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HFS/HFS+ Drive Data Recovery on Windows

If you're frequently using HFS and HFS+ file systems, this article can tell you the difference between the two and how to recover your HFS/HFS+ files on Windows.
Theo Lucia
Theo Lucia Originally published Mar 16, 24, updated May 14, 24

If you have an older macOS version, it probably uses the HFS file system for all drives by default. As the default file system for modern macOS devices, HFS+ is the newer, better, and more advanced version of HFS. Here is one thing: Have you lost the whole hard disk partition with HFS+/HFS files and you want to get it back on a Mac? If yes, this article is for you.

Today, we'll explore the differences between the two file systems and give you the best methods of HFS data recovery on Windows to help you recover your HFS/HFS+ files.

In this article
    1. Stop Using the HFS Drive
    2. Check if Your Backup Was On
    3. Connect the Drive to Your Windows Computer
    4. Find a Professional Data Recovery Tool

What is HFS and HFS+?

By definition, HFS stands for Hierarchical File System. It is a proprietary file system developed by Apple Inc. for use on macOS computers. HFS supports use on Mac hard drives and floppy disks. You can also find HFS files on read-only media such as CD-ROMs.

HFS+ stands for Hierarchical File System or Hierarchical File System Plus. HFS+ is also known as HFS Extended or Mac OS Extended (Journaled). HFS+ has been the primary journaling file system for the macOS X series since 1998.

hfs vs hfs+

Just like HFS, HFS+ has 9 volume structures:

  • Boot blocks
  • Volume header
  • Allocation file
  • Catalog file
  • Extents Overflow file
  • Attributes file
  • Startup file
  • Alternate volume header
  • Last sector

Compared to HFS, HFS+ optimizes the storage capacity of large hard disks by decreasing the minimum size of a file and increasing the number of allocation blocks on the disk. That allows you to save a larger maximum number of files. Moreover, HFS+ is a more compatible file system than HFS.

Interestingly, HFS still has one advantage over HFS+. It can initialize floppy disks and all volumes smaller than 32 GB. If you try to do the same with Mac OS Extended format, you'll receive an "Initialization Failed" error prompt upon attempting a Drive Setup application.

Here's a detailed HFS vs. HFS+ comparison table for your information:

Supported OS macOSmacOS, Linux
Maximum file size2^31 bytes2^63 bytes
Long Image names31 characters255 characters
Image name encodingMacRomanUnicode
File attributesSupport for fixed-size attributesAllows for future meta-data extensions
OS startup supportSystem Folder IDAlso supports a dedicated startup file
Catalog node size512 bytes4 kb
Number of allocation blocks16 bits worth32 bits worth
User-visible nameMac OS StandardMac OS Extended (Journaled)
File SystemHierarchical File SystemHierarchical File System Plus (Extended)

Is HFS/HFS+ Partition Recovery Possible on Windows?

Yes, it is possible to recover HFS and HFS+ files on Windows. HFS and HFS+ are the most commonly used disk formats on Mac. Most Mac users rely on these formats to save essential files and other important data on their Mac devices.

However, your HFS/HFS+ files aren't resilient to common causes of data loss, such as HFS/HFS+ partition corruption, file system corruption, accidental deletion, unintentional partition or hard disk formatting, etc.

If you can't locate or access your HFS/HFS+, you can use an HFS/HFS+ data recovery software for Windows to locate and retrieve your files. Below are the steps to complete before recovering your HFS/HFS+ files on Windows.

Things to Do Before Doing a HFS/HFS+ Data Recovery

If you can't find or access your HFS/HFS+, follow the steps below.

Stop Using the HFS Drive

First, instantly stop using the HFS drive to avoid overwriting the lost, unsaved, corrupted, or deleted HFS/HFS+ files with new data.

Check if Your Backup Was On

If you have the backup option enabled on your Mac, look for your files there. On Mac, navigate to Apple menu > System Settings > Apple ID < iCloud, then click Manage and select Backups. Check if you have a backup of the lost HFS/HFS+ files.

Connect the Drive to Your Windows Computer

If you didn't back up your HFS/HFS+ files, connect your HFS-formatted Mac drive to a Windows computer and use a professional data recovery tool to view your files on the drive.

Find a Professional Data Recovery Tool

Wondershare Recoverit is one of the best HFS/HFS+ data recovery on Windows tools you can rely on to recover your missing HFS/HFS+ data. It's a specialized data recovery software for Mac and Windows users.

It can recover over 1000 file types and systems from over 2000 storage devices across over 500 data loss scenarios using 35 patents for the most innovative data recovery techniques.

Whether you've lost your HFS/HFS+ file due to accidental deletion, wrong drive formatting, partition corruption, system crash, or software failure, this app can help you get your files back quickly and easily.

Wondershare Recoverit

Whether you've lost your HFS/HFS+ file due to accidental deletion, wrong drive formatting, partition corruption, system crash, or software failure, this app can help you get your files back quickly and easily.

recoverit boxrecoverit logo

Follow the steps below to recover your HFS/HFS+ data on Windows using this app.

HFS/HFS+ Data Recovery on Windows Using Wondershare Recoverit

Download Wondershare Recoverit for Windows and install it on your PC, then follow the steps below to get back your HFS/HFS+ files.

  1. Launch the app on your computer and navigate to the main File Recover menu;
  2. Connect the Mac-formatted drive to your PC and let your computer detect it;
  3. Select Hard Drives and Locations and find the Mac drive in the External Drives section;
    select an external drive to start recovery
  4. Click Start to scan the Mac-formatted drive for recoverable HFS/HFS+ files;
    wondershare recoverit scanning mode
  5. Use search filters to pinpoint specific files you want to retrieve;
    pinpoint the files you want to recover
  6. Once the app completes the scanning process, click Preview to preview the recovered data before getting your files back;
    preview files before recovery
  7. Select the files and click Recover to get them back;
  8. Click Save to save the recovered HFS/HFS+ files to a new location.
    choose a path to save the recovered files

Bonus: How to Prevent HFS Partition Loss and Recovery in the Future

Though HFS partitions excel when it comes to preserving files stored on them, they aren't resistant to data loss. To avoid HFS partition and data loss, you should:

  • Back up your HFS files regularly;
  • Use the First Aid tool in Disk Utility to check the health of your HFS partitions;
  • Have reliable HFS/HFS+ data and partition recovery software like Wondershare Recoverit installed on your computer to ensure you get your files back, regardless of the cause of HFS/HFS+ file loss.

That way, you have a higher chance of recovering your data if you lose your files to common data loss causes.

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HFS/HFS+ is a popular file system used by every Mac device since the 90s. The HFS+ file system is the advanced version of HFS. It allows for better use of disk space and can store larger files using less disk space. In addition, HFS+ is more compatible than HFS.

If you lose your HFS/HFS+ files, use a professional HFS data recovery software like Wondershare Recoverit to recover your Mac data. Recoverit's HFS/HFS+ file recovery feature helps you check your Mac hard drives to detect irregularities, fix file system errors, and repair partition corruption.

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  • How do I access HFS on Windows?
    Windows isn't compatible with HFS/HFS+ partitions, so it can't open HFS by itself. However, you can make HFS/HFS+ files accessible on Windows using a third-party software application like Wondershare Recoverit.
  • Does HFS+ work on Windows?
    Since Windows can't read/write HFS+ format, the Mac-formatted drive won't work on Windows. When you connect an HFS-formatted drive to a Windows PC, it will either prompt you to format the drive or show the drive as empty. In some cases, Windows may even ease the drive completely.
  • How do I access an HFS+ drive in Windows 11?
    You can access an HFS+ drive in Windows 11 using a third-party software app like Wondershare Recoverit. Aside from accessing HFS/HFS+ files, it can also help you recover deleted, lost, unsaved, or corrupted HFS/HFS+ data on Windows 11.

    An alternative method would be to reformat the drive with a Windows-based file system to gain read/write access to the files stored on it.
  • Is data recovery for HFS possible on Mac?
    Yes, it is. You just need to download and install Wondershare Recoverit for Mac and use the tool to recover your HFS files on your Mac:

    1. Download and install the app for Mac on your computer;

    2. Launch it and navigate to Hard Drives and Locations;

    3. Select the drive and click Start to start the scanning process;

    4. Preview the recovered files before recovery;

    5. Click Recover to recover and save the recovered HFS/HFS+ files.

Theo Lucia
Theo Lucia May 14, 24
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