Monday, January 08, 2007

Access Mac HFS+ Volumes in Windows (Perfect for Boot Camp!)

Yes, I'm one of those Mac geeks who asked for an Apple laptop when the other guys at work all wanted Windows notebook PCs.

When convincing my boss that I needed a Mac, one of the things that made it an easier sell is the fact that Intel Macs can dual-boot Windows. I got to order a MacBook Pro, and I absolutely love it.

When I installed Boot Camp, I read the available documentation and decided to format the Windows partition as FAT32 instead of NTFS so that Mac OS X Tiger would be able to write to it without any unsupported hacks.

Having a FAT partition works great for transferring files from the Mac side. But what am I supposed to do if I want to access the Mac OS Extended (Journaled), aka HFS+, partition within Windows?

Unfortunately, Windows does not (and probably never will) natively support HFS+, so the partition doesn't show up at all when I boot into Windows XP.

I've heard about MacDrive, which is probably one of the prettiest and most well-integrated solutions, but $40 to $50 is way out of my price range (UPDATE: U.S. $50 or $70 as of May 2012), and its functionality is not critical enough to ask for my work to pay for it.

I searched around a bit, and I eventually found a solution that fits the bill rather well. Catacombae HFSExplorer by Erik Larsson is a freeware Java app designed to let you browse the contents of any HFS+ drives and partitions installed in your system.

In addition to viewing the contents of HFS+ partitions, you can even extract files to any Windows-writable disk. This is almost exactly what I was looking for. I extracted a couple of files from my Mac partition and it worked great.

The one thing it lacks is HFS+ write support. I e-mailed the developer and asked if he was considering write support, and he says that he's thinking about it, but would like to implementing some other features first. I got the impression that if more people contact him (erik82(a) to thank him for the software and request HFS Plus write support, he'd be a little bit more motivated to implement it.

The developer intends to open-source his code under the GPL after he cleans it up a bit. (UPDATE: The source code is available as of May 2012.)

Note: If you used Boot Camp Assistant to partition your volume, you will probably need to click on "Load file system from device" in the File menu and select "Harddisk0\Partition2". The developer told me that he may implement automatic Mac partition detection in a future version.

If you found this information useful, please consider making a donation of any amount. Even $2 or $3 would be awesome! Thanks!

UPDATE 24 May 2012: Please see the comment I posted below today for additional information about Windows 7, current versions of Mac OS X and Boot Camp, and alternative products that offer HFS+ and NTFS write support.

I also updated the links and separated the article into more paragraphs to improve readability.