How To Convert A Windows Hard Drive To Mac

  1. How To Convert A Windows Hard Drive To Mac Computer
  2. How To Convert A Windows Hard Drive To Mac
  3. How To Convert A Windows Hard Drive To Mac Desktop

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.

Open Migration Assistant, which is in the Utilities folder of your Applications folder. Follow the onscreen prompts until you're asked how you want to transfer your information. Select the option to transfer from a Windows PC, then click Continue. Select the icon representing your PC, then click Continue.

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.

  1. An external hard drive that supports both Windows and Mac operating systems can be extremely helpful to users who work on both the operating systems. However, Windows was mainly optimized for NTFS (New Technology file system) format, on the other hand, APFS was created for the Mac OS.
  2. Aug 02, 2021 The instructions below are for Windows 10, but other versions of Windows from Windows 7 and up can also format an external drive as exFAT for use with Mac as well. Connect the drive to your.

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.

Quick Navigation

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.

Image via: Pixabay

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. Alternatively, you can buy the software for $49.99 which comes with extra features. 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 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. You require one license which works on three Windows PCs at $49.95.

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. You can opt for the premium version that costs $24, which is cheaper than Paragon APFS and MacDrive.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

How To Convert A Windows Hard Drive To Mac

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:

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.

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. If you are interested in other hard drives you can read our review on the Western Digital My Book external hard drive.

The best ways to format an external drive for Windows and Mac. Compare the different options for formatting an external hard drive to work with Windows and Mac. And, no: the answer isn't always FAT32.

If you've switched to the Mac, welcome aboard. 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. If you're using such a drive and you'd like to write new data to them, you'll find you can't unless you add new software. Fortunately, you don't have to spend a dime.

Switch to Mac


Every week our Peter Cohen brings you Switch to Mac — a column to help you move from Windows PC to the Mac and OS X!

One option is to back up your old Windows external drive (using Time Machine or another method). Reformat the drive using Apple's Disk Utility software and the company's HFS+ file system instead. Then you can restore the backed up data to the drive.

Even if the backed up and restored files originally came from a PC, they'll be stored on the drive using a file system the Mac fully understands. That way the drive will be fully Mac-compatible without any need for you to modify the operating system of the Mac to get it to work properly.

Obviously that solution doesn't work for everyone. Maybe the drive you're using has to be used with a PC occasionally. Whatever the case, the good news is that it's not a show-stopper: There are a few utilities out there that will enable Macs to write to mounted NTFS volumes.

Tuxera's NTFS for Mac is one of the best ways to do it. It uses smart caching to keep data transfer as fast as possible and works with every OS X version since 10.4 (Tiger). NTFS for Mac costs $31, and you can download a demo first to see how it does.

Paragon Software's NTFS for Mac 12 is another excellent choice. It includes several additional utilities for people who need to tinker or repair, to enable you to format drives with NTFS, check NTFS partition integrity, fix errors, and more. NTFS for Mac costs $19.95.

If you're a DIYer and you'd like to go the free route, you'll find a Sourceforge project called NativeNTFS-OSX that gets the job done. NativeNTFS isn't for rookies: It's a bash script that needs to run from the Terminal command line and requires you to have root (administrator) access to your computer.

An easier way to go is to download OS X Fuse, a third-party software tool that extends the Mac's file system capabilities. Follow the directions on the OS X Fuse website to download and configure the software. Follow the instructions to download NTFS-3G for Mac OS X, whose development seems stopped right now but still works in Yosemite. Once OS X Fuse and NTFS-3G are installed, your Mac should be able to read and write to NTFS disks just fine.

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Summary :

Want to format an external hard drive for Mac and Windows PC? Do you know how to do this work easily? This MiniTool article will show you specific methods to make external hard drive compatible with Mac and PC, which are easy and safe to complete.

As we know, external hard drives are widely used to backup data or interchange files among different computers. Well, is there an external hard drive that could be shared between Mac and Windows PC? Of course, there is. Actually, most external hard disks could be compatible with Mac and PC as long as you format them correctly.

Why Need to Format External Hard Drive for Mac and PC

To put it simply, if you want to share external hard drive between Mac and PC, you need to format an external hard drive for Mac and PC.

Currently, hard drives for Windows PC are always formatted with NTFS, while hard disks for Mac are formatted with HFS+. However, when we connect a NTFS formatted disk to Mac, Mac OS X doesn't allow us to write files to the drive neither edit files, though it can read a NTFS drive. Similarly, Windows OS will ask us to format the HFS+ formatted drive when we connecting such a disk, let along edit files saved on HFS+ formatted hard disks unless we resort to third party programs.

But luckily, there are file systems well supported by both Mac and Windows PC, and they are FAT32 (it might be called MS-DOS on Mac) and exFAT. As long as we format the external hard drive to one of these 2 file systems, it can be shared between Mac and Windows.

Further Reading

Both FAT32 and exFAT have advantages and disadvantages.

FAT32: FAT32 works with all versions of Windows, Mac OS, Linux, game consoles, etc.

However, single files on a FAT32 drive can't be larger than 4GB. If your external drive saves files larger than 4GB or you plan to save larger files to this drive, converting to FAT32 is not recommended.

In addition, a FAT32 partition must be not more than 32GB if you create it in Windows Disk Management. Of course, there is free partition manager that can help create a FAT32 volume up to 2TB, which also functions correctly.

exFAT: exFAT has very large file size and partition size limits, which means it's a good idea to format your external hard drive to exFAT.

Nevertheless, a lot of users complained that exFAT is slow, and they highly suggest using FAT32 if you can avoid file size constraints.

Three Options for Accessing NTFS Drives on Mac

Paid Third-Party Drivers

Some paid third-party NTFS drivers for Mac can be used to access NTFS drives on Mac. They work well and they have better performance than the free solutions which will be mentioned in the following part. Paragon NTFS for Mac is such a driver.

Besides, you can also use the paid third-party file system converters to convert NTFS to FAT32 or exFAT which are compatible with both Mac and PC. MiniTool Partition Wizard is one representative.

Free Third-Party Drivers

FUSE for macOS is a free and open-source NTFS driver that can enable write support. But, this solution is slower relatively. And the automatically mounting NTFS partitions in read-write mode can be a security risk for your Mac computer.

Apple’s Experimental NTFS-Write Support

The Mac OS has an experimental support for writing to NTFS drives. Usually, it is disabled by default and needs some messing around in the Mac terminal to enable it.

It doesn’t work properly all the time and could lead to potential issues with your NTFS file system. For example, it had corrupted data before. Thus, we don’t suggest using this tool and we believe it is disabled by this reason.

Here, we recommend using the paid third-party tools since they are easy-to-use and can do good work for you.

Then, we will introduce these three options for you in the following content.

The Best Paid Third-Party Driver: Paragon NTFS for Mac

Paragon NTFS for Mac can write, edit, delete, copy, or move files on NTFS volumes from your Mac computer. It offers a 10-day free trial. If you want to use it all the time, you need to pay for it.

With it, you don’t have to fiddle with terminal commands to mount partitions manually. Additionally, it can mount partitions automatically and safely. More importantly, it can code with the potential corruption. If you purchase a Seagate drive, you can even get a free download of Paragon NTFS for Mac.

All in all, it does its works well and gives you good user’s experience.

The Best Free Third-Party Drivers: FUSE for macOS

FUSE for macOS is a free solution to access NTFS on Mac. But it is less secure.

If you want to make automatically mount NTFS partitions in read-write mode on Mac, you need to temporarily disable the System Integrity Protection and replace one of Apple’s built-in tools with a binary that is more vulnerable to attack. Thus, your Mac is in danger when using this driver.

However, you can use it to manually mount NTFS partitions in read-write mode if you never mind using the Terminal. This will be safer, but you need to do more work. You can go to google the steps and see how complex they are.

Apple’s Experimental NTFS-Writing Support: Don’t Do This, Seriously

Although we mentioned this method in our article, we still don’t recommend it because it is the least tested. It is just for educational purposes, and it is available on Mac OS 10.12 Sierra. Perhaps, it will be unstable forever.

How to Quickly Format External Hard Drive for Mac and PC without Losing Data

Another way to access NTFS drive on Mac is to convert the NTFS/HFS+ to FAT/exFAT. Then, the drive can be used on both Mac and PC.

There should be some important data on the drive. To keep it safe, you can choose this best NTFS/HFS+ to FAT/exFAT converter: MiniTool Partition Wizard.

How to Convert NTFS to FAT32 or exFAT Without Data Loss

To format hard drive for Mac and Windows without data loss, we suggest using MiniTool Partition Wizard and its 'Convert NTFS to FATS32' function. If you are a personal user, you can try its Professional Edition.

Step 1: Run MiniTool Partition Wizard

Download this software to your computer. Then, you can open the software and input the license key to the pop-out window to get its Professional Edition.

Step 2: Convert NTFS to FAT32 with This Software

After running the program successfully, we can see its main interface as follows:

Here, please select the NTFS partition of external hard drive and choose 'Convert NTFS to FAT' feature from the left action pane. If there is more than one NTFS partition, convert all of them one by one.

At last, click 'Apply' button to make the change executed.

When MiniTool Partition Wizard shows it applies the change successfully, the original NTFS will finally become a FAT32 partition.

By this way, you can easily format an external hard drive for Mac and PC without losing any data. Then, you can share external hard drive between Mac and PC

You Can Convert NTFS to exFAT in 3 Steps

However, if you want to convert NTFS to exFAT to make external hard drive compatible with Mac and PC, 3 steps are required.

Step 1: Transfer Data out from External Hard Drive

Format Hard Drive For Windows And Mac

You can choose to copy and paste those files to other external devices or internal hard disk of Windows, but it will cost much time. Instead, you can use MiniTool Partition Wizard Free Edition to create a copy for your external drive, which is faster.

If there is only one NTFS partition on external hard drive, refer to the tutorial Copy Partition to get instructions. However, if there is more than one NTFS partition, view Copy Disk to get specific operations.

Step 2: Create exFAT Partition with MiniTool Partition Wizard

The Free Edition of this software also enables you to do this job.

Firstly, you need to delete the partition by using this software. Just open the software to enter its main interface. Then, choose the target partition and click 'Delete Partition' from the left action pane. After that, you should click 'Apply' to keep this change.

Secondly, the target partition will become unallocated. Here, you need to choose that partition and click on 'Create Partition' from the left action pane.

Thirdly, you will see a pop-out window. Here, you can choose 'exFAT' from the 'File System' setting option. At the same time, you can also set some other parameters for this partition, including 'Partition Label', 'Drive Letter', 'Size And Location'. After that, please click on 'OK'.

Fourthly, you will go back to the main interface. Then, please click on 'Apply' to save these changes.

Finally, an exFAT partition will be created on your external hard disk so that it could be shared between Mac and Windows PC

Step 3: Transfer Data back to External Drive

If you want to share files that you have backed up between Mac and PC, now please transfer these files back to external hard drive.

How to Convert HFS+ to FAT32 or exFAT without Losing Data

Besides, you can format an external hard drive for Mac and Windows by converting HFS+ to FAT32 or exFAT without losing any data.

Step 1: Backup Data in HFS+ Partition on Mac

Just transfer all useful files out from the external hard drive to other devices on Mac. Of course, if you have a backup already, ignore this step.

Step 2: Create a FAT32 or exFAT Partition on Windows PC

Some people may ask why create such partitions on Windows rather than Mac. That is because there are cases reporting FAT32 (MS-DOS) or exFAT partitions created on Mac did not work well on Windows.

Please skip to Solution 1: Format External Hard Drive to FAT32 to get steps to create a FAT32 partitions or go back to Step 2: Create exFAT Partition with MiniTool Partition Wizard to get operations to create an exFAT partition.

How to Make an Empty External Drive Compatible with Mac and PC

If there is no file saved on your external hard drive, how to make external hard drive compatible with Mac and PC?

It's very easy to share it between Mac and PC and you also need a Windows computer, a Mac machine, and the free partition manager MiniTool Partition Wizard Free Edition.

There are 3 solutions for this case, so please choose the one you like most to format external hard drive Windows 10/8/7.

Solution 1: Format External Hard Drive Windows 10/8/7 to FAT32

Since users are unable to create a FAT32 partition larger than 32GB in Windows Disk Management, they need to use MiniTool Partition Wizard Free.

Note: when you connect an external hard drive which is formatted with HFS+ with computer, Windows may ask you to format the drive. Please choose Cancel.

Please download and install this program on your Windows computer to format an external hard drive for Mac and PC.

Firstly, open the software to enter its main interface as follows. Here, please select the NTFS partition or HFS+ partition of external hard drive, and click 'Delete Partition' feature from the left action pane. If there are multiple partitions on the external disk, please select the disk and click 'Delete All Partitions' feature instead. After that, an unallocated space will be released.


Secondly, you can create one or more FAT32 partitions in unallocated space. Select the unallocated space and choose 'Create Partition' feature from the left side.

Then, you should choose 'FAT32' from the 'File System' option in the pop-out window. Meanwhile, you can set properties for this new partition and click 'OK' to go back to the main window of Partition Wizard.

At last, click 'Apply' button to make all changes performed.

Solution 2: Format External Hard Drive Windows 7/8/10 to exFAT

Firstly, please delete the NTFS or HFS+ partition in either MiniTool Partition Wizard or Windows Disk Management to release unallocated space. Then, you can create an exFAT partition with MiniTool Partition Wizard Free Edition by following steps introduced in the section Step 2: Create exFAT Partition with MiniTool Partition Wizard.

Once a FAT32 or exFAT partition is created on your external hard drive, you can share it on both Mac and Windows PC.

Solution 3: Create One HFS+ Partition for Mac and One NTFS Partition for Windows

How To Reformat An External Hard Drive

Alternatively, you can create 2 partitions on the external hard drive: one is for Mac, and the other is for Windows. As to size for each partition, it depends on your own demands. By this way, you can easily format an external hard drive for Mac and Windows.

Step 1: Create a NTFS Partition and a FAT32 Partition

Please run MiniTool Partition Wizard Free Edition, then delete all the original NTFS or HFS+ partition(s), and create a new NTFS partition as well as a FAT32 partition, and the latter will be formatted to HFS+ in Mac machine.

Then, select the external hard drive and choose 'Delete All Partitions' to create an unallocated space.

Here, select the unallocated space and choose 'Create Partition' feature from the left action pane.

Now, please specify partition label (Windows is recommended), partition type (primary or logical), drive letter, file system (NTFS), cluster size, and partition size (you can change the length of the handle to adjust partition size). Then, click 'OK' to continue.

How To Format Hard Drive For Mac

Now, you can see a NTFS partition is created. Please use the same way to create a FAT32 partition labeled with Mac. At last, click 'Apply' button to make all changes performed.

Step 2: Format the FAT32 Partition to HFS+ Partition on Mac

Reformat External Hard Drive Windows 10

Please go to Utilities → Disk Utility to get the window below:

Then, select the external hard drive and click 'Partition' tab on the top.

Now, find the FAT32 partition and format it to OS X Extended (Journaled), which is the desired HFS+. Finally, click 'Apply' button to make all changes performed.

How To Convert A Windows Hard Drive To Mac Computer

Tip: You may receive the prompt 'The volume 'MAC' is not journaled. As a result it can not be resized'. Just ignore the message and click 'OK' button to continue.

After NTFS partition and HFS+ partition are created on your external hard drive, it can be shared between Mac and Windows PC.

Note: You might be unable to share all files saved on external drive since Windows doesn't support HFS+ partition while Mac doesn't support NTFS partition completely.

Bottom Line

Are you planning to format an external hard drive for Mac and PC? If yes, now try one of our methods to make external hard drive compatible with Mac and PC.

Should you have any problem, just feel free to leave us a message in comment part below or send an email to [email protected].

Format Hard Drive for Mac and PC FAQ

How do I make my hard drive compatible with Mac and PC?
If you want your hard drive to be compatible with both Mac and PC, you should format the hard drive to the file system that is supported by both of these two operating systems. FAT32 and exFAT can meet your requirements.

How To Convert A Windows Hard Drive To Mac

What is the best hard drive format for Mac and PC?
Although both FAT32 and exFAT are compatible with Mac and PC, exFAT is a much better choice because it has fewer limitations. For example, it has a larger file size and partition size limits.
If you formatted your hard drive to exFAT with Apple's HFS Plus, Windows will not recognize the exFAT drive. You can consider using a third-party partition tool to format your hard drive to exFAT.

How To Convert A Windows Hard Drive To Mac Desktop

Windows can only read a Mac hard drive that is formatted to FAT32 or exFAT using third-party software. If the file system of the Mac hard drive is HFS+ or APFS, the drive will become unreadable in Windows.