How to Read a Mac Drive (HFS+ and APFS) from Windows Systems?

Windows systems, by default, cannot read from Mac formatted drives. So when you connect a Mac formatted (as in HFS+ or APFS) drive to Windows system, it will offer to erase it and format it in order to make it compatible.

However, if you’ve foreseen that you are going to use a particular device on both Windows and Mac, then it will usually be formatted with exFAT, which is compatible with both these systems. If that’s not the case, your drive will be formatted with HFS+ or APFS file systems in most cases.

A background on HFS+ and APFS file systems

HFS+ was introduced in 1998 as a successor of Mac’s first file system, HFS. It was designed to support much larger files compared to HFS and also allowed for better space utilization.

But with the release of the new OS High Sierra, Mac introduced a new file system called APFS. APFS is aimed to fix some core issues of HFS+ such as concurrent file system access and sparse file support.

When you connect a Mac drive (HFS+ or APFS) to Windows…

When you connect a Mac drive (formatted using HFS+ or APFS) to a Windows system, it will immediately ask you to format the drive with a message as follows:

‘You need to format the drive in drive before you can use it’.

But warning! If you proceed with formatting, all the contents of the drive will be erased. Of course, if you don’t have any important files, you can go ahead and format. But if that’s not the case, click ‘Cancel’ and use other third-party tools that allow you to access Mac formatted drives from Windows PC’s.

Since these third-party tools are specially designed to read data from Mac formatted drives through Windows, so you should be able to read files without any difficulty.

Option 1: Use HFS Explorer (HFS+ only)

This is a basic tool if all you need is to read some files from an HFS+ formatted drive from your Windows PC’s. It doesn’t allow you to write to these Mac drives, but it can be used to read from HFS, HFS+ and HFSX drives.

The advantage of this tool is that it is completely free to use allowing you to read and copy files from the Mac drives.

Note: If you encounter a situation where partitions are lost or corrupt due to using disk management tools, due to bad sectors or due to other reasons, use Remo Recover to recover lost partitions on Mac. This tool can also be used to recover HFS partitions, HFS+ partitions and supports all Mac OS versions.

Option 2: APFS for Windows by Paragon

If you want to read and write files to APFS formatted drives, then this tool is a good choice. It supports APFS formatted SSD’s, HDD’s and flash drives.

Although this is not a free tool, you can invest in it if you regularly read and write from APFS formatted drives through Windows. Once you download the software, just connect your APFS drive and it will show up in Explorer. Just click on the drive and access it like you would any other drive.

Option 3: MacDrive (Supports both HFS+ and APFS)

MacDrive is a tool that allows you to read from both HFS+ and APFS drives. In addition to reading files, it also supports writing into these drives.

Again, although this is a paid tool, it can be useful if you use APFS or HFS+ formatted drives from Windows systems regularly. There is nothing fancy you need to learn to use this tool. Just download the software and connect your Mac drive, the drive will show up just like any other drive for you to access.

Option 4: UFS Explorer (Supports both HFS+ and APFS)

UFS Explorer is another great tool to access APFS and HFS+ drives from Windows systems. This tool offers both free and paid versions. The free version allows you to read Mac drives, but has limitations w.r.t file size and save functionality. But the paid version offers all features and allows you to work with APFS and HFS+ file systems, disk images, RAID arrays, and virtual disks.

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