What are .aae files?

.aae file extension
.aae file extension
The .aae file extension is a typical Mac format created by Mac OS X and iOS.

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 thing is that the actual photo is still preserved in its original state and you only save the changes with it in a separate file (the one with the file extension “aae”). These changes are non-destructive - that is, you can remove previous steps or set them differently even after many steps. This gives you much more flexibility in photo editing and is not - as in Adobe Photoshop - limited to steps forwards or backwards in the log. In principle, the use of AAE files is a good story.

What are the aae files used for?

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”. In the future, files with the .aae extension may be opened with the Mac photo manager Lightroom in order to import the editing steps for the photos. However, it is important that you also have the original photo for the aae file.

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.

aae files in the current macOS Monterey and iOS 15

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.

Convert files with aae file extension?

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.

Known issues with the file type

In a forum I could 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 Explorer under Windows. Then they appeared as .jpg on the computer.

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.

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51 Responses to “What are .aae files?”

  1. The explanation really helped me. After the new update (to 9.0) from my iPhone, some photos with the extension "AAE" were displayed when I was transferring them to the PC and I could not open them. I then clicked “Transfer pictures” in Explorer under Windows and lo and behold – the photos were all transferred. Thank you very much :)

    1. Hello Nana! Unfortunately I don't have Windows, so I can't really help you. But maybe the button is called differently? Or maybe there is another Windows user here who can give you a tip? You've got me stumped. :(

    2. Hello Nana!

      I solved it as follows: If you connect your camera/cell phone etc. pp., you will always be asked what you want to do in Windows in an extra window “Automatic Playback”. In the window, you can set the preset by clicking the "Show more autoplay options in the control panel" link at the bottom. Simply make the appropriate selection for images and videos (and wherever else you like it) (import with Windows).

      Unfortunately, it doesn't help for already downloaded .AAE files, but everything that I downloaded was saved as jpg.
      Regarding the opening of already downloaded .AEEs or, even better, their conversion, I am still looking for them myself and grateful for every tip.

      1. Hello Conny! Thanks for sharing your tip here! I am sure he will help some other readers too! Maybe someone still knows a trick, what to do when you have already imported the .aae files. :-) LG!

        1. Hello!
          It would be really great if someone could provide the information for videos that have already been transferred - I can't get this AAE from the cheek and can't open the file -.-

  2. Hallo,
    Thanks for this tip. Unfortunately I'm probably on the hose. Where do I have to click exactly what: "in Explorer under Windows"? Where can I find this?

    Thank you, M.

  3. Hey,
    I've got exactly the same problem. I just wanted to transfer my pictures from the iPhone 6s to the Windows 10 PC and some things are displayed as AAE files and cannot be opened. I don't really understand the process of opening Explorer and transferring images, I've already checked my eyes and can't find any helpful tips in the whole network :(

    LG, p.

  4. Barbara Kramer

    A so-called Apple specialist should open an external hard drive for me, as I cannot use it for
    Got playing. I used it as a backup u should have pictures on it that were before
    were lost. Not only did he tell me the record was empty, he gave me huge ones
    AAE files in my trash, he also gave me loads of photos from existing ones
    Folders deleted. I now have nothing but empty folders with no objects. I can not believe it. How can
    I open the AAE files, there may be deleted photos on them. I am not a very good user
    v Apple, but I like to learn, not just delete.
    Sincerely, Barbara Krämer

    1. Hello Barbara! I'm sorry to hear that. Unfortunately, the AAE files alone won't help you. As mentioned above, these are only additional files to the actual image data. Changes made to the image file are saved in the AAE files. Without this image file, the reference is missing and so the AAE file is as helpful as a train ticket without a train station. :( If your Apple expert has not yet deleted the hard drive's recycle bin, you may be able to get the pictures from the recycle bin. If there are none in there, you could still try to use a special program to download the restore deleted data from the hard drive.

      1. As is so often the case in forums, you get a thousand answers and new questions. As a layman, all I need is instructions on how to make AAE files visible. I can't just delete them without knowing what they contain. You always hear: can't know, have this problem too and and and. There is seldom a clear and straightforward answer. I've been trying for half a year. You download all sorts of crap and in the end you end up just like before.

        Thanks and regards

        1. Hello! Unfortunately, I can only explain what AAE files are and what the system uses them for. How to make them visible and how to delete them depends a lot on the operating system you are working on. On an iPhone, for example, these files cannot be seen or made visible. The big question is why do you want to delete these files? They are just meta files that neither take up a lot of space nor are otherwise critical.

          1. That's not true.

            When I take a photo, in color, I save it as a JPG. When I take a photo in black and white, it saves the photo as JPG AND AAe. The JPG is 1.7MB, the AAE file 0.887 MB.

            And I see both file types when I connect the iPhone to my MacBook Pro (2011). I use the APP “Digitale Bilder”, which is included in the MacOS.

            But no Apple “genius” can tell me why the photo is nowhere to be found in black and white and where my black and white photo is saved.

            The Apple Store and its employees are really getting dumber!


          2. Hi Daniel! I won't say anything about the "stupid" employees at Apple. I've only had good experiences and competent help so far. And that, although I had really complex problems... but everyone experiences something different. Regarding your question about the b/w photo: I just tried it out and took a black and white photo with my iPhone. Then plugged into the Mac and called "Photos". There I also only see a colored version of the photo. However, when I import it, it is black and white. So from my point of view everything is ok...

            If I open the iPhone with "Digital Pictures", then I don't see any .aae files, only the photos and only the colored version. If I press “Import”, it puts the colorful JPG and the AAE file in the appropriate folder.

            So in your case I would say you would need to use "Apple Photos" to have the photo and .aae file baked back together.

            I can't see anything wrong now. It would be nice if there was a way to get the JPG file and the AAE file together other than when importing into “Apple Photos”, but I couldn't find any software that can do this afterwards. Even Photoshop doesn't offer a way. :-(

  5. AAE files are definitely not photo files, they are video files to be more precise, they are the slow motion videos which can no longer be played. But I still don't know how to open them. Unfortunately I deleted all files on the iPhone 6s Plus after transferring them. Because I had first transferred data from a Samsung S5 to the I-Phone and, to my annoyance, all photos about 4000 were stored in one folder. Unfortunately, not a single piece of music was broadcast. But no matter the problem, I'll still solve it.

    1. Unfortunately, what you write is not entirely true. The aae files are meta data for videos or photos. Presumably they are stored with the slow motion videos to ensure the playback speed. A complete video is by no means in these files, because the file size alone shows that there cannot be any video data in them.

      1. That's right, only the video cannot be played in slow motion. If I had wanted to record it at normal speed, I would have done it that way, but I definitely didn't want it. So I need a program that recognizes the AAE file and the video file and converts it so that the video can be played again.

        1. Hello Tom! With the iPhone I've found that it works like this: If I email the video to myself with the "Share" button, then the video is converted so that you no longer need the aae file and it's still in slow motion is played. If you copy it directly from the iPhone and give it to someone on a USB stick to watch on the PC, the video will play at normal speed. Then the necessary conversion for the film is missing.

    2. Thanks for the information. I have pages of it on my computer and that makes me very curious on the one hand and on the other hand I don't know what's behind it. So far I assumed that these are pictures and that I cannot open them.
      The amount of these files does not match the amount of photos / videos that are on the computer.
      Now the question would be, what would happen if I deleted these files?
      Thanks and greetings Peter

      1. Hi Peter! It is already at the top of the article or in the comments, but I would like to explain it again: The AAE files are meta data in which, for example, changes are saved if you change pictures on the iPhone. The system then does not change the original image but saves the changes as a log in the aae file. If you don't make any changes to the image, there may not be such a file. If you were to delete the files, only changes that you made to the original would be lost. If you never change anything, you can throw them all in the bin and nothing should change. ;) But as always with my tips: make a backup and only then test it! ;-)

        1. Yes, well, but what good is the data changed in the AAE file if you can't use it? So you “only” have the original picture as a JPG (see my black and white post above).


      1. It was brief for me too, but then in the detailed view it was b / w. I'm just checking whether you can somehow get the two files back together ... maybe there is another trick ...

          1. Yes, the single view of the picture ... but I guess you've already tried that. Which system do you use? macOS Sierra? Or something older? And do you have the iCloud Photo Library so that everything is sent to the cloud?

  6. Hello together,
    now I join the list of .AAE-tormented.
    I can understand all the explanations (thank you Sir Apfelot! Thank you everyone else!). But I fail because of the import:
    The unchanged file appears in the Windows folder (JPEG image (.JPG), which is NOT displayed in the import window) and next to it the modified file, which is only displayed as an icon from WMPlayer (which I set to open) , but cannot be opened, with nothing. But if the tool on the mobile phone and thus possibly the format are so new, maybe there will be converters soon?
    Overall, that's a shame, because with the photo editing tools on the iPhone you could edit everything (primitive but adequate) so nicely. This possibility is rubbish if the changes are lost when archiving on the PC and you then have to fall back on the comparatively cumbersome Photoshop.

    1. Hello Marion! You can actually still edit the photos with your iPhone. I think you just have to save them back in the camera roll so that they can also be found as JPG when exporting to the Mac. Otherwise, your changes may only be logged in the .aae files and saved as an addition to the original photo. But I would say that the camera roll should contain the original photo and the edited JPG.

  7. Hallo,

    thanks for the informative explanation of the * .AAE format.

    Short objection to Photoshop: of course, most and most important image processing can be done non-destructively - you just have to know how (layer modes, masks, and fx layer effects, smart objects, ...). Therefore, a comparison between iPhone photo editing and Photoshop is totally pointless. For most smartphone pictures, PS is too much anyway, so it is worth using a lot more, e.g. Snapseed or PicsArt, and exporting your JPEGs from there. Then you don't have the problem with the * .AAE data.


  8. I have a “work-around-the-problem” solution:
    I send all AAE photos from my iPhone to an email address that I can open on my computer. When I save the images from the email, the formatting is retained.

    1. Hi Alexander! Thanks for the tip! I always have to do the same with the slow-motion videos from the iPhone if I want to save them to someone. :) But what do you mean by “formatting the photos”?

  9. Good morning,

    I also downloaded the aae files yesterday. I'll recreate your "instructions" today. Thank's for the Tipps!

    The strange thing is that I have an aae file for almost every image file (same file name). I looked at the photos on the iPhone 5s, but didn't edit them. I think I miss the videos too; but didn't make any slow motion videos.

    Well, let's see. ;-)

    1. Hello Loki! First of all: I think the way of expression is a bit off. I was about to delete the comment. But to help you: As described above, aae files don't make sense on their own. They contain additional information that belongs to another image file or video file. Without this file, the aae will not be able to open no matter which program you try to use.

      1. Hello in the round,
        was in .aae format after I removed the thumb from my original photo using the "crop" function on my iPhone 5S.
        The original file was retained.
        Means that I will not do the post-processing with the Apple software in the future.

        1. If you have edited the photos, the "new" photo is usually stored as a separate image in the camera roll. So the big advantage is: No matter what you do with the photo - the original remains with you. It's actually quite practical. :D

  10. Hi all,
    I wanted to import my pictures from the iphone 6s ios 10.something to my Win7 PC and dutifully selected the “Import pictures and videos with Windows” function. I filled in my desired storage location and the like in the options and wanted to get started. But the first thing that came up was: *ping* Error importing. Unable to recognize file blah blah blah. A .jpg file for example. I was asked what I would like to do please? The choices I had were “Repeat” “Skip” “Skip all files with errors”. well I clicked Retry, then Skip. Skipping was tedious because several files seemed to have this error. Ergo? “Skip All”. So now I've imported many of my images, including the .AAE files, but NOT the associated .jpg files. Re-importing it just tells me it has XX images with import errors. What I want to do: "Retry" "Skip" "Skip all files with errors"….

    Which means in good German. I just can't get these files imported.

    Can someone tell me what to do? I had selected the option that my pictures should NOT be deleted from the iphone after the import process (I just don't want that! I just want to keep the pictures for quick access). How can I now a) recognize these images and b) secure them?

    1. Hello Bianca! The error is a bit strange and might come from the Windows PC. If the iPhone can still display the pictures, then they are definitely not broken. In order to “save” them quickly, I would install the “Dropbox” app on the iPhone. There you set up a free account and can choose to have the photos uploaded to your Dropbox account (it is best to do this over WiFi so that no data volume is used). Then you set up Dropbox on the Windows PC and should then gradually get the pictures there, which the PC then downloads from Dropbox. I would then delete all photos and restore the iPhone with iTunes. Maybe this will help avoid problems in the future. LG! Jens

  11. Hello, I haven't read through all the comments on .AAE can someone explain that to me again now :) Unfortunately, the windows don't work for me

    Many thanks for your help

  12. I downloaded everything from the iPad to the MacBook using Image Capture. Now I only have JPGs and AAE files. All adjustments and labels are gone. How can I apply the AAE files back to the images? I don't see any software that imports this data and adds it back to the images...

    1. Unfortunately, there is no program that subsequently reassembles it. Importing the edits to images stored in the AAE files ONLY works through the Apple Photos app... not through the Digital Pictures app. It may bring the AAE files to the Mac, but then you no longer get the changes that are saved in the AAE file in the photos. So be sure to import the pictures from the iPad to the Mac using the “Photos” app. Then you have everything together - including your adjustments and labels.

    1. Hello! If you want to save the original photos, then yes… just drag the iPhone to the Mac and use the “Image Capture” app to drag the photos onto the computer. If you also want to save the changes you made on the iPhone, the only way to do this is to import the photos into the "Photos" app on the Mac and then save them anywhere you like. VG! Jens

  13. Problem and solution. iPhone SE and Mac OS Sierra
    I have 1000 photos from vacation. A third of it edited or recorded with Hipstamatic. With the "Image Capture" app, the images are imported in the original plus respective AAE files. I don't want to and don't have the time to email all the edited pictures to myself. You can do that if it's just a few photos.
    So I have now imported all photos with the "Photos" app and from there exported them all to the folder where I want them to be. Thanks to Apple. I don't know why it has to be so complicated. Now the edited images are also saved as such – without AAE files. But I got an unedited original of each of these photos. These pictures are then called “Original-Photo……jpg”. Thanks very much.
    But that's still better than those stupid AAEs ......

  14. With “CopyTransPhoto” you can move any format (also “AAE”) as you like.
    The crux of the matter, costs € 14.99 once.

  15. Hi all,

    I also have a problem with the .aae files.

    Unfortunately, it was only after it was too late that I found out that the edits were not being transferred to the PC and that they were then gone.

    I downloaded the pictures from my iPhone to my Windows PC and then unfortunately deleted them from my iPhone. Now I only have the original files and the .aae files. Unfortunately, without the labels, the photos do not help me at all.

    Is there any way to bring the .aae files and photos back together? Maybe by some program on the Macbook?

    Many greetings & many thanks in advance!


  16. Hello.
    I also struggled with this for a long time and then switched to transferring my pictures from the iPhone to the computer using the “AirDrop” function. Then the images remain as they are, and no aae files are created either!

  17. I have found the solution: Select the iphone under Windows Explorer, open the DCIM folder, pictures are usually in the last folder, open this and wait for the view, move the aae file to the paper basket, start importing photos as usual, problem solved :-).

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