There may come a time when you’ll need to recover data from Mac hard drive to PC. Even though you can’t just connect the drive to your Windows-powered computer and drag and drop the files, it’s still possible to transfer the needed information from one device to the other.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the main methods that can be used to retrieve data from Mac HDD on Windows.
Situations In Which You May Need Recover Mac Hard Drive to a PC
So why would you need to transfer files from a macOS-powered device to a Windows one? Here are a few situations when knowing how to do it may come in handy:
- Maybe it’s obvious, but if you’ve bought a new Windows PC after using a Mac for a while, you might want to transfer important files from your old device to the new one;
- Simply when you want to transfer a few files from your Mac HHD to PC to have access to that information at all times and on all of your devices;
- If your Mac has just died, and you have all of the data from your device stored on an HFS+ or a non-HFS+ drive. By knowing how to recover data from such a hard drive to a PC, you’ll be able to access all of your files on a Windows-powered computer.
Difficulties You May Encounter Recovering Mac Data to Windows
As it was already mentioned, recovering Mac hard drive on Windows is possible, but not as easy as one might hope. With each solution, there is a chance that you encounter some difficulties.
Just for you to be fully prepared, here are some things that you should know before recovering data from Mac HDD to Windows:
- Some macOS app files won’t automatically load (for example, Pages, Keynote). But still, you’ll be able to transfer them to your PC;
- APFS file system is not compatible with Windows-based computers, but with the help of third-party software, you’ll be able to recover your files;
- It’s impossible to use a docking station to recover files from newer Macs (the ones equipped with an internal SSD);
- If your PC doesn’t recognize your Mac hard drive, try to run third-party software to help (it’s possible that your hard drive is not correctly formatted).
Methods to Recover Data From Mac Hard Drive to PC
It’s incredibly easy to recover deleted files directly on a Mac. But unfortunately, there are not many options when it comes to retrieving files from a Mac hard drive to a PC. But the good thing is that it’s still possible to do it.
Here are seven best solutions for you to try.
Solution #1: Use a Software-Based Solution
Even though Apple and Windows have some compatibility, it is best to use third-party software to retrieve files from a Mac HDD on Windows.
There are many great apps on the market that can handle this job, and many of them operate in a similar way. But if to take into consideration the interface of the app and how easy it is to navigate it, then we recommend Disk Drill.
Disk Drill is a data recovery app that can be used both on macOS and Windows. Thanks to its user-friendly interface, this app is insanely easy to use and doesn’t require you to be a tech expert to successfully recover Mac files on a PC.
This method works both for HFS+ hard drives and non-HFS+ formatted ones. However, it takes a bit longer to retrieve files from non-HFS+ hard drives. So here’s how to recover data from Mac hard drive to a PC.
From an HFS+ Hard Drive
HFS+ is one of the main file systems of macOS. In general, it cannot be used with other operating systems. And because of that, it’s possible that your PC won’t recognize the hard drive. This is why you’ll need to use a third-party app to recover files from such a hard drive on your Windows computer.
Follow these steps to retrieve files from an HFS+ hard drive on Windows:
- Plug in the HFS+ drive to your PC.
- A popup window will appear asking you to format the drive. Click Cancel.❗️
DO NOT format your HFS+ drive. This will delete all your data and make it harder to extract the needed files, so remember to click Cancel when the popup window appears.
- You’ll see another popup window saying that Windows cannot read the drive. Ignore the warning since Disk Drill has special built-in drivers that allow reading Mac HDD.
- Launch Disk Drill.
- Look through the list of devices/disks and click the name of the plugged-in HFS+ partition.
- Click All recovery methods for a drop-down menu to appear. Choose the Allocate existing data recovery method and click Search for lost data to start the process.
- Wait for the process to complete and click Show scan results in Explorer (at the bottom right of the screen).
- Use the drag and drop or copy and paste method to move the files to your PC.
Once you’re done moving the files, you’ll be able to access them on your PC whenever you want.
From a Non-HFS+ Hard Drive
Luckily, it’s also possible to retrieve files from non-HFS+ formatted drives. One of such file systems is APFS (Apple File System). And since it’s not natively compatible with Windows, you must use a third-party app to recover data from it.
Here’s how to recover files from a non-HFS+ hard drive on PC:
- Connect your non-HFS+ hard drive to your Windows PC.
- Launch Disk Drill.
- Choose your hard drive from the list of available storage devices.
- Click Search for lost data on the bottom-right of the screen to start the scan. This way, the app will apply all of its methods to reveal all of the files stored on the hard drive.
- Once the scan is complete, you can choose to either recover some of the files or all of them. Click Recover.
Your PC hard disk drive will serve as the storage device for your recovered files.
Solution #2: Use a Properly Formatted External Drive
Another option is to transfer files from your Mac to PC using a properly formatted external drive (or USB flash drive). So if you have a clean drive, you can first format it, export the needed files from your Mac onto the drive, and only then open it on your PC.
Format the Drive
For the external drive to be recognized by both macOS and Windows, it should be formatted as exFAT or FAT32. The best way to format your USB drive is via Disk Utility.
Once you format your external drive, everything located on it will get erased. So make sure that you use a drive that doesn’t contain any important data.
Here’s how to format an external drive (USB flash drive) on your Mac using Disk Utility:
- Plug in your USB flash drive into your Mac.
- Open Launchpad from Dock and launch Disk Utility.
- Choose the name of your external drive on the sidebar.
- Click Erase. When you see a new window appear, type in a name for your drive, and select the exFAT format. If you’re using an external physical disk (not an external physical volume), also choose the GUID Partition Map from the Scheme options.
- Click Erase to start the formatting process.
Transfer Your Files
Now that you’ve formatted your drive, you can move on to transferring your files.
Here’s what you should do to move your Mac files to the external drive:
- Plug in your external drive (USB flash drive) into your Mac.
- Open the drive. From the top menu, click File > New Folder. Type in the name for your folder (it can be anything you want) and hit Return.
- Manually select the files that you need and export them to the external drive. If you want to export your whole folders with files, then open Finder, hold Command, and click on the needed folders to select them. Then drag them over to your external drive in the side menu.
- Once you’re exported all of the needed data, eject your external drive by clicking the Eject icon next to it in Finder.
Access Your Files on Your PC
Here’s how to open the exported files from your external drive:
- Plug in your external drive into your Windows PC.
- Double-click the drive to open it.
- Double-click the folder containing the files.
- If you want to move all of the files to your PC, click Select all from the top menu. Then drag and drop all of the files to the needed folder on your PC.
That’s it! Now you can access all of the files from your Mac on your Windows PC.
Solution #3: Use the Built-In Functions
If both of your computers are on the same local network and your Mac is working properly, you can transfer files from Mac to Windows via File Sharing. For this method, you don’t need to install any software and just use the built-in functions found on your computers.
First, you’ll need to set up File Sharing on your Mac. Here’s how to do it:
- Click on the Apple menu from the top menu and head to System Preferences > Sharing. Place a checkmark near File Sharing on the left-side list
- Click Options. Make sure that there is a checkmark near Share files and folders using SMB (if not, then place it). Also, place a checkmark in the Windows File Sharing near the user account name that you wish to share. Enter the password when prompted. When ready, click Done.
- Use the Sharing window to select the folders and users that you want to share (use the plus (+) and minus (-) under each category).
Make sure to note your Mac’s IP address. You can find it under File Sharing: On.
Now, once you’ve turned on File Sharing on your Mac, you can access the shared files on your PC.
Here’s what you should do next:
- Launch File Explorer on your Windows PC.
- In the address bar (located at the top of the screen), type \\ followed by your Mac’s IP address.
- When a popup window appears, type in your Mac’s username and user account password.
- All of the folders and users that you previously chose to share should appear on your PC’s screen.
To be able to perform any actions with the shared folders, you should map it as a network drive.
To do it, right-click the needed folder and from the drop-down list, choose Map network drive. Click on any drive from the Drive list. Then place a checkmark near Reconnect at sign-in (this will make sure that you automatically connect to the selected folder at the start of each session).
Solution #4: Use a Docking Station to Transfer Data From Mac to PC
Another way to transfer files from your Mac to a Windows PC is to use an external hard drive docking station. There are many ways you can use a docking station, including to connect a Windows-powered laptop with a macOS one.
Of course, not all docking stations come with this feature. For a docking station to work, it should be compatible with both macOS and Windows-based laptops, provide the needed ports for connectivity, and have a built-in file transfer software.
However, there are a few things that you should be aware of:
- It will be impossible to apply this method with the Macs equipped with an internal SSD (newer Macs);
- It’s possible that older Mac drives won’t be visible in Explorer because of their file system;
- Some models may require an external power source to connect to your PC;
Solution 5: Use an Ethernet Cable to Connect Your Mac with PC
You can try to transfer data from Mac to PC with the help of a standard Ethernet cable.
Follow these steps to connect both of your devices by creating a small local network between them:
- Connect your computers with an Ethernet cable (or with a USB-to-Ethernet adapter if your Mac doesn’t have an Ethernet port).
- Turn on file sharing on your Windows PC.
- Turn off Internet Connection Firewall on the Windows computer.
- On your Mac, click Go > Connect to Server > Browse. Look for the needed network address in the Server Address field.
Solution #6: Use a Cloud Service to Sync Files
There are numerous cloud services that are compatible with both macOS and Windows-powered devices. It’s quite easy to use such a service: you just use your Mac to upload the needed files to the cloud client and use the other computer to view and download them.
If you’ve never used a cloud service, here are a few good options that you can try:
- Google Drive
Solution #7: Get Professional Help
If nothing from the above-described solutions works for you, there is one last thing that you can try—resort to a data recovery laboratory service. Since such specialists are equipped with all the needed tools, they should be able to succeed in even the most complicated repair.
There are many professional data recovery services on the market, so it’s natural to be unsure of which one to choose. If that’s the case, check out our article on the best (and affordable) hard drive data recovery services.
The best way to do it is by connecting the hard drive to a computer (it can be either a macOS or Windows-based one). Then you can run a data recovery scan to make sure that you don’t skip any files and retrieve all of the data onto your device with the help of a third-party app.
If your Mac HDD is not showing up on your PC, it’s possible that your hard drive’s format isn’t compatible with the Windows operating system. Or in the worst-case scenario, your hard drive might be corrupted or faulty.
There are many reliable software options to choose from. Disk Drill is a great example — this app is highly user-friendly, has advanced data recovery features, and can provide quick results with an HFS+ system.
Even though it is a bit complicated, it’s still possible. However, in some severe cases, the only way to recover data from such a hard drive is by getting help from a professional data recovery service.
The Bottom Line
Recovering data from Mac hard drive to PC can be quite an overwhelming process. However, since the above-described solutions are proven to be effective, you should be able to successfully transfer your files from your Mac HDD to your Windows-based computer.
Romana is a freelance content writer driven by a strong passion for everything tech. Since her childhood, she has been striving to keep up with the constantly emerging technology trends and learning how to make the most of them. Most of all, she enjoys writing about Mac, data recovery, and cybersecurity.
Andrey Vasilyev is an Editorial Advisor for Handy Recovery. Andrey is a software engineer expert with extensive expertise in data recovery, computer forensics, and data litigation. Andrey brings over 12 years of experience in software development, database administration, and hardware repair to the team.