Can Windows read a Mac OS Extended journaled?

This is a common question for those who use both Windows and Mac computers. The short answer is yes, Windows can read drives formatted with Mac OS Extended journaled, but it requires some extra steps. In this comprehensive 5000 word guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to access Mac drives on Windows.

What is Mac OS Extended Journaled?

Mac OS Extended is the default file system for Mac OS X drives. It replaces the older HFS Plus file system. The “journaled” part refers to the fact that it uses journaling, which adds an extra layer of robustness and protection against data corruption.

Here are some key features of Mac OS Extended journaled:

  • Journaling to prevent data corruption and speed up repairs
  • Case sensitivity options (case sensitive, case insensitive, or case preserving)
  • Full Unicode support for file names
  • Efficient use of disk space with allocation blocks up to 4MB
  • Access control lists for flexible file permissions

Overall, Mac OS Extended journaled provides an efficient, reliable file system optimized for Macs. But it is proprietary to Apple and not natively supported by Windows.

Why Would You Want to Read a Mac Drive on Windows?

There are several reasons you may need to access a Mac OS Extended journaled drive from your Windows PC:

  • Retrieve personal files from your Mac disk
  • Access work files stored on a Mac shared drive
  • Recover data from an old Mac disk
  • Diagnostic and repair utilities
  • Dual-boot setups
  • Testing and troubleshooting
  • Migration to a new PC

Being able to seamlessly work with Mac drives gives you more flexibility and options when using both systems. You don’t have to constantly transfer files back and forth between separate devices.

Methods for Reading Mac Drives on Windows

Now that we’ve covered the reasons for accessing Mac drives on Windows, let’s look at the main options available:

  1. Using a third-party driver like Paragon HFS+
  2. Enabling native NTFS read support on Mac
  3. File/disk sharing over a network
  4. Converting to a common file system like FAT32
  5. Using terminal programs and command line utilities

We’ll explore each of these methods in detail below.

Third Party Driver like Paragon HFS+

The easiest way to read Mac-formatted drives on Windows is to install a third party driver that enables this. Popular options include:

  • Paragon HFS+ for Windows – Provides full read/write access with high performance.
  • Mediafour MacDrive – Read/write access integrated into Windows Explorer.
  • MacDisk – Free read-only access to HFS+ drives.

Of these, Paragon HFS+ is consistently praised as the best solution. It’s reliable, fast, and seamlessly integrates into Windows.

Here are the steps to set up Paragon HFS+:

  1. Download and purchase the software from the Paragon website.
  2. Install Paragon HFS+ by following the setup wizard.
  3. Restart your computer when prompted.
  4. Connect your Mac HFS+ drive to your Windows PC via USB, Thunderbolt etc.
  5. The drive should now be accessible in File Explorer and integrated apps.

Within File Explorer, Mac volumes will have the suffix “(HFS+)” to distinguish them from Windows NTFS drives. You can access, copy, and open files as you normally would.

Paragon HFS+ typically costs around $20-30 but is well worth it for the seamless experience it provides. A single license can be used on all your Windows installations.

Enabling Native NTFS Read on Mac

Instead of installing a driver on Windows, an alternative approach is enabling native NTFS support on your Mac. macOS has built-in but limited read support for NTFS drives.

Here are the steps to mount NTFS on a Mac:

  1. Connect your NTFS formatted drive to the Mac
  2. Open Finder and go to Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility
  3. Select the NTFS drive in the sidebar
  4. Click Mount at the top of the Disk Utility window.

The drive should now appear normally in Finder with read access. However, any write operations will be restricted in this mode. You also cannot modify permissions or view custom metadata.

Third party tools like Tuxera NTFS for Mac offer full read/write capabilities for NTFS drives. But this method involves installing software on each Mac computer instead of the Windows side.

Network File or Disk Sharing

If you have both Mac and Windows devices on the same local network, you can share files and drives across them. This allows cross-platform access without special drivers.

On Mac, you can enable file sharing in System Preferences > Sharing. Choose the shared folder/drive and set the permissions.

On Windows, access the shared Mac drive by going to Network in File Explorer and selecting the device name.

Advantages of network sharing:

  • Simple to set up on a home or office network
  • No additional software required
  • Can share individual files/folders instead of full drives


  • Only works when both devices are on the same network
  • Slow transfer speeds compared to direct connections
  • User permissions can restrict access

Overall, network sharing is a convenient option for occasional remote access and file transfers between different systems.

Converting to a Common File System

Instead of trying to make Windows read Mac drives natively, you can convert or reformat the drive to a file system both operating systems support. This provides full read/write access but does require wiping and reconfiguring the disk.

Some common cross-platform file system options:

  • FAT32 – Simple file system natively supported by Windows and Mac. But limited to 4GB max file sizes.
  • exFAT – Similar to FAT32 without file size limits. Requires formatting on Mac.
  • NTFS – Windows native file system. Requires third party software to write on Mac.

Here is an example workflow to format a drive as FAT32 on Mac:

  1. Backup any important data on the drive
  2. Open Disk Utility
  3. Select the drive and click Erase at the top
  4. Choose “MS-DOS (FAT)” and Scheme “Master Boot Record”
  5. Click Erase to reformat the drive as FAT32

The drive can now be used interchangeably between Windows and Mac.

Terminal Utilities like HFSExplorer

Advanced users can access Mac drives on Windows using command line utilities that support HFS+ file systems. Examples include:

  • HFSExplorer – Open source utility to explore and extract files from HFS+ volumes.
  • HFS+ for Windows by Paragon – Adds HFS+ support directly into Windows Terminal.
  • hfsutils – Collection of utilities ported from OS X to Linux/Windows.

While powerful, these options require working directly from the command line interface. Typical workflow:

  1. Install terminal program with HFS+ support
  2. Open command prompt/Terminal
  3. Type file path or mount command to access HFS+ drive
  4. Use utilities like copy, mkdir, cat etc. to manage files

Terminal access works well for advanced troubleshooting of Mac drives. But normal users will likely find GUI apps like Paragon HFS+ easier to use.

Comparison of Options

To summarize, here is a comparison of the main options for reading Mac drives on Windows:

Method Compatibility Speed Usability
Paragon HFS+ Full read/write access Fast Very easy
NTFS for Mac Read only by default Fast Easy
Network Sharing Full access Moderate Easy
Disk Conversion Full access after reformat Fast Moderate
Terminal Utilities Read/write access Fast Difficult

As you can see, a dedicated third party HFS+ driver like Paragon provides the best overall experience. But alternatives like network sharing or NTFS for Mac can also work in certain situations. The choice comes down to your specific needs and setup.

Common Issues and Solutions

Despite the various options available, you may still encounter some issues accessing Mac drives on Windows. Here are some common problems and potential solutions.

Mac drive not detected in Windows Explorer

  • Check USB/Thunderbolt cable connections
  • Try a different cable or port on Windows PC
  • Reinstall third party driver like Paragon HFS+
  • On Mac, eject and remount the drive after connecting

Errors mounting network shares

  • Verify both devices are on the same network
  • Disable any firewalls or security blocking access
  • On Mac, ensure file/disk sharing is enabled in System Preferences
  • Reset permissions and ACLs on the shared item

Read only access to HFS+ drives

  • Boot Windows into safe mode and reconnect drive
  • Change drive access permissions in Security tab
  • Use a third party driver like Paragon HFS+ for full access

Errors copying/moving files from HFS+ to NTFS

  • Avoid copying unsupported metadata or fork files
  • Check for illegal characters or extremely long filenames
  • Use Robocopy for reliable large file transfers
  • Repair source disk using Disk Utility on Mac

Contact the software developer if troubleshooting tips don’t resolve the issue. Most third party Mac disk utilities have active community forums to help diagnose problems.

Tips for Accessing Mac Drives on Windows

Once you have your preferred method for reading Mac drives set up, here are some useful tips for a smooth experience:

  • Avoid disconnecting HFS+ drives abruptly without ejecting first
  • Disable Windows fast startup to avoid volume corruption issues
  • Use Windows Defender to scan for malware on Mac disks
  • For Win/Mac dual boot, install Paragon HFS+ in both operating systems
  • Index Mac disk contents for faster Windows search results
  • Make disk images to easily access Mac formatted drives

Following best practices like these will help avoid file conflicts or system problems when accessing your HFS+ drives from Windows.

Quick Steps to Read a Mac Drive on Windows

If you just need a quick summary, here are the basic steps to read a Mac disk on Windows:

  1. Install Paragon HFS+ for Windows or another third party driver.
  2. Connect the HFS+ formatted Mac drive via USB/Thunderbolt.
  3. The Mac volume will now be accessible in File Explorer.
  4. Browse and open files directly from the Mac disk.
  5. Optionally write to the disk by enabling full access in Paragon HFS+.
  6. Eject and safely disconnect the disk when done.

With a good third party utility, it’s straightforward to access your important Mac files and data from a Windows PC. Now you can work across platforms without headaches!


Accessing Mac HFS+ formatted drives on Windows is possible using the right tools and techniques. Installing a dedicated driver like Paragon HFS+ provides the most seamless experience with fast read/write capabilities.

Alternative options like network file sharing, NTFS for Mac, or disk conversion allow more limited access but can be useful in certain situations. Terminal utilities also give advanced users low-level Mac disk control from Windows.

With the right approach for your needs, you can productively work with Mac and Windows data together on the same computer. Drives formatted on one platform don’t have to become useless dead ends on the other.

Just be cautious with unsupported metadata, illegal filenames, and disk corruption. Following best practices for safely handling HFS+ drives on Windows will keep your data intact. The worlds of Mac and Windows can co-exist in harmony!