How To Read Mac External Hard Drive On Windows 10

You’ve got your external hard drive with your documents, photos and videos on it. You used the hard drive on your Windows PC and now you want to use it your Mac.

  1. How To Read Mac External Hard Drive On Windows 10 Laptop
  2. Mac Portable External Hard Drive
  3. How To Read Mac External Hard Drive On Windows 10 Computer
  4. How To Read External Drive On Mac
  5. How To Read Mac External Hard Drive On Windows 10 Usb

Connect your drive to the PC and follow the steps below. Open the File Explorer, right-click on the drive and then choose “Format”. Here, under “File System”, select either “NTFS” or “exFAT” using the dropdown and click “Start” to format the drive. That’s all there is to it, now the drive that was once formatted for Mac is. Anyway, for anyone who is having the same issue, I was searching for this same issue (reading files in a Mac formatted drive from Windows 10) and found HFSExplorer. Have not tried it yet, but description says it can read only (the files in you Mac formatted external hard drive). This way, although not being able to edit or write, you can at.

And why not?

It has plenty of space on it. But when you plug it into your Mac you find you can read the documents on it. You can even copy them onto the Mac. But when you try to copy a file from the Mac to the external drive it says no.

Arhhhh! You could just pull your hair out.

It’s so frustrating.

You don’t want to format the drive. Because you’ll loose all the documents and files that are on it.

And you can’t copy them off because your Windows PC hasn’t enough room to hold them. Even temporarily.

So how do you make an external hard drive compatible with Mac and PC without reformatting it.

In the post you’ll find various methods that work. You can choose the best method you think will works for you.

Whether it is a drive you can’t write to on your Mac or whether it’s the other way round. An external hard drive that when you plug it into your Windows PC it says no way.

There is an answer for you.

Options For Having An External Hard Drive For Mac And PC Without Formatting

1. Use a Software Solution – You get a piece of software that sits on your Mac. Or one for your Windows PC. This software acts like a translator. It interprets what is on the external hard drive so that your Mac or PC can read and write to the drive.

2. Use a Hardware Solution – An extra external hard drive. This allows you to have your documents set up so that both computers can use them without you loosing any data.

So, What Is The Issue? Why Doesn’t My External Hard Drive Just Work?

Each drive, whether internal, external, a hard drive or an ultra fast SSD has a file system on it.

A file system is how your Windows PC or Mac stores and finds your documents on that drive. There are different sorts of file systems. The one your Windows PC writes on the drive by default and the one your Mac writes are different.

And there is the problem.

Unless you started out with a file system that they both can read and write you’re going to run into problems.

  • Your Windows PC reads FAT32, NTFS and ExFAT file systems.
  • Your Mac read HFS+ (also known as Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system, APFS (the apple file system), FAT32 and ExFAT file systems.

You’ll also see the file system referred to as the drive’s formatting.

Typically, an external hard drive that works on a Windows PC uses an NTFS file system.

And an external hard drive that works on a Mac is in HFS+ format. The faster SSD drives on a Mac may well use an APFS file system.

To check, right click on the external hard drive. Then you can check the drive’s properties if you’re not sure what file system it uses.

Before You Decide How You’re Going To Fix Your External Hard Drive For Mac And PC Without Losing Any Files

There are some questions to ask yourself before you go ahead.

1. Which Computer Are You Planning To Use Your External Hard Drive Most On?

Because if your using your external hard drive mostly on your Windows PC. Then you just need to fix the issue on the Mac for the odd time you need to use the drive there.

If mostly on your Mac then the same thing holds true. You just need to fix the issue on the Windows PC for the short time you’ll use the external hard drive there.

If your answer is, you will use equally on both. Then you’d be better off with your documents on your hard drive in a format both computers can read freely. I’ll go into this later.

2. How Much Do You Want To Spend On The Problem?

You may get lucky and find there is a free solution. Or you may need to spend some money.

Options For Making An External Hard Drive For Mac And PC Without Formatting

1. Software Solutions

What Software Solutions are good for:

  • Long term or off and on use
  • You use the software on the Mac or Windows PC that can’t read the drive.


  • Does your external hard drive manufacturer provide the software for free? If not, you will need to pay.
  • Each time you upgrade the operating system on your Mac (if you have bought it for a Mac). Or your Windows PC, if you bought it for the Windows PC.
  • You’ll need to check that the software is compatible with the new operating system. Or wait for the release of a version that works.

Finding A Free Software Fix

The manufacturer of your hard drive may provide a free solution.

So it is well worth checking the model of your external hard drive on the manufacturers site.

For example Seagate provides a free NTFS reader for the Mac on their support downloads page.

Check the software is compatible for the operating system you’re running. And check it’s compatible with your model of Seagate external hard drive.

You can check this on the Seagate site here.

Paid Software Solutions

The two front-runners in this space with the best reputations are:

Paragon software and Tuxera

Both companies have tools that make an external hard drive compatible with Mac and PC without formatting.

Paragon Software

The good news is that you can download the software and have a 10 day free trial. That allows you to test out the Paragon software and make sure it’s for you and your particular set up.

The Paragon Software set of tools has more options compared to Tuxera.

You can get:

  • NTFS software for Mac – you load this software on the Mac to read a Windows PC NTFS formatted drive.
  • APFS for Windows – This piece of software sits on the Windows PC and allows it to read the Mac’s APFS drives. APFS drives on the Mac are often SSD drives.
  • HFS+ for Windows – Sits on the Windows PC and allows it to read HFS+ formatted external hard drives.

Tuxera Software

Tuxera also has a free trial period that you can take advantage of before you buy. In Tuxera’s case the trial period is15 days.

Tuxera NTFS for Mac – Sits on the Mac. It allows the Mac to read and write to a Windows PC NTFS formatted external hard drive.

2. Hardware Solution

What This Option is Good For:

  • Heavy or the equal use of your external hard drive on both your Mac and PC.
  • No special software tool to buy, maintain or check the versions of.


  • It’s not a free option unless you can loan a drive.

Buy A 2nd External Hard Drive

What! I hear you say. Bear with me.

Buy a 2nd external hard drive. You can find some I suggest here.

1. Format that drive to ExFAT.

ExFAT is an efficient, fast, compatible file system. ExFAT works freely with both Macs and Windows PC. Plug an ExFAT drive into your Mac and you Mac can see all the files on it. Read and write document to the drive. And you can do the same on a Windows PC.

You can find out how to format an external hard drive to ExFAT in my document here.

2. Next. Once you have your new or loan external hard drive formatted to ExFAT. Plug both external drives into your Mac. By this I mean the NTFS drive with your documents on and the newly formatted ExFAT drive.

3. You then open two finder windows on your Mac. One finder window on the NTFS formatted drive. And the other Finder windows on the ExFAT drive.

4. And because your Mac can read the NTFS drive. You simply copy all your documents off the drive using the finder window, onto the ExFAT drive.

5. And there you go. You have all your files on a drive that is compatible with both Mac and PC. You can plug that drive into either and use it.

Yes, you had some formatting to do but it was on the new drive. And you did it without losing any data.

And What Do You Do With The Spare External Hard Drive When You’re Done?

Use your second external hard drive for backup.

A good idea as you should never only have one copy of your documents on any drive.

OR indeed in any one place.

As drives as well as cloud storage have been known to and do fail.

And that would mean you loosing all your documents, files, photos, music …

Loan A Drive

If you can, find a good friend to loan an external hard drive from. You’ll need a drive with nothing on it.

Just as if you bought the drive yourself, you follow my directions above.

You format the drive to ExFAT. Copy your files across as I explained for buying a drive.

Then you format your own drive – Don’t worry all this formatting only takes a few minutes.

Copy the files back onto your own external drive.

Return the loaned hard drive to the person you borrowed it from.

Last Words

I hope you enjoyed my article on how to make an external hard drive compatible with Mac and PC without reformatting.

Whether you go the software or hardware route depends on your situation. And which you find the easier to use.

Either way there is a solution to having an existing external hard drive for Mac and PC. And without formatting the drive.

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.

As we all know NTFS is not compatible with Mac and similarly APFS does not get along with Windows. Fortunately, you could create an external hard disk which is compatible with both Windows and Mac OS with the help of this article. This does not require any third-party application or assistance of any additional software. Let’s get down to make the external hard drive compatible with Mac and Windows.

How To Read Mac External Hard Drive On Windows 10 Laptop

How to create an external hard disk compatible on Mac and Windows?

Lets us first understand how to make the external hard drive compatible with Mac and Windows? using exFAT and Dual formatting?

  1. exFAT – Formatting a hard drive with the exFAT file system. Since exFAT formatted external hard disk are readable and writable by both the operating systems
  2. Dual formatting – If you are a user who prefers to have both APFS and NTFS file system on a single external hard disk, you can partition and dual format the hard drive.

How to format an external drive on macOS with exFAT

  1. Connect the drive to the Mac.
  2. Open Disk Utility. The easiest way to do that is to hit CMD and the spacebar at the same time and type in Disk Utility to find the program.
  3. In disk utility, you will have an internal and external drive
  4. Select the drive you want to format and click erase.
  5. Give the partition a name and select exFAT for the format.
  6. Click Erase to finish and you will complete the procedure.

Mac Portable External Hard Drive

How to format an external drive on Windows with exFAT

  1. Connect the drive to your Windows PC.
  2. Open the Disk Management tool. You can do that by typing 'disk format' or 'disk management' in Windows search or going to Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Create and format hard disk partitions.
  3. Right-click on the external drive's partition or unallocated space you want to format and choose New Simple Volume
  4. Follow the wizard to choose a volume size.
  5. Assign a drive letter.
  6. Choose exFAT as the file system in the Format Partition screen.
  7. Give the volume a new name, click next and finish to complete the procedure.

Note - Your exFAT-formatted drive or partition can now be used for both Windows and Mac. Keep in mind that using a drive frequently between Windows and Mac could increase the chances of hard disk corruption, so make sure you have a backup of the data any drive. In case if you happened to lose you will need a reliable third party application to fix the issue.

How to Dual Format an external hard disk?

Let us understand how to make the external hard drive compatible with Mac and Windows using dual formatting?

If the user desires to use NTFS, APFS or HFS+ for any specific reasons and does not want to opt for exFAT, there is another option. Instead of formatting a drive with a single file system, the user can create two partitions and format those with NTFS, APFS, HFS+ or any other file systems.

How to partition external hard disk on Mac?

  1. Connect the external hard disk to the Mac.
  2. Click on Disk utility. Select the drive from the left sidebar, then click the Partition tab.
  3. Under Partition layout, select '2 Partitions.'
  4. The user can adjust the size of the partition based on the desired requirement.
  5. Once adjusting based on the desired storage requirement, the user will able to choose the preferred operating system (NTFS or APFS) and complete the procedure.

How to partition external hard disk on Windows?

How To Read Mac External Hard Drive On Windows 10 Computer

  1. Plug the external hard drive into your Windows PC.
  2. Open the Start menu and search for Disk Management.
  3. Select the search result and the Disk Management utility will launch. In the left sidebar, you should see your hard drive and its partitions
  4. Select the drive which you want to be made into a partition. Right-click the Windows partition and select Shrink partition.
  5. In the Format dialog box, under File System, select the desired file system (NTFS). Click OK and complete the format process.
How To Read Mac External Hard Drive On Windows 10

The chances of losing data in this scenario are comparatively high if anything goes wrong in formatting. It is recommended to have a backup of your data before performing this action. If you don’t have a backup you will need a professional hard drive recovery software to recover your lost or formatted data.

How To Read External Drive On Mac

Remo hard drive recovery software is one such professional hard drive recovery tool that can easily help you to recover data from your lost or formatted hard disk. The tool supports more than 300 file formats with which you can be sure of recovering files of any format. The tool comes with two types of scan features, Normal scan, and Deep Scan which scans the hard drive sector by sector which ensures hassle-free data recovery.


1. What is Hard format and Quick Format? Is data recovery possible in these scenarios?

  • Hard format - A hard format is an option in Windows, which allows the user to format the whole disk/partition. The disadvantages of this feature are that the data residing on this disk is permanently lost and cannot be recovered
  • Quick Format - Quick format is a feature in which the Windows allows the user to format the disk or partition. Know more on how to perform quick format and recover data after quick format here.
2. How can I use NTFS on Mac?

How To Read Mac External Hard Drive On Windows 10 Usb

A. Yes, you can use NTFS on Mac only in read-only mode and it cannot write or overwrite any of these files.
3. How can I use APFS on Windows?
A. Windows is capable of understanding the file format and can read the APFS, but cannot write or overwrite any of these files.