Home macOS & Software How to read macOS external drives on a Windows PC

How to read macOS external drives on a Windows PC

by tmnsoon

If you’ve ever tried connecting an external drive from a Mac to Windows computer you’ll know Windows doesn’t read the Mac’s filesystem format. While you could format the drive to NTFS or exFAT, this problem is going to be annoying if there’s data you need on the external drive. Fortunately however there are third party applications which allow Windows to read macOS’s HFS format. So read on to find out how to get your files from a macOS external drive onto your Windows PC!

In this article we’ll go through two different applications which can accomplish the required task. The first is a paid application with a 10 day free trial, and the second is a freeware application which isn’t as seamless to use but can be used for free forever.

HFS+

Developed by Paragon Software, HFS+ is a fantastic application which gives the File Explorer in Windows the capability to mount macOS-formatted HFS drives and read/write to them as if they were a native Windows format such as NTFS or exFAT. Simply download and install the software, reboot your computer, and you can now use macOS-formatted external drives like you would any other format. It really doesn’t get any easier than that.

Browsing a macOS-formatted USB drive on a Windows 10 computer
The HFS+ interface showing a mounted macOS drive

The catch however is that HFS+ has a 10 day free trial, after which you’ll need to purchase a license. At the time of writing this article the price is $20 USD, which allows you to keep and use the application on one computer forever. If you only need to read a HFS formatted drive as a once-off then the HFS+ free trial would be the best option due to the sheer ease of use. And if you need to read them frequently it would be worth the $20 for a HFS+ license. However what if you need to read macOS/HFS drives on an occasional basis and can’t/don’t want to buy any licenses? That’s where our second option comes in:

HFSExplorer

HFSExplorer is a freeware application developed by Erik Larsson, and is available for download from his website. This application isn’t as polished as HFS+, and it doesn’t allow Windows to mount HFS drives natively in File Explorer. Instead you have to browse the HFS drives from within HFSExplorer, and copy out any files you want to use. Of course since HFSExplorer is freeware this is expected, it can’t be judged based on what the paid HFS+ offers.

In HFSExplorer you will need to load the HFS drive manually from the file menu and select the detected drive.
Once mounted you can browse folders and copy files out using the “Extract” function

HFSExplorer certainly does the job, even if it’s a bit clunkier. And of course you can use it free for as long as you like, so if you can’t or don’t want to pay for a HFS+ license this is the option for you.

What other options are available?

Do you know of any other methods or applications which are good for reading macOS external drives on Windows? Then please share them in the comments section below to help other users out.

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