How to Read a Mac Drive on a PC

by Jeff Grundy

For many years, Apple enthusiasts and high-end graphics-design houses were the primary buyers of Mac computers. During the height of the PC revolution, Apple managed only a two or three percent share of the personal computer market. However, since the early 2000s, Apple's market share continues to climb and now stands at over 10 percent of all computer sales. With more and more users buying Macs, it is possible that someone will present you with a Mac-formatted hard drive formatted that you need to access and read on a Windows PC. Because the Windows and Mac operating systems use different file formats for storing information -- Windows uses NTFS and FAT32, while Mac uses HFS, HFS+ and HFSX -- it is not possible to read a Mac drive in Windows without installing a third-party application.

Paragon HFS+ for Windows

Open your Web browser and direct it to the Paragon Software Group website (link in Resources). Download the latest trial version of Paragon HFS+ for Windows and save it to your PC.

Click Start, then "Computer" to open Windows Explorer. Browse to the folder in which you saved the Paragon HFS+ for Windows setup file. Double-click the setup file and follow the prompts to install HFS+ on the computer. Restart the computer when prompted.

Connect the USB flash drive or hard drive formatted with the HFS, HFS+ or HFSX file format to the computer. Wait a few seconds for Windows to detect the drive and configure it for use. After a few more seconds, the AutoPlay window appears.

Click the "Open Device to View Files Using Windows Explorer" option in the AutoPlay window. A new Windows Explorer window appears displaying the contents of the Mac-formatted hard drive. Double-click files on the drive to open them in the appropriate Windows application.


Download the latest trial version of MacDrive from the Mediafour website and install it on your computer (link in Resources). Restart the computer after installing MacDrive on the PC. After you restart Windows, MacDrive launches automatically and creates a Quick Launch icon on the Windows task bar.

Connect the Mac-formatted USB drive to the computer and wait for Windows to detect it and configure it as a removable storage device.

Click the MacDrive Quick Launch icon on the Windows task bar. After the MacDrive Quick Launch window appears, click the "Access Mac Disks" link. A new window appears displaying all of the drives connected to or installed in the computer along with their drive letters.

Double-click the drive letter for the Mac-formatted drive to open a new Windows Explorer window and display its contents. Copy or open files on the Mac-formatted drive just as you would a drive using the Windows NTFS or FAT32 format. MacDrive allows you to save files from Windows to the Mac-formatted drive as well.


Open your Web browser and navigate to the SourceForge website for HFSExplorer. Download HFSExplorer and save the setup file to your computer.

Right-click the Start button, then click "Open Windows Explorer." Open the folder containing the downloaded HFSExplorer setup file in Windows Explorer. Double-click the setup file and follow the prompts to install HFSExlporer on the PC.

Connect the Mac-formatted external drive to the computer with a USB data cable. Wait for Windows to initialize the hard drive and assign it a drive letter in Windows Explorer.

Launch HFSExplorer on your PC. Click the drive letter of the Mac-formatted drive in the navigation pane or the HFSExplorer program window. HFSExplorer displays a list of files on the Mac-formatted drive in the browser pane of the window.

Double-click a file on the Mac-formatted drive to open it in the default Windows application associated with its file type. Alternatively, right-click the file name, then click "Copy" to copy it to the Windows clipboard. After copying the file to the clipboard, you can paste it in Windows Explorer to the folder of your choice.


  • HFS+ for Windows and MacDrive are commercial applications that allow you to read and write data on Mac-formatted drives from within Windows. HFSExplorer is a free application, but only supports the reading of data on HFS+ formatted drives. HFSExplorer does not allow you to write data or files to the Mac-formatted drive.


  • Although these third-party application enable you to view files on a Mac-formatted drive in Windows, you may not be able to open some file types because Windows does not offer applications or utilities that allow you to execute or open some Mac files. Nevertheless, you should be able to open, run or edit image, music or video files on the Mac-formatted drive just as you would with a drive using the Windows NTFS or FAT32 format.

About the Author

Jeff Grundy has been writing computer-related articles and tutorials since 1995. Since that time, Grundy has written many guides to using various applications that are published on numerous how-to and tutorial sites. Born and raised in South Georgia, Grundy holds a Master of Science degree in mathematics from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

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