If you transfer photos from an iPhone or iPad to a Windows PC, you may see some files with the “AAE” extension stored with the images. We will explain this mysterious type of file and what you should do with them.
What are AAE files?
AAE files are a special type of file that Apple’s Photos app uses to track changes made to photos.
Whenever you edit a photo using the Photos app, the app will create a special XML file with extension AAE that contains information about the changes made to the photo so that the original photo can be kept without modification and the changes can be undone at any time.
Your iPhone stores those AAE files along with your photos. So when you transfer your photos from an iPhone to Windows, sometimes, you will see a file with a name like “IMG_0026.AAE”, which will correspond to a similar image file called “IMG_0026.JPG”, for example.
What does AAE stand for?
Some theorize that AAE files originated with Apple’s Aperture photo management application on Mac, which used XML sidecar files for its nondestructive editing system. If so, AAE could mean “Apple Aperture Edits”, “Apple Aperture Extension” or something similar.
Apple first introduced AAE files in iOS 8 and Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite in 2014 around the same time it announced the discontinuation of Apple Aperture and iPhotos in favor of the then-new Photos app, so this theory has sense.
Should I save the AAE files?
If you plan to permanently keep your iPhone photos on a platform that doesn’t support Apple’s Photos app, such as Windows or Linux, there’s no need to save any AAE files. It is safe to eliminate them.
If you want to reopen the files later on a Mac, iPhone or iPad, you can keep the AAE files with the original photos in the same directory and the Photos app should be able to read them. By doing this, Photos will be able to see the changes originally made in the Photos app before transferring the images to a non-Apple platform.
Can you open an AAE file?
On Windows, Linux, Chrome OS, Android, or Mac, you can open an AAE file in a text editor, but the XML data you’ll see isn’t very useful. Editing data can only be read from the Apple Photos app.
The Photos app on iPhone, iPad, and Mac uses AAE files silently and transparently to the user, so you don’t even have to worry about “opening” them on those platforms. If the AAE files are in the same folder as the photos they refer to, Photos will know how to use them automatically. Good luck!