The default image viewer on Windows 10 devices is the Photos application. Users can install third-party apps from the Microsoft Store or desktop programs like IrfanView, XnView, or FastStone Image Viewer to use better performing programs that are more feature-rich than the default application.
Windows 10 users who worked on devices running previous versions of Windows or are still working on those devices may have used Windows Photo Viewer in the past to view images on these devices.
Windows Photo Viewer is still available on Windows 10 devices but the program's accessibility depends on whether Windows 10 was clean-installed.
Windows Photo Viewer is available as an option if the device was upgraded from an earlier version of Windows, e.g. Windows 7. Microsoft ships Windows Photo Viewer will clean installations of Windows as well but it is hidden and cannot be reactivated this easily.
Why you would want to use Windows Photo Viewer and not Photos? Easy: Photos uses a multiple of the memory that Windows Photo Viewer required to display images. If you use both tools to display the same image, Photos uses about three times as much RAM as Windows Photo Viewer. This increases to a lot more when you don't open the image directly in Photos but go to the visual listing of all available photos instead. RAM usage may go up to 400, 500 or even more Megabytes easily.
Windows Photo Viewer should be available on devices that were upgraded from previous versions of Windows to Windows 10.
Do the following to find out if that is indeed the case:
If you don't see the program listed there, you need to make a couple of changes to the Windows Registry to bring it back. The user Edwin over on Ten Forums published the code for the Registry that you need to add.
I have created the Registry file for your convenience but you can head over to the forum to create it yourself if you prefer it.
Download the following Registry file to your system: Windows 10 Windows Photo Viewer
I tested the Registry file on Windows 10 version 1803 and the latest Insider Build of Windows 10 version 1809 and it worked on both.
Just extract the Registry file after the download and run the Registry file to add the information to the Registry. You need to restart the PC and should have Windows Photo Viewer as an option in the Open With menu and elsewhere on the operating system.
You can make Windows Photo Viewer the default viewer for images but you cannot use the Settings application for that. Microsoft blocks desktop programs from becoming the default (programs you can browse to on the local system), and suggests only some there. Use NirSoft's FileTypesMan to associate desktop programs with different file types. Check out the linked article for detailed instructions on how to do so.
Windows Photo Viewer uses less RAM and it may even open faster than the Photos application on Windows 10 systems. It may be an option on a system where you may not install third-party viewers which offer better performance, resource usage, and functionality.
Now You: Which program do you use to view images?
Advertising revenue is falling fast across the Internet, and independently-run sites like Ghacks are hit hardest by it. The advertising model in its current form is coming to an end, and we have to find other ways to continue operating this site.
We are committed to keeping our content free and independent, which means no paywalls, no sponsored posts, no annoying ad formats or subscription fees.
If you like our content, and would like to help, please consider making a contribution:
Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.