If you have ever tried to use a Mac hard drive or USB key with a Windows PC, you will know that Windows does not read the contents of the drive. However, with third-party software, it is still possible to see all the data stored on the drive, even if it is formatted for Mac.
By default, Mac-formatted drives that use Apple’s APFS or HFS Plus file systems are not recognized by Windows, and as a result, you only get the option to delete the contents of the drive when it’s connected to your PC. Therefore, it is recommended to use the FAT file system if you are going to use the drive on both Windows and macOS. But what if you can not format the Mac drive, or what if you do not want to? This is where the third party options come in.
For a solution to this problem, this article will cover how to use a Mac-formatted drive on a Windows PC.
How to read Mac formatted drives on Windows PC
For this procedure, we will take advantage of a third-party software called HFS Explorer, which is easy to use and completely free. You can download HFSExplorer here. After installing the software on your Windows PC, connect the storage drive to your computer and just follow the steps below.
- Open HFSExplorer on your PC and click on File -> Load file system from device from the menu bar.
- You can then select your drive from the list of “Detected Devices” as shown in the screenshot below. Click “Load” to load and view the contents of the drive in HFSExplorer.
That’s pretty much all you need to do, you should now be able to read Mac HFS formatted storage drives on a Windows PC.
To format a Mac-formatted drive from Windows
If you are not worried about losing the data or contents of the drive and only want to use it with Windows, you can easily format the drive to a Windows supported format. This will permanently delete all the files stored on the drive, so do not do this unless you do not mind losing everything on it. Connect the drive to the PC and follow the steps below.
- Open File Explorer, right-click on the drive and then select “Format”.
- Here, under “File System”, select either “NTFS” or “exFAT” using the drop-down menu and click “Start” to format the drive.
That’s all, the drive that was once formatted for Mac is now formatted for Windows PC instead (again, this erases the data on the disk to format the drive).
It is important to note that if you format your drive using NTFS file system, you will not be able to write files to the drive on a Mac unless you fiddle with the drive’s UUID to enable NTFS support which is not usually recommended. For Mac and PC compatibility, select exFAT to access the drive on both operating systems. You can also use the FAT32 file system, but the maximum file size is limited to only 4 GB, which is not as useful in many cases if you work with larger file sizes.
For what it’s worth, HFSExplorer is not the only software that can read Mac-formatted drives. There is only one free option that is open source. However, a disadvantage of HFSExplorer is that it is read-only, while some users may also need to write to the Mac drive from Windows.
How about writing to Mac-formatted drives from Windows?
If you are willing to pay, you can buy Paragon HFS + for $ 20, which allows you to read HFS formatted drives, and write files to the drive as well, the latter being an important feature that HFSExplorer lacks. Paragon’s utility installs a file system driver that allows you to access a Mac-formatted drive, just like any other File Explorer storage drive.
This is obviously aimed at reading Mac drives on a PC, but if you just want to exchange files between Mac and Windows, you can share between Mac and PC using SMB networks as discussed here, which is a great method for computers on the same Network. Or you can use iCloud Drive in Windows and also from Mac to share files between the two platforms as well.
We hope you enjoyed reading a Mac-formatted drive on your Windows PC without having to format it. Was HFSExplorer good enough for your needs? Or are you planning to buy paid software like Paragon HFS + to have write permissions as well? Did you find another solution for reading and writing to Mac hard drives on a PC? Let us know your experiences, thoughts and opinions in the comments section below.