If you don’t have a robust internal hard drive, investing in an external hard drive can help you quickly transfer files between computers. However, what happens when you get a mac hard drive that won’t work with Windows? You may need to reformat it to work with both computers. You’ll need to convert your Mac hard drive to Windows. Windows uses NFTS file format while Mac drives use HFS, this means Macs can’t write to NTFS drives while Windows can’t read or write HFS. Although you can find third-party software to get Mac hard drives to work with NTFS, and windows to work with HFS, these cost money, and you may have to deal with bugs or request for permission to install the software. Fortunately, you don’t have to struggle anymore, here’s a detailed guide on how to convert Mac hard drive to Windows without losing data.

Can You Read a Mac Formatted Drive on a Windows Computer?

Unfortunately, it’s a simple process like connecting the drive to a computer using a USB and reading the files. Windows Can’t read Mac Drives as they both use different file systems. Apple now uses APFS or the Apple File System and Windows uses the NTFS file system for its internal drives. USB drives and external hard drives use the Windows FAT32 to format for compatibility. The best news is that most devices included Mac computers can read and write from FAT32 devices. New Apple devices will be formatted with APFS while old Mac drives can use the HFS file system. However, Windows by default can’t read these file systems.

How to Read Mac Drives on Windows

Although both operating systems are incompatible, you can still read APFS format files on Windows. Various apps make this possible, and the best part is they work for any Apple device like iPads and iPod, not just Mac computers. These options include:


MacDrive is a popular app that was s first released in 1996. The app works with HFS and APFS drives. Also, the app allows you to read and write data to your mac drive from Windows. MacDrive works around the Disk Management Window by acting as the hub for all Mac drives connected to a Windows PC. What’s more, you can see the HFS or APFS drive in the file explorer, which allows you to connect the two to the Windows operating system. You can access other beneficial features like advanced security tools, powerful disk repair, and the ability to create and partition Mac drives from a PC. You can use the five-day free trial to see if this is something that would work for you. The company has a Pro version that has advanced features like file defragmentation, a way to create Mac ISO files, and support for RAID setups.

Paragon APFS for Windows

Paragon APFS offers read and write access to APFS formatted partitions, read-only support for encrypted volumes, and read, write access to cloned and compressed files. While the app supports disk auto-mounting when you start it, it doesn’t come with partition tools. Although it’s a big competitor with MacDrive, the latter wins in that it provides HFS support. Paragon APFS app only works with APFS-formatted drives. In case you have an old Mac running HFS, you need to buy Paragon HFS, which is an expensive option. However, Paragon APFS has some advantages. It’s available on a ten-day free trial.

UFS Explorer

You can use the UFS explorer to read APFS drives on Windows. The best part of this app is that it can scan both HFS and APFS formats. Also, it can read Linux, UNIX, FAT32, NTFS, and UFS. What’s more, it has RAID support, or you can use the inbuilt RAID builder to customize it to your liking. The app has a free version without time limits. However, you’ll only copy small files.

Step by Step Process on How to Convert Mac hard Drive to Windows without Losing Data

Follow these steps to understand how to convert mac hard drive to windows without losing data.

Back up the Mac’s Drive Data

Back up data on the Mac drive. Note that this won’t change the file system. The step only wipes the drive allowing you to start with a fresh mac-formatted drive. You can transfer the files to a Mac computer and back up the data. In case you have a Windows Pc, use HFSE Explorer to copy files onto your Windows PC. It’s essential to note that you need to install Java on your PC to use HFSE Explorer. Once you’re done, you can uninstall Java.

Delete the Mac Partitions

Open the Windows Disk Management tool by pressing the Windows Key and R to open the Run dialog. Type in diskmgmt.msc and press enter. After this, you should see the partition on the drive that is connected to your computer, both external and internal ones. If you’ve connected the Mac-formatted drive to a Windows PC, you should see it on the list of disks. Beware of deleting partitions from another drive as this could lead to loss of files or damage your windows installation. Right-click each partition on the mac drive and choose delete volume to erase the partitions. Right click on the empty area and select New Simple Volume to come up with a partition. Format it with FAT32 or Windows NTFS file systems. The Mac Drive has an EFI System partition marked as protected. Right click on it to delete it. You may notice that the delete option is disabled. At this point, you may need to wipe the entire disk to erase this partition. The process removes everything on the disk, which includes any partitions and files present in the drive. You need to note the number of the drive in the disk management window. Open the command prompt window as the administrator. If you’re using Windows 7 or 8, press the windows key, type cmd, and press Control, shift, and Enter at the same time. Once you’ve open the prompt window, write diskpart and click enter. On the DISKPART prompt, type list disk and press enter to see the disks connected to your computer. Check the number of your Mac formatted drive on this list, which should be similar as the number of the drive in the disk management window. Be careful with the number to avoid wiping out the wrong drive as the process is irreversible. Nest, type select # (which is the number of the drive) and press enter. This means if the Mac drive is number 3, you’ll type select disk 3. Type clean and press enter to erase the disk, which includes the partitions and files. The process gives you an uninitialized and empty disk. You’ll notice a message stating that Diskpart succeeded in cleaning the disk, close this command prompt window.

Create a FAT32 or NTFS Partition

Go back and open the disk management window. Note if you left it open back then, you need to click action and select rescan disks to update data. Find the mac disk; it should be empty have a not initialized message. Right click on the drive and select initialize disk. Choose the GPT or MBR partition table format and select okay to create the table for the disk. Select New Simple Volume by right-clicking in the unallocated space on the initialized disk. Create a partition using the wizard with the FAT32 or NTFS file system. You can now use the drive with the Windows system as it’s formatted. Also, you won’t find any wasted space by protected Mac partitions. If you still need the saved files, you can transfer them to your now formatted drive.

Other Options to Convert Mac Hard Drive to Windows

You can choose to use different ways to convert a Mac formatted drive to Windows. These includes:

Using NTFS-HFS Converter

You can now use the NTFS-HFS converter to switch disks to one format and vice versa without losing any data. The converter works not only for external drives but also for internal drives. Whether you’re a beginner without any tech skills or you’re a pro, the converter is easy to use, and you won’t have to deal with any technical issues. Remember to back up data before using the converter as all encrypted files will be lost.

Final Thoughts

Converting a Mac formatted drive to Windows isn’t complicated. Follow the steps above to learn how to how to convert mac hard drive to windows without losing data in minutes. Alternatively, you can choose to use third-party software and apps that not only allow you to read HFS and APFS file systems, but also allow you to understand how to convert your Mac drive to windows without losing data. Kent Beck link to his wiki Need to read Mac drives in Windows?
Unfortunately, it’s not a straightforward process; you can’t just connect the Mac drive and expect it to work. Here’s everything you need to know to get it working.

Why Can’t Windows Read Mac Drives?

Windows and macOS use different file systems. Windows uses the NTFS file system for its internal drives, whereas Apple replaced HFS+ with its successor—Apple File System (APFS)—in early 2017. Today, APFS is used on Macs, iPhones, iPads, and Apple TVs. External hard disks and USB drives are generally formatted with the Windows FAT32 file system for maximum compatibility. Most devices, including Macs, can read and write from FAT32 devices. All new Macs will be formatted with APFS. Older Mac drives are likely still formatted with the HFS+ file system. Windows can’t read either file system by default. We’ll show you how to access your Mac-formatted APFS or HFS+ drive on Windows.

How to Read APFS on Windows

Firstly, let’s look at how to read the newer Apple File System format on Windows. All these apps will allow you to read drives from any updated Apple device, not just Macs.

1. MacDrive

macdrive home screen MacDrive has been one of the go-to apps for a long time. The first version was released way back in 1996. If you’re prepared to spend some money, you don’t need to look elsewhere. The app works with APFS drives and HFS+ drives. Unlike some options, MacDrive lets you read and write data to your Mac-formatted drive directly from Windows. The app is focused on the freshly redesigned Disk Management Window. It acts as a hub for all the Mac drives connected to Windows. You will also be able to see your APFS or HFS+ drive directly within File Explorer, allowing easy integration with the rest of the Windows operating system. Other useful features include the ability to create and partition Mac disks direct from your PC, a powerful disk repair feature, and robust security tools. The standard version costs $49.99. There’s also a Pro version. It adds several extra features, including automatic file defragmentation, support for RAID setups, and a way to create Mac ISO files. A five-day free trial is available. Download: MacDrive for Windows 10 ($49.99)

2. Paragon APFS for Windows

paragon Paragon APFS for Windows is another paid app. It is the main competitor of MacDrive. The app provides read and write access to APFS-formatted partitions, read and write access to compressed and cloned files, and read-only support for encrypted volumes. It supports disk auto-mounting at start-up but doesn’t have MacDrive’s partition tools. Check Out Paragon’s Wide Range of Solutions, Here MacDrive has one big advantage over Paragon’s app: HFS+ support. Paragon APFS for Windows only supports APFS-formatted drives. If you have some older Mac drives lying around that are still running HFS+, you would need to purchase Paragon HFS+ for Windows separately. MacDrive, therefore, is a more economical option. One license—which costs $49.95—works on three Windows PCs. Download: Paragon APFS for Windows 10 ($49.95)

3. UFS Explorer Standard Access

UFS Explorer Standard Access exploring mac drive windows Our third and final recommendation for reading APFS drives on Windows is UFS Explorer Standard Recovery. Once again, it’s a paid option. The app will cost you €59.95. UFS Explorer Standard Recovery is the most versatile app on this list. It can read the two formats we care about—APFS and HFS+—as well as NTFS, FAT, FAT32, exFAT, SGI XFS, Linux JFS, Unix/BSD, UFS/UFS2, and VMware VMFS. As such, this is the app you should choose if you find yourself hopping between lots of different operating systems during your day. UFS Explorer Standard Recovery also comes with RAID support as standard. The app has a built-in RAID builder, so you can customize it for your array. There is a free version of the app with no time limits, but it will only let you copy files smaller than 256KB in size. Download: UFS Explorer Standard Access for Windows 10 (€59.95)

How to Read HFS+ on Windows

If your Mac-formatted drive is still running HFS+, use one of these three methods instead.

1. Install Apple HFS+ Drivers

If you only need read access, you can install the Apple HFS+ drivers for Windows. Be sure to remove Paragon or MacDrive before proceeding. Download the correct Windows driver package, then follow these steps:

  1. Copy the ApplsHFS.sys and AppleMNT.sys files to C:\Windows\System32\drivers
  2. Merge the Add_AppleHFS.reg file with your Windows registry.
  3. Restart your system.

The video above also demonstrates the process. After restarting, your Mac-formatted drive should show up under This PC. This method only gives you read access to the drive. If you would like to edit or delete files, try one of the alternative methods below.

2. HFSExplorer

HFSExplorer HFSExplorer is completely free. You can use it to access Mac file systems from Windows without paying a dime. The developer hasn’t updated it since October 2015 due to the arrival of APFS, but it still works on older systems. HFSExplorer requires Java. We generally recommend against having Java installed, but it’s necessary here unless you want to spend money. You also need to run the app as an Admin. This tool is simple to use. Connect your Mac-formatted drive to your Windows system, open HFSExplorer, and click File > Load File System From Device. HFSExplorer can automatically locate any connected devices with HFS+ file systems and open them. You can then extract files from the HFSExplorer window to your Windows drive. Note that HFSExplorer is read-only, so you can’t modify or delete files on your Mac drive. It also doesn’t integrate with Windows File Explorer—files are available in the HFSExplorer application, and you must copy them elsewhere. Download: HFSExplorer for Windows 10 (Free)

3. Paragon HFS+ for Windows

paragon hfs Paragon HFS+ for Windows is a paid application, but it distinguishes itself with additional features. Unlike HFSExplorer, Paragon HFS+ for Windows provides full read/write access to Mac drives and promises high performance. It even integrates HFS+ file systems with Windows Explorer or File Explorer on Windows. Any Windows program can read from or write to the Mac drive. The app costs $19.95, but it also offers a 10-day free trial. If you need to recover files from a drive, 10 days is plenty of time to install this file system driver, copy your files over, and uninstall it. Paragon HFS+ doesn’t need Java to work. Download: Paragon HFS+ for Windows 10 ($19.95)

Format the Mac Drive for Windows

If you have a Mac drive lying around and you no longer have a Mac, you’re not stuck with the Mac file system forever. After recovering the files from your drive with one of the tools above, you can then format the drive and convert it to a standard FAT32 partition that will work with most devices. Formatting will erase all the files on your drive, so make sure you have backed up your files. To format the drive, use the dialog that appears when you connect the drive to your computer.
Macs format drives with Apple’s HFS+ file system, which Windows won’t recognize or access without third-party software. Macs may also create a protected EFI partition on these drives that you can’t delete with the usual disk-partitioning tools. Some drives are even sold as “Mac-formatted drives” — this just means they come with the Mac HFS+ file system instead of NTFS or FAT32. Macs can read NTFS drives, and can read and write to FAT32 drives.

Back Up the Drive’s Data First

First, back up the data on the Mac-formatted drive if you have anything important on it. This process won’t actually convert the file system. Instead, we’ll just be wiping the drive and starting over from scratch. Any files on the drive will be erased. If you have a Mac lying around, you can plug the drive into a Mac and back up the files. If you only have Windows systems available, you can use HFSExplorer to copy files from the drive onto your Windows system drive or another drive. HFSExplorer unfortunately requires you install Java to use it, but it’s the only free option here. You’ll probably want to uninstall Java when you’re done.

Erase the Mac Partitions, Including the EFI System Partition

RELATED: Understanding Hard Drive Partitioning with Disk Management First, open the Windows Disk Management tool. Press Windows Key + R to open the Run dialog, type diskmgmt.msc into the box, and press Enter to open it. This tool allows you to manage the partitions on drives connected to your computer — internal ones or external ones connected via USB. Locate the Mac drive in the list of disks. Be sure you’ve identified the Mac drive — if you accidentally delete partitions from another drive, you could damage your Windows installation or lose your files. If you’re lucky, you can just right-click each partition on the Mac drive and select Delete Volume to remove the partitions. You can then right-click in the empty space and select New Simple Volume to create a partition and format it with the Windows NTFS or FAT32 file systems. The Mac drive may have an “EFI System Partition” on it. This partition is marked as protected, so you can’t just right-click and delete it — the delete option will be disabled. To erase this partition, we’ll have to wipe the entire disk. This process erases everything on the disk, including its files and all its partitions. First, note the number of the disk in the disk management window. For example, in the screenshot below, the Mac-formatted drive is Disk 2. Next, open a Command Prompt window as administrator. To do this on Windows 8 or Windows 7, press the Windows key once, type cmd , and press Ctrl+Shift+Enter. Type diskpart into the Command Prompt window and press Enter. Type list disk at the DISKPART prompt and press Enter to view a list of disks connected to your computer. Identify the number of your Mac disk in the list. It should be the same as the number of the disk in the Disk Management window. Be sure to double-check this — you could accidentally wipe the wrong drive if you select the wrong disk here. Type select disk # and press Enter to select the Mac disk, replacing # with the number of the Mac disk. For example, here we’d type select disk 2. Finally, type clean and press Enter. This command erases the entire selected disk, including all its files and partitions — whether they’re protected or not. You’ll have an empty, uninitialized disk after you do this. Close the Command Prompt window when you see a message saying “DiskPart succeeded in cleaning the disk.”

Create an NTFS or FAT32 Partition

You can now open the Disk Management window again. If you’ve left it open, you may have to click Action > Rescan Disks to update the data. Locate the Mac disk in the list. It will be completely empty and display a message saying “Not Initialized.” Right-click it and select Initialize Disk. Select the MBR or GPT partition table format and click OK to create a partition table for the disk. Right-click in the unallocated space on the initialized disk and select New Simple Volume. Use the wizard to create a partition with the NTFS or FAT32 file system. The drive will now be formatted for use by Windows systems. There will be no space wasted by protected Mac partitions. Some Mac functions require an HFS+ formatted drive. For example, Time Machine can only back up to HFS+ formatted drives. Image Credit: Konstantinos Payavlas on Flickr READ NEXT

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