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Files with the extension .aae are usually files that are created by the OS X / macOS or iOS / iPadOS operating systems on the Mac, iPhones or iPads. Basically, there are additional files that are created in addition to the actual jpg photo file. They contain the changes that have been made to a photo with Apple Aperture or the native photo app on the iPhone or iPad, for example.
The advantage of this is that the actual photo remains in its original state and you only save the changes in a separate file (with the file extension "aae"). These changes are non-destructive - that is, even after many steps, you can remove previous steps or set them differently. This means that you are much more flexible in photo editing and are not - as in Adobe Photoshop - limited to steps forward or backward in the log. So in principle, using the AAE files is a good story.
In the .aae files, the individual steps are saved in an XML-based format. The mime type of the .aae files is "application / octet-stream". Files with the file extension .aae can perhaps be opened in the future with the Mac photo management system Lightroom in order to import the processing steps for the photos. However, it is important that the original photo of the aae file is also available.
Apple created the AAE file type years ago with iOS 8, when it wasn't quite clear what it could be used for in practice. However, we now know that files with this file extension (to my knowledge) can only be used in the photoApp can be used on Mac, iPhone and iPad. However, the aae accompanying files are usually only 1KB small and therefore do not take up much space.
I just tried to access the AAE files again on my Mac, but the photo library, in which the Apple Photos app saves the changes to photos and the photos, as well as the previews, can no longer be opened. The photo library is a closed database which is no longer accessible to other programs.
In the past, you could right-click on a photo to see the image in the Finder and then also find the aae files, but Apple is now preventing this.
Converting such files makes no sense, since only the Apple Photos app can do anything with the data in the file anyway. Accordingly, there is no conversion program to convert aae files into other file formats.
In a forum I was able to read that when transferring photos from the iPhone to the PC the problem occurred that the files appeared as .aae on the Windows PC. The problem could only be solved after the user clicked on "Transfer pictures" in Windows Explorer. Then they appeared on the computer as .jpg.
At Computerbase, a user with an iPhone 5s reported that after restoring some pictures that were either edited with the Photos app or taken in HDR format can no longer be opened. When the photos are backed up on a Microsoft Windows PC, only the AAE files are saved on the computer, but the photos remain gone. No correct solution was found here, but I think that the photo files were somehow damaged, otherwise the JPG files should still be there.
Jens has been running the blog since 2012. He appears as Sir Apfelot for his readers and helps them with problems of a technical nature. In his free time he drives electric unicycles, takes photos (preferably with his iPhone, of course), climbs around in the Hessian mountains or hikes with the family. His articles deal with Apple products, news from the world of drones or solutions for current bugs.