Windows Photo Viewer (see Figure 2.) and see thumbnails in Windows Explorer (see Figure 3.).

Figure 2. Windows Photo Viewer displaying image stored in RAW file.
Figure 3. Windows Explorer showing thumbnail previews for RAW files.

Resolution Steps

Step One – download and install drivers

Download and install the latest Sony RAW driver from a Sony support site (doesn’t matter which one you download from, as the EXE file is the same). I downloaded mine from Sony Australia.

Step Two – set default viewing app

Note: This step is only required for Windows 10/8.1/8. This is because, the default image viewing application has been changed from Windows Photo Viewer to the new Photos app and the Photos app do not recognise/support/use the third-party drivers.

There’re two approaches you can take to set the default viewing app.

Approach One

  1. Right-click on a .ARW file and select Open with… from the pop-up context menu.
    Figure 4. Right-click context menu for RAW file.
  2. An App selection dialog appears. Scroll down until you see Windows Photo Viewer, select it. Ensure you the checkbox with the text ‘Always use this app to open .ARW files‘ is checked. Then click OK button.
    Figure 5. App selection dialog.

Approach Two

  1. Right-click on a .ARW file and select Properties from the pop-up context menu.
    Figure 6. Right-click context menu for RAW file.
  2. A file properties dialog appears. Click on the button labelled Change….
    Figure 7. Properties dialog showing default app associated with ARW files is Photos app.
  3. An App selection dialog appears. Scroll down until you see Windows Photo Viewer, select it. Then click OK button.
    Figure 8. Default app selection dialog.
  4. You should see the app next to the label Opens with has now changed to Windows Photo Viewer. Click the Apply button, then OK button.
    Figure 9. Updated properties dialog showing default app associated with ARW files is Windows Photo Viewer app.

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