If you are trying to access files on an external hard drive or USB flash drive that is formatted with Mac OS Extended (HFS+) file system on a Windows PC, you have a couple options to be able to read and open the files.
Use Third Party Software
The easiest way is to use third party software that enables Windows to read HFS+ drives. There are a few good options available:
- Paragon HFS+ for Windows – Provides full read/write access to HFS+ drives on Windows.
- MacDrive – Installs HFS+ drivers on Windows to access Mac disks.
- HFSExplorer – Open source reader for HFS+ volumes on Windows.
These tools install the necessary drivers and translations layers to allow Windows to mount HFS+ drives and read/open files on them like any other drive. Many also provide write access so you can modify, add or delete files on the HFS+ formatted drive.
Paragon HFS+ for Windows
Paragon HFS+ for Windows is one of the most popular commercial options available. Benefits include:
- Full read/write access to HFS+ volumes.
- Supports latest HFS+ features like compression and encryption.
- Configure HFS+ partitions as regular Windows drives.
- Access Mac backups and DMG images.
- Compatible with Windows 11, 10, 8 and 7.
Paragon HFS+ has a free trial available so you can test it out before purchasing a license. It provides the smoothest user experience for accessing HFS+ drives on Windows.
MacDrive from Mediafour is another long standing commercial solution. Features include:
- Mount HFS+ partitions as regular Windows drives.
- Read/write HFS+ volumes up to terabytes in size.
- Works with external drives, DMG files, Time Machine backups.
- Supports journaling and permissions.
- Compatible with Windows 11, 10 and older versions.
MacDrive also offers a free trial so you can test it out. The interface is clean and intuitive making it easy to access your HFS+ drive on Windows.
HFSExplorer is a free, open source program that can read HFS+ formatted volumes on Windows. Key features:
- Completely free and open source.
- Reads and extracts files from HFS+ partitions and DMG images.
- Supports file attributes like creator codes and permissions.
- Lightweight and portable, no installation needed.
HFSExplorer is a good option if you only need occasional basic read access to HFS+ drives and don’t want to buy commercial software. It may lack some more advanced features of paid tools.
Enable Built-in HFS+ Drivers
Windows also includes built-in HFS+ drivers however they are disabled by default. To enable them:
- Open an elevated Command Prompt window.
- Run the command: mountvol /s
- Reboot the computer.
This will install the Microsoft HFS+ drivers and register the file system with Windows. Now when you connect an HFS+ drive, Windows should automatically recognize and mount it. You can access files normally through File Explorer.
A limitation is that by default Windows can only read HFS+ drives – you cannot write to them. Some tweaks are required to enable write support which can be unstable.
Format Drive as exFAT
Another option is to reformat the drive from HFS+ to the exFAT file system. exFAT has the benefit of being interoperable between Mac and Windows without any additional software.
To format as exFAT:
- Connect the HFS+ drive to your Mac.
- Open Disk Utility.
- Select the drive and erase it using exFAT format.
- Now you can use the drive on both Mac and Windows.
A downside is you will need to copy any data off first before reformatting as the process will erase the drive. exFAT also lacks some HFS+ features like journaling and permissions.
Network File Sharing
If you have a Mac and Windows PC on the same local network, you can share files between them using network file sharing protocols like Samba and SMB.
On your Mac, enable file sharing in System Preferences > Sharing. This exposes your HFS+ files over the network. On Windows, you can map a network drive to the shared folder to access the files.
Advantages of this method:
- Doesn’t require any additional software or drivers.
- Allows reading and writing files seamlessly between Mac and Windows.
- No need to reformat your drive.
Downsides are it requires having both computers on the same network, and sharing open access to the files which poses potential security risks if you don’t restrict permissions properly.
You can also access HFS+ drives by running macOS virtually within Windows. Options include:
- Parallels Desktop – Runs Mac OS as a virtual machine on Windows.
- VMware Fusion – Virtualize Mac OS on a Windows host PC.
- VirtualBox – Free virtualization software that can run Hackintosh VMs.
With one of these solutions, you boot into a Mac OS virtual machine from within Windows. You can then directly access any HFS+ formatted drives like normal. The virtual OS handles the file system translation.
Benefits of this method:
- Native HFS+ performance since Mac OS handles the drive.
- Can access Mac-only formats like APFS too.
- Works with internal and external drives.
Downside is it requires more overhead running a whole secondary OS. Also requires having access to macOS installation files to set up the virtual machine.
Linux Live CD
Most Linux distributions include HFS+ support and can read those volumes. You can boot into a Linux live session from a USB or CD then access files on an HFS+ formatted drive.
Steps to use a Linux live CD:
- Download Ubuntu or another Linux ISO file.
- Create live CD or USB.
- Boot computer from the media.
- Mount the HFS+ drive in Linux.
- You can now view files on the drive.
This method is helpful as a last resort if no other options are available. Downsides are that it’s more involved, and you may run into issues with Linux lacking support for newer HFS+ features.
Third Party File System Drivers
There are a couple other third party driver options that can provide read and write HFS+ support on Windows including:
- HFS Explorer – Commercial driver that enables access to HFS+ volumes.
- MacDisk – Opensource HFS+ driver for Windows derived from HFSExplorer.
- ExtFS – Supports Ext2/Ext3/HFS+ file systems on Windows.
These may be worth looking into if for some reason the more well-known options don’t work. But the software mentioned earlier like Paragon HFS+ or MacDrive will likely be easier to use and more reliable.
Recover Deleted Files
If you need to recover deleted files from a HFS+ formatted drive, most Mac data recovery software can do this even when running on Windows. Options include:
- EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard – Recover lost files from HFS/HFS+ on Windows.
- Stellar Data Recovery – Cross platform Mac data recovery.
- Disk Drill – HFS+ recovery on Windows or Mac OS.
These tools scan the raw file system looking for remnants of deleted files and reconstruct them so you can get your data back. Make sure not to save anything new to the drive to avoid overwriting deleted data.
Reading HFS+ formatted drives on Windows is possible using a variety of methods. The best solution depends on your specific needs:
- For occasional access, a free tool like HFSExplorer may be sufficient.
- If you need full read/write capabilities, commercial software like Paragon HFS+ or MacDrive works very well.
- Reformatting to exFAT or networking is an option if you don’t need native HFS+.
- Virtualization provides seamless access but requires more system resources.
With the right software, drivers or network configuration, you can access your HFS+ formatted drive on Windows systems to transfer, edit or back up files. Carefully consider which option best suits your requirements.