How to Convert Mac Hard Drive to Windows Without Losing Data

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If you don’t have a robust internal hard drive, investing in an external hard drive can help you quickly transfer files between computers. However, what happens when you get a mac hard drive that won’t work with Windows? You may need to reformat it to work with both computers. You’ll need to convert your Mac hard drive to Windows.

Windows uses NFTS file format while Mac drives use HFS, this means Macs can’t write to NTFS drives while Windows can’t read or write HFS. Although you can find third-party software to get Mac hard drives to work with NTFS, and windows to work with HFS, these cost money, and you may have to deal with bugs or request for permission to install the software.

Fortunately, you don’t have to struggle anymore, here’s a detailed guide on how to convert Mac hard drive to Windows without losing data.

Can You Read a Mac Formatted Drive on a Windows Computer?

Unfortunately, it’s a simple process like connecting the drive to a computer using a USB and reading the files. Windows Can’t read Mac Drives as they both use different file systems. Apple now uses APFS or the Apple File System and Windows uses the NTFS file system for its internal drives.

USB drives and external hard drives use the Windows FAT32 to format for compatibility. The best news is that most devices included Mac computers can read and write from FAT32 devices.

New Apple devices will be formatted with APFS while old Mac drives can use the HFS file system. However, Windows by default can’t read these file systems.

How to Read Mac Drives on Windows

Although both operating systems are incompatible, you can still read APFS format files on Windows. Various apps make this possible, and the best part is they work for any Apple device like iPads and iPod, not just Mac computers. These options include:


MacDrive is a popular app that was s first released in 1996. The app works with HFS and APFS drives. Also, the app allows you to read and write data to your mac drive from Windows. MacDrive works around the Disk Management Window by acting as the hub for all Mac drives connected to a Windows PC.

What’s more, you can see the HFS or APFS drive in the file explorer, which allows you to connect the two to the Windows operating system. You can access other beneficial features like advanced security tools, powerful disk repair, and the ability to create and partition Mac drives from a PC.

You can use the five-day free trial to see if this is something that would work for you. The company has a Pro version that has advanced features like file defragmentation, a way to create Mac ISO files, and support for RAID setups.

Paragon APFS for Windows

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Paragon APFS offers read and write access to APFS formatted partitions, read-only support for encrypted volumes, and read, write access to cloned and compressed files. While the app supports disk auto-mounting when you start it, it doesn’t come with partition tools.

Although it’s a big competitor with MacDrive, the latter wins in that it provides HFS support. Paragon APFS app only works with APFS-formatted drives. In case you have an old Mac running HFS, you need to buy Paragon HFS, which is an expensive option.

However, Paragon APFS has some advantages. It’s available on a ten-day free trial.

UFS Explorer

You can use the UFS explorer to read APFS drives on Windows. The best part of this app is that it can scan both HFS and APFS formats. Also, it can read Linux, UNIX, FAT32, NTFS, and UFS.

What’s more, it has RAID support, or you can use the inbuilt RAID builder to customize it to your liking. The app has a free version without time limits. However, you’ll only copy small files.

Step by Step Process on How to Convert Mac hard Drive to Windows without Losing Data

Follow these steps to understand how to convert mac hard drive to windows without losing data.

Back up the Mac’s Drive Data

Back up data on the Mac drive. Note that this won’t change the file system. The step only wipes the drive allowing you to start with a fresh mac-formatted drive. You can transfer the files to a Mac computer and back up the data.

In case you have a Windows Pc, use HFSE Explorer to copy files onto your Windows PC. It’s essential to note that you need to install Java on your PC to use HFSE Explorer. Once you’re done, you can uninstall Java.

Delete the Mac Partitions

Open the Windows Disk Management tool by pressing the Windows Key and R to open the Run dialog. Type in diskmgmt.msc and press enter. After this, you should see the partition on the drive that is connected to your computer, both external and internal ones.

If you’ve connected the Mac-formatted drive to a Windows PC, you should see it on the list of disks. Beware of deleting partitions from another drive as this could lead to loss of files or damage your windows installation.

Right-click each partition on the mac drive and choose delete volume to erase the partitions. Right click on the empty area and select New Simple Volume to come up with a partition. Format it with FAT32 or Windows NTFS file systems.

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The Mac Drive has an EFI System partition marked as protected. Right click on it to delete it. You may notice that the delete option is disabled.

At this point, you may need to wipe the entire disk to erase this partition. The process removes everything on the disk, which includes any partitions and files present in the drive. You need to note the number of the drive in the disk management window.

Open the command prompt window as the administrator. If you’re using Windows 7 or 8, press the windows key, type cmd, and press Control, shift, and Enter at the same time. Once you’ve open the prompt window, write diskpart and click enter.

On the DISKPART prompt, type list disk and press enter to see the disks connected to your computer. Check the number of your Mac formatted drive on this list, which should be similar as the number of the drive in the disk management window. Be careful with the number to avoid wiping out the wrong drive as the process is irreversible.

Nest, type select # (which is the number of the drive) and press enter. This means if the Mac drive is number 3, you’ll type select disk 3.

Type clean and press enter to erase the disk, which includes the partitions and files. The process gives you an uninitialized and empty disk. You’ll notice a message stating that Diskpart succeeded in cleaning the disk, close this command prompt window.

Create a FAT32 or NTFS Partition

Go back and open the disk management window. Note if you left it open back then, you need to click action and select rescan disks to update data. Find the mac disk; it should be empty have a not initialized message. Right click on the drive and select initialize disk.

Choose the GPT or MBR partition table format and select okay to create the table for the disk. Select New Simple Volume by right-clicking in the unallocated space on the initialized disk. Create a partition using the wizard with the FAT32 or NTFS file system.

You can now use the drive with the Windows system as it’s formatted. Also, you won’t find any wasted space by protected Mac partitions. If you still need the saved files, you can transfer them to your now formatted drive.

Other Options to Convert Mac Hard Drive to Windows

You can choose to use different ways to convert a Mac formatted drive to Windows. These includes:

Using NTFS-HFS Converter

You can now use the NTFS-HFS converter to switch disks to one format and vice versa without losing any data. The converter works not only for external drives but also for internal drives.

Whether you’re a beginner without any tech skills or you’re a pro, the converter is easy to use, and you won’t have to deal with any technical issues. Remember to back up data before using the converter as all encrypted files will be lost.

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Final Thoughts

Converting a Mac formatted drive to Windows isn’t complicated. Follow the steps above to learn how to how to convert mac hard drive to windows without losing data in minutes. Alternatively, you can choose to use third-party software and apps that not only allow you to read HFS and APFS file systems, but also allow you to understand how to convert your Mac drive to windows without losing data.

Kent Beck

Kent Beck link to his wiki

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