If you are someone who uses different operating systems — presumably macOS and Windows — you might often find the need to view/share/transfer files between the two systems. While one way to go about this is to connect the systems over a network, it is not an ideal solution for when you have large chunks of files to move around.
An alternative, and probably the better option of the two, is to use an external drive to move files between different devices. But, since the two operating systems use different file systems, the same is not a straightforward solution either. For, unlike Mac, which can read a Windows-formatted drive natively, Windows, on the other hand, does not provide support for Mac-formatted drives. So if you find yourself in a similar situation, here’s a guide on how to read a Mac-formatted drive on Windows.
To give you some background, the file system used on both Mac and Windows is completely different. While Windows generally uses its latest NTFS or New Technology File System, the operating system on Mac, macOS, usually incorporates the APFS or Apple File System. Unless of course, you are on the older version of macOS, which relies on the HFS+ or Hierarchical File System. Of the two systems, Mac comes with native read support for NTFS, meaning, if a drive is formatted in NTFS, it can be read (only) on macOS. However, Windows (including the latest version, Windows 10) does not offer support for APFS or HFS+ on its system. And therefore, the need for alternatives or third-party services to read a Mac-formatted drive on Windows.
1. HFS Explorer
HFS Explorer is a pretty good software that can help you read your Mac-formatted drives on Windows. As its name suggests, the software only works with the drives that are formatted with the HFS, HFS+, and HFSX file systems. It has a graphical UI, which is quite clean and easy to use. And most importantly, the software is completely free to sue. However, it still runs on an older version, and the developer has not updated it in a long time, probably due to the arrival of APFS. Although, if you use older versions of macOS, you can get the most of the software without compromising functionality.
When you get started with HFS Explorer, you must ensure that you have Java SE Runtime Environment (version 5.0 or later) installed and functioning on your Windows machine, since the software is largely dependent on Java for its functionality. With the service up and running, you can use it to read any files on your drive without encountering any issues, and also extract the files on to your Windows machine.
For those who are on the newer versions of macOS, the file system likely used on your system is APFS. And therefore, reading a drive Mac-formatted in APFS requires the use of MacDrive. MacDrive is a third-party software from back in the day and it also happens to be one of the most preferred and commonly used software for reading Mac-formatted drives on Windows. However, unlike HFS Explorer, MacDrive is not available for free and comes with a premium. Although, for users who are getting started with the software for the first time, there is a 5-day free trial, which should give an idea of what the software has to offer.
Even though the APFS system is available in Beta, you can get it to read your drives with the same effectiveness and accuracy as you would with HFS. Talking about features, MacDrive comes with a new Disk Management window, which shows all the drives connected to your Windows machine, and also opens up access to all the features that come bundled in. Moreover, the company also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, in case you are not satisfied with their service.
3. Paragon APFS
If you are on the look for a service that allows you to read and write files on your Mac-formatted drive, be it in HFS+ or APFS system, and are willing to spend money, the Paragon APFS and Paragon HFS+ are two good software for the same. Unlike MacDrive, which comes with a free trial, Paragon, unfortunately, does not offer a trial run for either of its software. So, depending on your requirement and the file system your drive is formatted in, you have to purchase either of the two offerings: Paragon APFS or Paragon HFS+.
Much like MacDrive, Paragon also offers a foolproof functionality on both software and ensures data integrity and prevents accidental loss/corruption of data during the process. One of the most useful features of the software is Automount, which mounts the supported drives automatically, so you do not have to spend time looking for the connected drives. Most importantly, it gives the option to view, edit, and copy data from the Mac-formatted drive on to your Windows machine. Paragon APFS and HFS+ can be installed on a maximum of three Windows machines at a time.
4. UFS Explorer
The last option in the list, which can be used to read a Mac-formatted drive on Windows, is UFS Explorer. UFS Explorer is available in two versions: free and paid, with the paid version offering a few extra features alongside the essential ones found on the free version. However, to be able to utilize the software to its full utility and have the ability to copy large files from Mac-formatted drives to your Windows machine, you need to purchase the license. What’s interesting about the software is that, in addition to supporting Mac file systems, it can also be used to read drives formatted in Linux-based file systems.
Besides being able to read files formatted in various macOS (and Linux) file systems, UFS Explorer can also be used to access data from a virtual machine and copy it down to your Windows machine. Moreover, if you have macOS (or Linux) installed alongside Windows on a single machine, the software can also help you to read files on the drive without any hassle.
Those are some of the most reliable software you can use to read and access a Mac-formatted drive on a Windows machine. Irrespective of whether your drive is formatted in older file systems (like HFS) or the latest APFS, you can pick the software mentioned in the list accordingly to easily access all the files you have on your Mac-formatted drive.