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Nikon does publish a "NEF Codec", which supposedly makes image programs able to recognize and use NEF files. However, it does not seem to cause Explorer to recognize the files:

Explorer with NEF files

Is this possible?

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What Nikon progam have you installed? Have you tried to set the file associate in Control Panel>Programs>Default Programs>Associate a file type or protocol with a program? Does the NEF file type even show in there? – KCotreau Jul 8 '11 at 14:28
    
@KCotreau: Just the codec mentioned in the question: nikonimglib.com/nefcodec -- There's no way to associate it with a file type because it's just a codec, not a viewer. – Billy ONeal Jul 8 '11 at 14:43
    
Are you running 64-bit Windows? AFAIK, the WIC codec is 32-bit only. The FastPictureViewer Codec Pack should work for you, though it's not free. – afrazier Jul 8 '11 at 15:08

In addition to adding RAW file support in Windows Photo Viewer, Microsoft's Camera Codec Pack also enables Explorer to create thumbnails of NEF files.

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Fromt the questions above:

"Have you tried to set the file associate in Control Panel>Programs>Default Programs>Associate a file type or protocol with a program? Does the NEF file type even show in there?"

@KCotreau: Just the codec mentioned in the question: nikonimglib.com/nefcodec -- There's no way to associate it with a file type because it's just a codec, not a viewer.

That is your answer then. File associations, like what you are trying to do in that explorer window screenshot, are associated with programs that open them. You need a program that can open them, and can probably get one here:

http://support.nikonusa.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/61/~/current-versions-of-nikon-software

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It works just fine with JPEGs, and I don't have a program associated with those. – Billy ONeal Jul 8 '11 at 15:00
    
by default, i think windows viewer is associated with them – Journeyman Geek Jul 8 '11 at 15:03
    
@ Billy ONeal I have NEVER seen a computer that did not have a program associated with JPEG, whether Window Viewer as JG said, or IE, or Firefox, etc. – KCotreau Jul 8 '11 at 15:13

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