How to access your OS X partition from Windows in Boot Camp

If you have Windows installed on your Mac via Boot Camp, there are probably times when you wish you could access your OS X files and folders. This tutorial will guide you in doing just that – using free and open source software.

Using HFSExplorer, the fantastic alternative to MacDrive, you can access all of the files and folders on your OS X partition/drive – from Windows. Though MacDrive has more features, HFSExplorer comes with a much better price tag (free).

  1. Start by booting your Mac into Windows. Download HFSExplorer. Once the download has completed, run the installer file.

    Click Next to begin.

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  3. Review the license agreement (right) and if you agree to it, click I Agree

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  5. On the Choose Components screen, decide if you want to register .dmg and .cdr file associations. I went with .dmg and left .cdr alone – but you should decide based on your needs. Click Next to continue.

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  7. If you don’t like the default installation folder, use the Browse… button to select another. Click Next.

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  9. If you don’t like the default folder name (?) – feel free to change it here. Click Install to begin the installation.

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  11. When the installation is complete, click Finish.

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  13. Navigate to the HFSExplorer folder in your Start menu. If you’re using Vista, click Run HFSExplorer in Administrator mode. If you’re using XP and are signed in with an administrative account, you can click HFSExplorer. If you’re not using an administrative account, use Run HFSExplorer in Administrator mode and enter an administrators password.
  14. If HFSExplorer launches, skip down to step #12.

    If you don’t have the Java Runtime Environment installed, you’ll receive an error message telling you as much. Now’s the time to head over to the Sun download page to download and install the Java Runtime Environment (JRE).

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  16. If you get an error stating that MSVRC71.dll wasn’t found, have no fear. Click OK to close the error message.

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  18. Navigate to C:\Program Files\Java\jrelx.x_x\bin\ (where x.x_x is the version number of the version of JRE you have installed). In that folder, copy the file msvrc71.dll.

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  20. Now navigate to C:\Program Files\HFSExplorer\ (or whatever folder you installed HFSExplorer in) and paste msvrc71.dll into it. Now launch HFSExplorer again.

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  22. You’ll be presented with the main HFSExplorer window.

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  24. Click File and then Load file system from device…
  25. Click the Autodetect…
  26. button.

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  27. Assuming you have just one HFS+ partition, click OK. If you have more than one, select the one you want to access, then click OK.
  28. And now you can navigate through your OS X partition.

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  30. To copy files over to Windows, select them and then click the Extract button.

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  32. In the Extract here window, navigate to the folder you want to save the files in. Click Extract here when you’re ready.

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  34. Click OK after the files have been extracted (copied).
  35. And now you can open/edit/whatever the files.

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  37. Note: you can not write files back to the OS X partition. This is actually a good thing – should you get a virus in Vista, it won’t cause any harm to your OS X installation. If you change the files in Windows, you can always copy them over the next time you boot into OS X, as your Windows partition should automatically mount when OS X starts.
{ 48 comments… add one }
  • Richard July 21, 2008, 5:41 am

    Thanks for the very rapid response to this question. You are amazing! I will be trying this out forthwith.

  • Richard July 21, 2008, 6:29 am

    Works like a charm.
    Thanks again.

  • Hammad July 21, 2008, 9:47 am

    thanks alot it works great

  • poundInclude August 27, 2008, 6:16 pm

    Thank you so much for this…my OS X partition wont boot, and I thought I lost a few years of photos. Your dual-boot expertise is much appreciated.

  • Paul October 17, 2008, 10:26 pm

    Why not just use a FAT32 partition originally? Unless, you want a lot of space on your other partition, the FAT32 partition format allows transferring and viewing files. I guess this is less of an issue now with more people running VMware or Parallels with drag and drop capabilities, but I personally don’t like either virtual machine.

  • Ross McKillop October 17, 2008, 10:46 pm

    Paul –

    This tutorial covers accessing a HFS+ partition from Windows. It doesn’t matter if Windows is NTFS or FAT32, you’d still need software like HFSExplorer to get to the HFS/HFS+ partition. OS X can read/write to FAT31/NTFS no problem.

  • Dave October 22, 2008, 9:42 pm

    Thanks for this walk through, this program works perfectly!

  • Stu October 30, 2008, 10:37 pm

    Hey, I used this to move some music from my ipod to my pc (ipod was formatted for my mac) and I was wondering if there was any way to retranslate the filenames back? Since I mainly have a bunch of 4 char. .mp4/mpa files.


  • rafael January 21, 2009, 5:15 am


    MUITO obrigado!!!!!

    VAleu mesmo!!!! Estava precisando de algo assim.

    So me deparei com outro problema e acho que tenho a solucao.

    qdo eu tentei abrir o programa pela primeira vez ele me pergunta se eu quero o administrador ou outro computador.
    dai ele abre, mas nao mostra nada
    se eu seleciono a opcao debaixo, pra eu mesmo colocar o usuario ele da erro, dai eu tento novmente como admisnitrador ja marcado e FUNCIONA!!!

    Muito obrigado

  • SEADreamer January 30, 2009, 3:35 am

    This is a great program to help copy transfer your iPod music from a Mac formatted iPod to a Windows machine running XP or Vista. I made 2 variations from the excellent screen captures above. I chose the simple “HSFExplorer” start, rather than the “Run in Administrator mode” (per step #7), and I had to choose the “Hardisk1/Partition1” (per step #15 above). After step #18 I got a screen about how the files would be copied, and I choose the include details option (or something to that effect) and it worked well. E-A-S-Y. Highly recommended software.

  • OZ March 26, 2009, 7:09 am

    Muchas gracias……….en realidad sirvee…..

  • Jo April 10, 2009, 5:48 pm

    C’est génial, le seul bémol est que l’on ne peut pas écrire dessus sa serais génial, car j’avais besoin pour copier des vidéo que j’ai filmer et je ne pouvais pas avoir la fonction écrire sa aurais été pratique. Bref il manque juste a ajouter cette fonction là. Et il sera parfait.:) Au fait quelqu’un a une idée si c’est prévu dans une future version car j’ai vu si c’était prévu à ajouter dans ce logiciel. Car sa aurait été utile transféré mes vidéo dans le disque dur formater en hfs+ du beau-frère qui utilise sont disque dur formater en mac car utilise un laptop mac.

  • ruthe April 18, 2009, 9:42 pm

    Nice, clear and easy to follow instructions! I just recently got a mac and have been trying to use OS X for everything so that I can learn it faster, so all my data is on my mac partition. This is a life saver for when I have to do actual work and boot into windows. Thanks!

  • Adeel June 14, 2009, 6:35 am

    Hey there. Thanks for the tip. I have a problem, though. When I click on the ‘Autodetect’ part in Step 14, I get the message “No HFS+ Partitions found”. Am I supposed to be doing something before to get HFS to recognize my Mac OS?

    I have the JRE installed and got no error messages during installation. What’s wrong? The Windows I’m using is the Windows 7 RC. But I don’t know if that should cause problems since the software itself downloaded and installed without a hitch.

  • Joe June 18, 2009, 7:49 pm

    Adeel –
    I had the same problem, but I sorted it out by right-clicking on HSFExplorer and going to ‘Run as administrator.’ See if that works.

  • Jash Sayani June 25, 2009, 8:45 am

    MacDrive is another great app!

  • Wandor July 20, 2009, 9:37 pm


    danke für die ausführliche Anleitung.

  • megan August 4, 2009, 12:53 am

    Ross, Thanks so much for the clear explanations for setting it up, however, I encountered a problem. I am running Window XP on the Parallels Desktop 3.0.
    As I was at the Step 15-loading file system from the device, an error message popped out showing that “can’t find handler for partition type NTFS”
    Is there any way to fix this?
    Thanks in advance!

  • CJ September 29, 2009, 1:59 pm

    Hmm… My mac side won’t boot so I’m trying to use this to extract/rescue some files. When I look for file systems from devices it keeps telling me “Could not find any file systems on device!”
    Bad news?

  • crazycello November 7, 2009, 11:47 am

    This is great.


  • bhaskar November 21, 2009, 12:33 am

    thank u

  • sabine November 27, 2011, 9:36 am

    I´m trying to use my external HFS-formatted harddrive via HFS+ Explorer but when I search for HFS-formatted devices my harddisc is recognized as a CD-Rom drive and I only get access to some part of the harddisc. I have a “WD My Passport Studio” and when I connect it with a Mac there are two harddisc recognised, one being something called “WD Smart Ware” (as I understand it´s a programm for back-ups) and the other the harddisc “itself” where I copy my files. Connecting the harddisc to a PC only the WD SmartWare-thing is recognized (as a CD-Rom drive) and same goes for the HFS+ explorer. The disc has only one partition.
    Can anyone help?

  • sabine November 27, 2011, 9:40 am

    oh and I checked the Debog Console, theres a line recurring which says: “java.lang.RuntimeException: Could not get file size.”–does this ring a bell? I don´t know about programming

  • sabine November 27, 2011, 9:44 am

    ok solved it myself, obviously I had to run the Explorer in Administration Mode.

  • Mini February 3, 2012, 3:18 am

    As an alternative solution I’ve been using Dropbox on both systems, Windows and Lion. So when one starts it syncs automatically what was changed on previous booted OS. It will replicate everything on both partitions but is a safe solution.

  • Ross McKillop February 3, 2012, 1:36 pm

    Mini – that’s pretty much how I do it now too, when I’m just dealing with a bunch of small files. Large files – still use the method/software outlined in this tutorial. Takes too long to upload the large files to Dropbox, then wait while they download when you boot back into the other OS. I do love Dropbox tho :)

  • Nataliya April 21, 2013, 4:55 am

    Спасибо за статью! очень помогла! =)

  • Ross McKillop April 21, 2013, 8:31 pm

    @d4a045614a523a6dd4f926f27e92c8b8:disqus – Пожалуйста :)

  • Harry April 24, 2013, 11:56 am

    Load of rubbish. It loads and everything but can’t see any folders or anything from my mac partition that i need to extract.

  • Jonathan Rae-Brown June 30, 2013, 10:31 pm

    I think the problem most of us are having is that our drives are encrypted and as of yet there’s no easy way for Windows to decrypt a FileVault secured drive

  • Ross McKillop July 1, 2013, 3:31 am

    Absolutely true. If you’ve encrypted your/an entire drive there’s simply no way to access its contents from Windows.

  • will December 23, 2013, 3:46 am

    This absolutely fixed my issue and allowed me to access my Mac-formatted thumb drive in Vista.

    Thanks a ton!

  • bryan August 28, 2014, 12:16 am

    I refreshed my c drive and of course I was losing memory lol and it stopped me from extracting as soon as I refreshed… weird. I wonder if it was giving me more than I have available or coincidence at the same time.

  • Macdonald October 27, 2017, 8:52 am

    Hie I did all the process above but I cant see my Macintosh HDD in HFSExplorer maybe bcoz my Mac HDD is encrypted is there any way I can disable or remove the password. I know the password but there is no were to enter it. Please help I’m stuck and in need of the files.

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