Nikon Raw (NEF) Codecs for Vista and Windows 7

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Two years ago, I mentioned in an article that Nikon’s Raw (NEF) Codec was an important part of my photo-processing pipeline.  After many laptops, photos, and software updates, it still is.

I now work with photos on 32- and 64-bit machines running Windows 7 and Windows Vista.  In the hope it will help other Nikon photographers, here is an update describing some of my more recent experiences working with Raw (NEF) files under Windows.

[Note: I last updated this article May 2012.  tl;dr: download Nikon’s 32- and 64-bit NEF codecs here.]

First – Why would you want a NEF Codec?

The principal reason you’d want a Raw (NEF) Codec is to view Raw Nikon images and metadata from within Windows File Explorer and Windows Photo Gallery, and now Windows Live Photo Gallery as well, which was released as part of Windows Live Essentials.

Viewing a directory of Raw (NEF) Files from 64-bit Windows 7
The goal: a directory of Raw (NEF) Image files and their metadata in Windows Explorer. This is 64-bit Windows 7.

Of course, if you’re shooting Raw images, you’ll probably also want a fully-featured application that can view and edit NEFs (such as Nikon’s Capture NX 2, or Adobe’s Lightroom or Photoshop), in addition to the Codec. But the Codec itself is very useful for viewing, sorting and “triaging” your photos.

The options available to you for NEF Codec solutions will depend on whether you’re running 32- or 64-bit Windows.  Here are the ones I use today.

Nikon LogoRecommended NEF Codec for both 32- and 64-bit Windows:
Nikon’s NEF Codec

(current version: 1.14.0)  (click for download info)

Nikon’s Codec has gone through a number of revisions.  It is currently at version 1.14, and can be downloaded from here.  This codec is free to download. I should note that I couldn’t get it to work on a pre-release version of Windows 8.

Fast Picture Viewer

Alternate option: FastPictureViewer Codec (NOT FREE)

(current version: 3.2) (click for download info)

My impression (not even remotely scientific, since I’ve switched machines and cameras) is that version 1.8 is quite a bit quicker and more robust (stalls less often) than earlier versions.  My improved experience may also have to do with updates to Windows Vista, so I’m not sure.

Nikon Logo

64-bit alternate option: Ardfry’s x64 NEF Codec

(current version: (click for download info)

In addition to the Fast Picture Viewer, another third party, Ardfry Imaging, have released a 64-bit NEF codec for Windows Vista x64.  I have previously worked with it on multiple 64-bit Windows 7 installations, and it worked well for me.  I evaluated the Ardfry Codec beta for its trial period, and decided it was well worth the $19USD they were asking for a registered copy.

But what if I don’t want to pay for (or install) a Codec?

Please note that even if you choose not to install a codec like FPV or Ardfry’s, Nikon’s Capture NX 2.1 works fine under 64-bit Windows (in 32-bit emulation mode), as you can see in the screenshot of 64-bit Windows Task Manager below.

Capture NX 2.1 works fine under 64-bit Windows 7 in 32-bit emulation mode
Capture NX 2.1 works fine under 64-bit Windows 7 in 32-bit emulation mode

That being said, I value being able to see my photos and their metadata within Windows Explorer and Windows Live Photo Gallery, which is not possible without the codec.  So a codec solution like the ones listed above makes sense for me. The Windows 7 installation pictured at the top of this article is sporting the Ardfry codec.

I hope this helps, and am always grateful for tips, advice, and further thoughts on streamlining my photography pipeline.

68 thoughts on “Nikon Raw (NEF) Codecs for Vista and Windows 7”

  1. On a slightly different item has anyone had problems sending E-Mails with ViewNX 1.60 . I an using Vista 32 and Windows Mail and am utterly defeated . i would much prefer to use View Nx for my postings

  2. I have given it a quick test under Windows 7 64 bit and can report that thumbnails in Explorer work and I can now open NEF files in Irfanview (which I use for quick viewing of images). Previously I could not do this. I am also seeing EXIF data!

    Rock on! :)

  3. FastPictureViewer seems to be working so far for me too – on Vista x64. I may finally be able to dump Adobe Bridge for quick photo finding.

  4. I have found everything works for me under Windows 7 x64 with the codec loaded from the Fast Picture Viewer link I provide above. Thumbnails in Explorer and opening NEF files in my quick viewer, Irfanview.

  5. Hi, I am new to all of this, bit have recently bought a d90 and am hoping to get into photography. It is heaps of fun! Our last computer crashed and I have bought and new computer with Windows VISTA 64bit.
    My Nikon CD is not read at all and so can’t install anything. From what I can gather (I am not really computer literate…yet), I will need to download a codec such as Ardfry’s, to view the photos as thumbnails and then buy something like Photoshop (although I have no idea which version will work on my computer) or something similar to edit the raw files. Is this correct? Any other suggestions?

    Someone help me understand??

  6. Hello Adam
    Thanks for the great info about the fastpicture codecs for my nikon (D70) raw pics, together with windows 7

  7. Hi Adam !
    Thanks, thanks, thanks :) Working great on my windows 7 64-bit ! The best and simple solution.
    I to recommend everyone !

  8. I am still dumbfounded how Nikon can neglect their customers and fail or refuse to create a 64-bit codec for Vista 64-bit and Windows 7 64-bit. It’s just unbelievable to me that a company who expects to maintain a first rate status expects to do this by neglecting usability. They have jumped to digital, therefore it’s a requirement that they cover this if they want to remain a top-rate photo company.

  9. PLEASE – I have a new Nikon with it’s NEF files. However, I am running Vista Home Premium on a PC in 64-bit format and can’t find a way to process my RAW files through PhotoShop CS4. HELP, HELP, HELP!

  10. Hey all, apparently something went wrong with fast picture viewer being free. Now it costs 5.99$… any other option?!

    Thanks in advance,

  11. Thanks, Rob. That’s just what I did.

    I run Adobe PhotoShop CS4 on a 64-bit PC. I finally just went to Adobe and downloaded their plug-in for RAW — it is new as of November/December, 2009 and covers my new Nikon. RAW ccouldn’t deal with the NEF files from my D300 until I installed this new plug-in. Now it does. Can’t help the Picture-Viewer people…….. I LOVE RAW because then I have all this information, and can save as .jpg and still have the original RAW file that doesn’t suffer cumulative degradation everytime I open it.


  12. Kathy, glad to help; Emilio, thanks for the heads-up and I am sorry to see that Fast Picture Viewer is no longer free! They are ominously promising to raise the price further as well. I will say that FPV works very well for me. FPV guys, if you’re reading this, please consider keeping the non-Pro version free or super-affordable (like $5.99).

  13. Thank you Rob for helping us find a suitable alternative for something that would seem so simple for Nikon to supply. Unfortunately, it seems FPV has raised the price to $8.99. I just can’t justify spending $9 just to have the ability to view my .NEF files in windows when Nikon should have taken care of months ago this for free.


  14. I just ended up paying $9.99 for FPV. I hope it works. I like to use Windows Explorer for initial sorting before bringing photos into Photoshop Elements. I really like the idea of a FAST codec!

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