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What is an AAE file?

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  • 3 min read

There are hundreds of different programs we use every day without even realising. All these programs use different file types exclusive to each program and yet continue to work without the user dealing with any headaches.

However, sometimes you’ll come across a file type that you don’t exactly know how to open. In this article, we’re talking about what is an AAE file and what you should do if you see one. 

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What are AAE files?

The Apple Photos app makes AAE files to keep track of changes you’ve made to your photos. If you’ve used the Photos app to edit a picture or make any other changes, these changes are stored in a separate AAE file to help the phone keep track of these changes and revert them if needed. 

These are XML files containing all the edit information necessary. If you transfer your photos from your iPhone to a Windows or Linux computer, you’ll see the AAE file with the same name as the photo, except with a different extension, of course. 

We don’t exactly know what the file extension stands for, but one theory is that AAE files originated with the Apple Aperture photo management tool on Macs, which used XML files for non-destructive editing. These files were introduced in iOS 8 and macOS X10.10 in 2014. 

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Can you open these files?

Technically, since these are only XML files, you can open them using a text editor on Windows or Linux, but they won’t be useful other than showing whatever edits you’ve made to your photos in an XML format. 

Since the Apple Photos app can only read the edit data, these files aren’t of much use on a device that can’t run Apple’s apps. 

Do you need to save these files?

If you’re planning to save your photos on a device that doesn’t support the Apple Photos app, let’s say a Windows or Linux device, you don’t really need the AAE files as no application on those platforms can read these files and trace your edits back.

However, if you’re only moving photos around and plan to dump them back to an iPhone, iPad or macOS device, then, by all means, keep the AAE files, as they’ll let you go back on your edits any time you want. 

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Yadullah Abidi

Yadullah is a Computer Science graduate who writes/edits/shoots/codes all things cybersecurity, gaming, and tech hardware. When he's not, he streams himself racing virtual cars. He's been writing and reporting on tech and cybersecurity with websites like Candid.Technology and MakeUseOf since 2018. You can contact him here: