How to read a mac-formatted drive on a windows pc

Updated on March 30, 2022

Min Reading 2 Min

Summary: A professional Mac hard drive recovery software can recover data from formatted external hard drive, start-up drive, solid state drive, compact flash, SD card, Fusion Drive, Time Machine, etc.

Although formatting deletes data on a Mac hard drive, it is needed to create more free storage space on Mac, create new file system, or repair the Mac disk.

Irrespective of the reason, it is recommended to have a backup of your drive before formatting, as this process erases your entire Mac data.

However, if you forget to back up important data or the backup is not inaccessible, the only method to recover lost files is with the help of a Mac formatted drive recovery software.

Leverage Stellar Data Recovery Professional for Mac software to recover data from APFS, HFS+, FAT, ex-FAT, or NTFS file systems. The software supports latest macOS Big Sur and works on MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iMac, and Mac mini. This utility can save your day if you have formatted your Mac disk drive. Additionally, the software recovers emptied files from trash such as Word, Excel, Photos, Videos, Audio and more.

Watch the Software Tutorial Video and Recover Data from Formatted Mac Hard Drive:

Steps to Recover Formatted Drive on Mac

Step 1 : Download and install the *trial version of Stellar Data Recovery Professional for Mac .

*This trial version allows you to scan and preview all the recoverable files, which helps to assess the effectiveness of the Mac formatted drive recovery tool.

Step 2 : Launch software, select the desired file type from the “ Select What To Recover ” screen. Click Next.

Step 3 : Select the formatted hard drive or partition from the “ Select Location ” screen.

Step 4 : Toggle Deep Scan recovery option. Click Scan. (Deep scan is specially intended to recover files from formatted hard drive or volume on Mac.)

Step 5 : Click OK when the scan is complete.

Step 6 : You can view the files in three modes— Classic , File and, or Deleted. Preview and select the required files and folders.

Step 7 : Click on Recover.

Step 8 : Click Browse to specify the save location and click Save. This will start saving the recoverable files to the specified location.

This completes the Mac-formatted hard drive or volume data recovery process. You can view the recovered files from the storage location.

*To save the recovered files, you need to get the activation key of the software and unlock all its advanced features including Drive Monitor.


When it comes to Mac formatted hard drive recovery , you can trust Stellar Data Recovery Professional for Mac. Whether you’d formatted Mac volume, partition or an external hard drive, the advanced software recovers all files with original file names, dates and timestamps.

Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He’s written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader’s Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami’s NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read nearly one billion times—and that’s just here at How-To Geek. Read more.

Windows can’t normally read Mac-formatted drives, and will offer to erase them instead. But third-party tools fill the gap and provide access to drives formatted with Apple’s HFS+ file system on Windows. This also allows you to restore Time Machine backups on Windows.

If you know you’re going to use a drive on both Mac and Windows, you should use the exFAT file system, which is compatible with both. But if you didn’t foresee that, you may have formatted your drive with Apple’s HFS Plus, which Windows can’t read by default. In fact, some manufacturers sell “Mac” drives pre-formatted with this Mac-only file system.

Don’t Format the Drive! (Yet)

When you connect a Mac-formatted drive to Windows, you’ll be informed that “you need to format the disk in drive X: before you can use it.” Don’t click the “Format disk” button or Windows will erase the contents of the drive–click “Cancel”!

This message appears because Windows doesn’t understand Apple’s HFS+ file system. That’s fine, because other applications do. Just don’t format the drive until you get the important files off the drive.

Of course, if the drive doesn’t have any important files on it, you can go ahead and format it. But be absolutely sure there’s nothing you need before you do.

Option One: HFSExplorer Is Free and Basic

If you only need to get a couple files off the drive, we recommend HFSExplorer. It’s the only completely free way to access a Mac-formatted drive. It does require Java, however, so you’ll have to install that first. Then, install HFSExplorer like you would any other Windows program.

HFSExplorer isn’t fancy, though, and doesn’t have a lot of features. You can’t use it to write to Mac-formatted drives, and it doesn’t install a file system driver that integrates into File Explorer. But you can open HFSExplorer, read a Mac-formatted drive, and copy the files to your Windows PC without paying a dime. It can also mount Mac .dmg disk images to get at the files inside them.

This application’s read-only nature isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It ensures that no bug in the third-party driver can damage your Mac-formatted drive and the files on it. You can set read-only mode in other applications, too–but, if you’re not going to use their write support, there’s less reason to pay for them.

To use HFSExplorer, connect your Mac-formatted drive to your Windows PC and launch HFSExplorer. Click the “File” menu and select “Load File System From Device.” It will automatically locate the connected drive, and you can load it. You’ll see the contents of the HFS+ drive in the graphical window. Just select the files or folders you want, click “Extract,” and choose a folder. They’ll be copied to the location you choose on your PC.

Option Two: Paragon HFS+ is $20, But Offers Write Access and Better Integration

Paragon’s HFS+ for Windows is a bit fancier, but it’ll cost you. This tool installs a file system driver that allows you to access a Mac-formatted drive like any other drive in File Explorer, or any other Windows application with an open or save dialog. It boasts improved speed, and we wouldn’t be surprised if it were faster than HFSExplorer. And, unlike HFSExplorer, it offers full read/write access to Mac-formatted drives, so you can write to them from within Windows. Just install it, and Mac drives will show up like any other drive.

If you need to work with Mac-formatted drives on a regular basis and you want the operating system integration, speed, and write access, Paragon HFS+ is a great choice and will be worth it for you. But, if you just need to get some files off a Mac-formatted drive occasionally, this is overkill and you can save $20 by sticking with HFSExplorer.

Paragon does offer a 10-day free trial of HFS+ for Windows, so you can give it a try and see if it works for you. And, if you just need to get files off of a Mac-formatted drive once, you can just use the trial and be done with the application by the time it expires.

Option Three: Mediafour MacDrive Costs $50 to $70, But Includes More Features

Mediafour’s MacDrive is similar to Paragon’s HFS+ for Windows, but with more features and polish. It’s noticeably more expensive than Paragon HFS+ too, at $50 for the Standard version and $70 for the Pro version.

For most people, this software won’t really be worth it. But it offers a few unique features, like support for Mac-formatted RAID disks. It also offers a graphical interface with support for verifying, repairing, and formatting Mac-formatted drives. Paragon’s HFS+ gets out of your way and doesn’t provide a graphical interface–it just enables access to HFS+ drives in File Explorer and other applications.

If you need all these tools, go for it–this is the most full-featured solution for working with Mac-formatted drives on Windows. But you probably don’t need all these tools.

Mediafour does offer a 5-day free trial of MacDrive–both the Standard and Pro versions–so you can give it a try and see if those features are worth it for you.

Option Four: Format the Drive as exFAT–But Warning, This Will Erase Your Data!

Once you’ve gotten all the data off the Mac-formatted drive, you’ll probably want to format it with the exFAT file system. Both Windows and Mac OS X have full read-write support for exFAT drives without any additional third-party software. FAT32 has some serious limitations–individual files can only be up to 4GB in size each, for example–but exFAT doesn’t.

Rather than use a Mac-formatted drive, you should get the important files off of it and use exFAT-formatted drives for moving data between Macs and PCs.

To format the drive in Windows, right-click it in the File Explorer window and select “Format.” Choose the “exFAT” file system in the list and click “Start.” Remember, this will erase all the files on the drive! Be absolutely sure you have your files off the drive and that you’ve selected the correct drive you want to format!

When you’re done, the drive should work on both Windows PCs and Macs with no problem.

By the way, this works great for Windows users too–Macs can’t natively write to the Windows NTFS file system, although they can read files from NTFS drives. So no matter what your primary platform, exFAT is probably the way to go.

If you’ve ever tried to use a Mac hard drive or USB key with a Windows PC, you’d know that Windows fails to read the contents of the drive. However, with third-party software, it’s still possible to view all the data that’s stored on the drive, even if it’s formatted for Mac.

By default, Mac-formatted drives using Apple’s APFS or HFS Plus file systems are not recognized by Windows, and as a result, you’re only provided with the option to erase the contents of the drive when it’s connected to the PC. This is why it’s recommended to use the FAT file system if you’re going to be using the drive on both Windows and macOS. But what if you can’t format the Mac drive, or what if you don’t want to? This is where the third party options come in.

If you’d like a solution to this issue, 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’ll be taking advantage of a third-party software called HFS Explorer, which is simple to use and completely free. You can download HFSExplorer here. Once you’ve installed the software on your Windows PC, connect your storage drive to the computer and simply follow the steps below.

    Open HFSExplorer on your PC and click on File -> Load file system from device from the menu bar.

Next, you can select your drive from the list of “Detected devices” as shown in the screenshot below. Click on “Load” to load and view the contents of the drive within 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.

How to Format a Mac Formatted Drive from Windows

If you’re not concerned about losing the data or contents of the drive and just want to use it with Windows, you can easily format the drive to a Windows-supported format. This will permanently erase all the files stored on the drive, so don’t do this unless you don’t mind losing everything on it. Connect your drive to the PC and follow the steps below.

    Open the File Explorer, right-click on the drive and then choose “Format”.

Here, under “File System”, select either “NTFS” or “exFAT” using the dropdown and click “Start” to format the drive.

That’s all there is to it, now 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’s important to note that if you format your drive using NTFS file system, you won’t be able to write files to the drive on a Mac unless you fiddle with drive UUID to enable NTFS support which is not generally recommended. If you wish for Mac and PC compatibility, you’ll need to choose exFAT to access the drive on both operating systems. You could use FAT32 file system too, but the maximum file size is limited to just 4 GB which is not as usable in many cases if you work with larger file sizes.

For what it’s worth, HFSExplorer isn’t the only software that can read Mac-formatted drives. It just happens to be a free option that is open source. But one downside to HFSExplorer is that it is read only, whereas some users may need to write to the Mac drive from Windows as well.

What about writing to Mac formatted drives from Windows?

If you’re willing to pay, you could purchase Paragon HFS+ for $20 which lets you read HFS formatted drives, and write files to the drive too, the latter being a major feature that HFSExplorer lacks. Paragon’s tool installs a file system driver that allows you to access a Mac-formatted drive just like any other storage drive in File Explorer.

This is obviously aimed at reading Mac drives on a PC, but if you’re simply looking to exchange files between Mac and Windows, you can share between Mac and PC using SMB networking 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 the Mac to share files between the two platforms seamlessly as well.

We hope you managed to read 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 purchase paid software like Paragon HFS+ to have write permissions too? 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 down below.

You have an external hard drive for Mac with tons of important data. Lately, you have given your MacBook for repairs and are in urgent need to access data. Just then you see a spare Windows laptop and plug your Mac hard drive into it, what would happen?

Although, you will be able to physically connect it to your Windows laptop or desktop won’t be able to read it. Yes! There are some modern external hard disk drives that can read both formats, but it could be that you didn’t invest in one.

What would you do now? How would you read a Mac-formatted drive on your Windows machine? Read On!

How To Read Mac Drives on Windows

To read Mac drive on a Windows laptop or desktop, we are going to even have a look at scenarios where you might be wanting to access a variety of file systems i.e. APFS, HFS, HFS+, and many others. Or, if your aim is to access older file systems (i.e. prior to APFS).

– Paragon APFS for Windows

The APFS or Apple File System was introduced in 2017 and has ever since been a part of macOS, Apple devices, and iOS. For the scenario we mentioned above, where you need to access a Mac-formatted HDD, flash drive, or SSD on APFS for Windows by Paragon Software. Here’s how it works –

Price: US$ 49.95

How Does Paragon APFS for Windows Work?

1. Download, install and run APFS for Windows by Paragon

2. Plug-in APFS drive on your Windows PC

3. Your drive will now show up in Explorer

– MacDrive

MacDrive has been a spectacular way to read Mac-formatted drives on Windows. Not just from now but, from the last 20 years or so. Something that tells you how simple it is, is the very fact that it adds up to your PC just as any other drive. What’s even better? The application even lets you create, partition, and repair Mac disks. Another great aspect of MacDrive is that it works equally well with both HFS+ as well as the latest APFS drives.

Free Trial: 5 Days

Price: Licenses start at US$ 49.99

Where Does MacDrive Gain An Edge Over Its Competitors?

While most of us have Macs running APFS, what if you have older Macs that are still running HFS+. You will have to invest in a separate version that supports HFS+. That’s where MacDrive gains an edge.

How Does MacDrive for Windows Works?

2. Plugin your Mac disk into your Windows computer

3. Think that you will have to run MacDrive like other programs? You won’t need to do that. Mac drives will now appear as normal drives on your computer. You have the choice to either access Mac disks right from your computer’s desktop or from any of your desired applications.

– HFSExplorer

Last but not the least, we have HFSExplorer, which can help you read Mac drives on Windows for free. It can read HFS, HFS+, and HFSX file systems. Remember the scenario, where we talked about working on Macs with file systems older than APFS (Macs with file systems prior to 2017)? HFSExplorer is the tool you need.

How To Use It On Windows?

Simply download the installer and it will place a shortcut to HFSExplofrer inside its start menu folder from where it can be accessed.

Isn’t exFAT The Way To Go?

You have taken off all that important data from a Mac-formatted drive and have the knowledge that exFAT has full read and write support for both Mac and Windows OS. Bringing in the financial angle, you might also wonder “Why need to spend on third-party software when things can be done for free?”

Quite a legit thought! But, before you dash ahead and choose exFAT as a file system, let us tell you, you are going to lose all your files on the Mac drive you’ve selected. So, unless your Mac drive consists of unimportant files and folders, you shouldn’t even think of taking this step.

Wrapping Up:

Many of us love juggling with separate operating systems. Let’s say some of your family members are die-hard Windows fans whereas the others swear by Mac, so how would you share data? We hope that this post answers this well. Have a faster, cheaper, and better way to read Mac drives on Windows PC, we are all ears, do drop it down in the comments section below.

4 ways to read a Mac-formatted drive on Windows

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.

Table of Contents

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.

2. MacDrive

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.

For a Windows computer to be able to read a hard drive, it needs to have a file system format compatible with Windows. File systems compatible with Windows include FAT32 and NTFS.

Why not?

A hard drive formatted for use in a Mac has either an HFS or HFS+ file system. For this reason, a Mac-formatted hard drive is not directly compatible, nor readable by a Windows computer. The HFS and HFS+ file systems are not readable by Windows.

What are my options?

Using a third-party application, it may be possible for a Windows computer to read a Mac-formatted hard drive. A few of the popular applications used by Windows to read a Mac hard drive are listed below.

  • HFSExplorer – Free-to-use program and requires Java to be installed on the Windows computer. It allows for read-only access to files on the Mac hard drive. Updating or deleting files on the Mac hard drive from the Windows PC is not possible.
  • MacDrive – Available as a 5-day free trial and can be purchased for $49.99, MacDrive allows users to view, update, and delete files on the Mac hard drive. MacDrive can integrate with Windows Explorer for easier browsing of the hard drive’s files.
  • Paragon HFS+ for Windows – This program is available as a 10-day free trial and can be purchased for $19.95. Like MacDrive, users can view, update, and delete files on the Mac hard drive. It also integrates with Windows Explorer.

Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He’s written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader’s Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami’s NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read nearly one billion times—and that’s just here at How-To Geek. Read more.

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

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.

There is only one program that can truly help you

Even though OS X can read Windows formatted hard drives just fine, the opposite is still not true, even with Windows 10. Granted, OS X can’t write to a Windows formatted disk, but at least it can read the contents of the drive and you can copy the data to your Mac computer.

Windows has absolutely no support for the Mac hard disk file format (HFS+). This means that if you connect a Mac formatted drive to Windows, you’ll simply get a blank drive letter and a message asking to format the disk.

If you click Cancel, you’ll just get a message stating that the volume does not contain a recognized file system.

I’ve already written about how, if your external USB drive is not recognized by Windows, you might have to use the exFAT file format, which both Windows and Mac support, however, this requires formatting the drive and copying all the data back on.

Another solution is to enable file sharing on your Mac and access files from Windows that way, but this requires a decent amount of setup. So are there any other options? Well, thankfully yes. If you use Macs and PCs heavily in your setup, it might be worth spending some money on a program called MacDrive.


MacDrive is a great program that allows you to use Mac formatted disks on your Windows PC like a normal drive. Using the program, you can read and write data to HFS+ drives just like a normal Windows formatted drive.

You can then disconnect the drive from Windows, plug it into your Mac and access everything normally. If you find yourself having to copy data back and forth between Macs and PCs fairly often, this program is a great investment.

The Standard version is $49 and the Pro version is $69. You can see the difference between the two versions here. For me, the Standard version was more than enough. If you need to mount Mac formatted RAID sets on your PC or create ISO Mac images in Windows, then the Pro version will be necessary.

You can try out the program using the five-day free trial. Once you install it, you’ll have to restart your Windows PC. Once you log back into Windows, everything should automatically be good to go. If you connect a Mac formatted disk to your computer, it’ll instantly show up in Explorer with a little Apple icon on it.

If you double-click on the drive, it will open just like a normal Windows drive. If there is any file that is Mac-specific, it will also show an apple icon next to it.

Now you can copy data from the Mac formatted drive to your Windows PC and vice versa. It works perfectly and I didn’t run into a single issue. I was able to copy DMG files to my Windows PC and EXE files over to my Mac without any issue.

If you open the MacDrive app, you’ll see the main screen lists out the Mac drives the program has recognized already for you.

Click on the drive and you’ll get some options like opening the drive, removing it, getting a size breakdown and checking for errors.

I really like the fact that Disk Aware is part of this program because it allows you to quickly see what is taking up the most space on your hard drive, just like TreeSize does for Windows.

MacDrive also has other tools, which you can see across the top: Create, Repair, Burn, etc. Using Repair, you can connect a Mac drive to your Windows PC and fix it so that the data can be accessed. This is a great tool if you are a PC technician and someone brings you a Mac formatted hard drive that is corrupt or unreadable by OS X. You can use Mac Drive to try and repair it and access the data right on your PC.

Using the Create tab, you can create, delete or format partitions on a Mac disk. The Burn tab allows you to burn a CD/DVD for your Mac.

Overall, it’s an excellent program that is well worth the cost if you work with both operating systems on a regular basis. There is no other program out there that lets you access Mac files on a PC as easily and seamlessly as MacDrive. If you have any questions, feel free to comment. Enjoy!

Founder of Online Tech Tips and managing editor. He began blogging in 2007 and quit his job in 2010 to blog full-time. He has over 15 years of industry experience in IT and holds several technical certifications. Read Aseem’s Full Bio

This article will introduce how to format a USB drive for Mac and PC on Windows 10/8/ 7 with diskpart tool and AOMEI Partition Assistant.

By Dervish / Last Updated March 7, 2022

Need to use USB on both Mac and PC

I have a USB drive and want to use it on both Mac and PC. If the USB drive is formatted as an HFS+ file system, Windows computer will not support it. But if it is formatted as NTFS, it will not be fully supported in the Mac operating system. How do I format USB drives for Mac and PC on Windows? In other words, how to make an external hard drive compatible with Mac and PC?”

exFAT and FAT32 can be supported by Mac and PC

By default, Mac use HFS+, while PC usually use NTFS. If you have a USB drive and plan to use it on Mac and PC, then you need to find a file system supported by both Mac and PC, otherwise it will not be recognized.

Fortunately, there are two file systems supported by Mac and PC. In other words, you can use USB with one of the file systems to easily access Windows and Mac and transfer data. You need to format the USB as exFAT or FAT32, both of which are supported by Mac and PC. But what are the specific differences between exFAT and FAT32? Please refer to the table below:

Major File System Comparison

Compatible with macOS?

Compatible with Windows?

Max. partition size

So, if someone asks does exFAT work on Mac and PC? The answer is absolutely yes. exFAT is the file system available for all versions of Windows and macOSпј€Requires Mac OS X version 10.6.6 and aboveпј‰and does not have any maximum file size or partition size restrictions, especially when you need to save files larger than 4 GB, exFAT is the most suitable.

Now, you already know that exFAT is the ideal file system. But do you know how to format USB to exFAT?

Two simple ways to format USB for both Mac and PC on Windows

Below I will introduce you two methods to format the USB, one is to use the third-party program AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard, and the other is to use Windows built-in utility Diskpart.

Before starting, please connect the USB to Windows to make sure that the USB can be detected. Please note that this operation will erase all data on the USB, if you have important data, please back it up in advance.

в”‚ Format USB drive via AOMEI Partition Assistant

AOMEI Partition Assistant Standardпј€Support Windows 10/8/7/Vista/XPпј‰is a free and professional disk management software. It does not carry any bundled software, with a friendly interface, any user can use it easily.

In addition to formatting, it also has many practical functions, such as: Merge Partition, Disk Clone, Migrate OS from MBR disk to MBR SSD or HDD. If you want to Recover Lost Partition, Convert FAT32 to NTFS without Data Loss, please upgrade to AOMEI Partition Assistant Professional. You can free download AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard to see how it works.

Step 1 . Launch AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard, right-click the partition you want to format, and select Format Partition.

Step 2 . Choose the exFAT file systemon this pageпј€If you want to format to FAT32 file system, then please choose FAT32.пј‰ You are allowed to edit the partition labels and select cluster size at the same time. Click OK.

Step 3 . Preview the result. Click Apply and then proceed after your confirmation. The process will be completed in a short while.

в”‚ Format USB drive with Diskpart

In addition to using AOMEI Partition Assistant to format the USB, Diskpart is also a good choice. But you need to note that Diskpart does not support formatting USB drives larger than 32G to FAT32. If you have such a need, please choose method 1.

Step 1 . Press “Windows” + “R” to open the Run dialogue. Type “diskpart” in the Run dialogue, and hit Enter.

Step 2 . In the Diskpart window, input the following commands and hit Enter after each command.

в—Џ list disk
в—Џ select disk X, X is the disk number of the USB drive.
в—Џ list partition
в—Џ select partition Y, Y is the number of partition going to be formatted.
в—Џ format fs=exFAT quick

Tips : If you need to format it to FAT32, replace the last command with “format fs=fat32”.

Step 3 . Type “exit” to close this window.


You can use Diskpart and AOMEI Partition Assistant to format USB for Mac and PC on Windows. Obviously, using AOMEI Partition Assistant has fewer restrictions on formatting USB drives. When formatting the USB to FAT32, you don’t need to worry about the 32 GB partition size limit of AOMEI products.

By default, your Windows PC can’t access the drives that are formatted in the Mac file system. … The macOS Extended (HFS+) is a file system used by Mac and it can only be read by default in Mac systems, unlike Windows. If you are trying to use a drive formatted in Mac on Windows 10, it’s possible.

Can Mac OS Extended Journaled be read by Windows?

Mac OS Extended (Journaled) – This is the default file system format for Mac OS X drives. … Disadvantages: Windows-running PCs can read files from drives formatted this way, but they can’t write to them (at least not without the same amount of work it takes to get OS X to write to NTFS-formatted drives).

Can a Mac external drive be read on a PC?

A hard drive formatted for use in a Mac has either an HFS or HFS+ file system. For this reason, a Mac-formatted hard drive is not directly compatible, nor readable by a Windows computer.

Can Mac OS read Windows files?

Macs can easily read PC-formatted hard disk drives. … Your old external Windows PC drive will work great on the Mac. Apple has built OS X Yosemite and some previous OS X releases with the ability to read from those disks just fine.

How can I read a Mac hard drive on Windows for free?

To use HFSExplorer, connect your Mac-formatted drive to your Windows PC and launch HFSExplorer. Click the “File” menu and select “Load File System From Device.” It will automatically locate the connected drive, and you can load it. You’ll see the contents of the HFS+ drive in the graphical window.

Can a Mac read NTFS?

Because it’s a proprietary file system Apple hasn’t licensed, your Mac can’t write to NTFS natively. When working with NTFS files, you’ll need a third party NTFS driver for Mac if you want to work with the files. You can read them on your Mac, but that’s likely not going to suit your needs.

Can a Mac read an NTFS external hard drive?

Apple’s macOS can read from Windows-formatted NTFS drives, but can’t write to them out of the box. … This could be useful if you want to write to a Boot Camp partition on your Mac, as Windows system partitions must use the NTFS file system. However, for external drives, you should probably use exFAT instead.

How do I get my Mac to read a Windows hard drive?

Double click the new hard drive icon on the desktop. The contents of the external NTFS-formatted hard drive are displayed. Drag files from the hard drive to copy them to the local Mac hard drive, or double click them to read them directly from the hard drive.

Is exFAT compatible with Mac and Windows?

exFAT is a good option if you work often with Windows and Mac computers. Transferring files between the two operating systems is less of a hassle, since you don’t have to constantly back up and reformat each time. Linux is also supported, but you will need to install appropriate software to take full advantage of it.

Can Mac read Ext4?

Macs, for example, don’t support Ext4 filesystems. If you plug a drive in, it’s simply not recognized.

Can I copy files from NTFS drive to Mac?

If you copy a file from an NTFS formatted hard drive to the internal hard drive of your Mac, there are absolutely no restrictions on what you can do to that copy of the file.”

What is HFS+ format in Mac?

Mac — Since Mac OS 8.1, the Mac has been using a format called HFS+ — also known as Mac OS Extended format. This format was optimized to minimize the amount of drive storage space used for a single file (the previous version used sectors loosely, leading to rapidly lost drive space).

The Hard Drives formatted for mac have an HFS+ file system. This file system is specifically for Mac systems and windows can’t read this file system. You can have access to the HFS + file system hard drive on windows with the help of any third party software. There are a number of tools that can help you in this regard. But using a third party all the time for accessing a hard drive on windows is not good. A user has to know how to convert Mac formatted hard drive to Windows formatted.

The Windows system uses a hard drive with a different file system than the Mac systems. Windows-formatted hard drives have either an NTFS file system or a FAT32 file system. Thus in order to make the hard drive Windows formatted, you have to convert the file system to NTFS or FAT32. In the further discussion, you will learn how to make a hard drive useful for Windows by changing the formatting of the drive.

Get a Backup

Before going ahead and formatting your hard drive for Windows, you should get a backup. Formatting of any kind can leave the hard drive totally empty by erasing all your data. There are a number of instances when users lose their important data due to formatting. It is very important to save the integrity of your data on the hard drive.

You can take help of any third party tool to make a backup of your hard drive. Or you may opt to make a normal backup in your external drive or another computer. Make sure you perform all the backup properly, an improper operation may leave the hard drive with error and the hard drive may ask for formatting before use. However, data from formatted disk errors in Windows can be recovered generally with any good tool.

However, due to unforeseen scenario and inevitable scenario. if you have encountered a data loss scenario , you can always make use of professional data recovery utility like Remo Recover to effortlessly recover lost or deleted files from the formatted partition

How Do I Convert a Mac-formatted drive to Windows?

  1. Delete the Mac formatted partition
  2. Delete EFI file system
  3. Assign NTFS File system

Delete the Mac Formatted Partition

Connect the Mac formatted drive to working Windows operating system

  • The first step in this regard should be deleting the Mac partition with HFS + or APFS file system. In order to make it possible, you have to run the disk management tool. Here is how to do it:
  • Right-click on Windows icon, select Disk Management.
  • Select the Mac drive from the list of drives – Make sure this is the drive you want to work on, if you do it for the Windows formatted drive in the list, it may cost you a lot of important data.
  • Right Click on the partition and select Delete Volume – This will remove the partition.
  • Right click on the space and select New Simple Volume from the list.
  • Set the file system as NTFS or FAT 32 according to your need.

    Delete EFI System Partition

    Most of the times the mac drives are formatted with an EFI system partition. This is secure than the simple partition and you can’t right click and format the drive. To format such a partition, you have to go through a complete wipe out of your hard drive. If your Mac drive has an EFI partition, follow the steps to format it:

    1. Go to the device management window – As explained in the above section.
    2. Locate your drive partition which has a Mac format file system.
    3. Note the disk name by expanding Disk Drives
    4. Go to Windows > Type cmd and press Enter
    5. Type diskpart in the command prompt window and press Enter
    6. Type list disk in the diskpart window and press Enter
    7. Find your disk with the disk number that you have seen initially
    8. Type select disk and press Enter
    9. Type Clean and press Enter

    Assign NTFS File System

    1. Once you have wiped out the content of your disk along with file system that was stopping it from use by Windows. you can go ahead and give a file system to the partitions:
    2. Go to disk management again
    3. Select the Mac disk from the list of drives – It shows Not initialized message in the empty disk.
    4. Right-click on the disk and select Initialize disk
    5. Create a partition for your disk
    6. Right click and select New Simple Volume
    7. Set the file system as NTFS or FAT32 as per your requirement
    8. The drive is now formatted and ready to use in Windows Operating System.

    Also Read:

    1. SD Card not Formatted | SD Card that Needs to be Formatted | Solved
    2. Convert Hard Drive or Flash Drive from FAT 32 to NTFS
    3. Convert RAW to NTFS with 0 Data Loss
    4. How to Fix Storage Device Not Working Using Diskpart on Windows 10
    John Harris

    Senior Editor, Content Analyst and a fan of exceptional customer service. John develops and publishes instructional and informational content regarding partition management, Windows hot-fixes, data management and computer troubleshooting.

    As a tenured data recovery specialist, John shares exceptional insights and blog posts about data loss and data recovery across any storage device. With 8+ years’ experience in writing for Data Recovery for both Mac OS and Windows OS computers, he is an avid learner who always wants to polish and simplify the data recovery process. John passes his free time playing Chess and reading Science Fiction novels.

    • Forums
    • Macs
    • Mac Accessories


    macrumors 6502
    • Nov 4, 2007
  • #1
  • Eidorian

    macrumors Penryn
    • Nov 4, 2007
  • #2
  • mkrishnan

    Moderator emeritus
    • Nov 4, 2007
  • #3
  • Yes, it’s called MacDrive.


    macrumors 6502
    • Nov 4, 2007
  • #4
  • istlota

    macrumors newbie
    • Sep 10, 2010
  • #5
  • I haven’t tried it, but HfsExplorer is a free GPL alternative to MACDrive:


    macrumors Westmere
    • Sep 10, 2010
  • #6
  • Pillar

    macrumors 6502
    • Sep 10, 2010
  • #7
  • Yes, it’s called MacDrive.


    macrumors 65816
    • Nov 4, 2011
  • #8
  • I haven’t tried it, but HfsExplorer is a free GPL alternative to MACDrive:


    macrumors 6502
    • Nov 4, 2011
  • #9
  • grambocre8

    macrumors newbie
    • Dec 16, 2013
  • #10
  • Mac Drive. Bad.

    My hard drive finally went kaput on my mac, and it is in the mac hospital getting a replacement. I knew this was going to happen soon, so earlier this year I purchased an external to put everything on. However, I formatted it for Mac use only (I know that was stupid). At the apple store the genius recommended MacDrive. I came home installed it, worked beautifully, however, my internet browsers all pooped. Nothing will connect. I reset my router, restarted everything still no joy. So, I decide I’ll go to my Windows XP machine and do it, maybe that will be better. Wrong, it was the only computer left working in the house and as soon as I installed MacDrive, the browsers stopped connecting again. So, I uninstalled it off my Windows8 laptop and my browsers started connecting again. I would be leary of it.

    What’s the best solution to exFAT drive not recognized in Windows 10/11? Read on since the answers are given in the following post.

    By Cherry / Last Updated March 17, 2022


    “Hey, I might have some issues with the exFAT file system in Windows 10. My version of the operating system is Windows 10 Pro, 64 bit. I have a USB flash drive with a ton of music and a copy of Windows 7 Pro 32 bit meant for Oracle’s VirtualBox. The USB drive is about 32GB and I formatted it on my MacBook running OSX Mavericks into exFAT, because this seems to be the only available file system that is compatible with both Mac and Windows.

    However, when I plug in the USB drive to my Windows 10 computer, the exFAT USB drive created on Mac OS not working in Windows 10 and remind with “Windows is not able to detect the file system”. So, how do I get Windows to recognize exFAT drive and allow me to read and write with this exFAT formatted drive?”

    About exFAT

    FAT32, NTFS, exFAT are three different file systems and they share some differences

    FAT32, is a file system compatible with Windows, Linux, and Mac. However, it has some serious limitations, for example, individual files can only be up to 4GB in size each. Thus, if there is any individual file larger than 4GB, it is not suitable.

    NTFS, is a file system that works with Windows OS. It is a file system that read-only allowed on Mac OS X.

    exFAT, is also compatible with Windows and Mac. Compared with FAT32, exFAT doesn’t have the limit that FAT32 has. Thus, many users would prefer the exFAT file system compatible with both Windows and Mac.

    However, as the Scenario says, Windows can’t normally read Mac-formatted drives. If you formatted your drive into exFAT with Apple’s HFS Plus, the exFAT drive cannot be read by Windows in default even though the exFAT file system is compatible with both Mac and Windows. In fact, some manufacturers sell “Mac drives” pre-formatted with this Mac-only file system.

    How to solve exFAT drive not recognized in Windows 10/11?

    If you have to solve the problem “exFAT drive not recognized in Windows 10 or Windows 11”, you can follow the methods below.

    Access a Mac-formatted drive with HFSExplorer

    HFSExplorer is a free software that can help you access a Mac-formatted drive. But first, you need to install Java, then, install HFSEexplorer on your Windows 10. It allows you to read a Mac-formatted drive, and copy the files to your Windows PC freely. If you are going to use its write support, you need to pay for it.

    To use HFSExplorer to access the Mac-formatted drive, you can follow the steps below:

    Step 1. Connect the drive to your Windows computer. Launch HFSExplorer.

    Step 2. Click the “File” menu, select “Load File System From Device.” It will automatically locate the connected drive, and you can load it.

    Step 3. When you see the contents of the HFS+ drive in the graphical window, just select the files or folders you want, click “Extract”, and choose a folder. They’ll be copied to the folder you choose on you Windows computer.

    However, HFSExplorer isn’t the best choice. It doesn’t have a lot of features, and it is read-only. If you want to read and write the Mac-formatted drive on both Windows and Mac, reformat it into exFAT should be the best way.

    Reformat drive to exFAT to be compatible with both Windows and Mac

    Pay attention:

    Reformat drive will delete all data on the drive. Please confirm that you have backed up the important data on the drive before formatting.

    Actually, when you connect a Mac-formatted drive to Windows computer, it will pop up a window reminding you that “You need to format the disk in drive N: before you can use it.” If you have important data on the drive, you should cancel that operation, because it will erase all data on the drive.

    Once you’ve backed up all data on the Mac-formatted drive, you can format it with the exFAT file system on your Windows computer.

    You can format drive to exFAT with Windows File Explorerпјљ

    Right click the drive, select Format. Choose the exFAT file system in the list. You can also set up Allocation unit size and Volume label here. Tick the option of Quick Format, click Start.

    However, you can not successfully format the drive into exFAT in Windows File Explorer every time. You may meet some problems caused not possible to format drive to exFAT. Thus, you need to turn to third-party software to get it done with ease.

    Format drive as exFAT with AOMEI Partition Assistantпјљ

    AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard is a free exFAT formatter that can help you format drive to exFAT with a few simple steps. It is a better disk manager that can make up the shortage of Windows tools and fix the “exFAT not recognized on Windows 10” problem. Here are the detailed steps of how to reformat drive to exFAT with AOMEI Partition Assistant.

    Step 1. Connect Mac-formatted drive to your Windows computer. Free download, install AOMEI Partition Assistant to Windows, launch it.

    Step 2. It will display you all disks on the Windows. Right click the Mac-formatted drive, select Format Partition.

    Step 3. It will pop up a window for formatting. AOMEI Partition Assistant allows you to format drive to FAT32, NTFS, Ext2, Ext3, exFAT. Here we choose exFAT. Click OK.

    Step 4. When you back to the main interface, click Apply at the toolbar, and click Proceed to initiate the progress.


    When you got the problem of exFAT external hard drive not recognized on Windows, you can turn to AOMEI Partition Assistant for help. It is a great tool for you to manage your internal/external hard drive. It supports you to format and create exFAT partition, and it also works on other file systems. It is widely used in Windows PC users.

    If you need more advanced features, you can upgrade to AOMEI Partition Assistant Professional to unlock the features such as Allocate Free Space, Convert boot Drive between MBR and GPT, etc.