You bought a “Mac hard drive” but you are a Windows user; how to make it work on Windows?

I was roaming SlickDeals as I usually do and came across a post about a 1 TB USB external hard drive going for $65 (!). Naturally I jumped when I read that and decided to get more info. Turns out Best Buy is selling a 1 TB “Mac” Western Digital My Book for $65 (you can get it for $58 with 10% off coupon). I had to chuckle at the obvious (yet successful) marketing at work here. I say “successful” because by reading the posts made by some people, Best Buy (and/or Western Digital) has effectively convinced people people this external hard drive is a proprietary Mac hard drive and will not work on a Windows PC… as if Mac and Windows PC use different hardware (ha-ha). Well people, if you ever happen to see a good deal on a “Mac hard drive” yet you are a Windows users do not pass up on the deal.

You see the only difference between a “Mac hard drive” and a “Windows PC hard drive” is the file system. A “Mac hard drive” is formatted using HFS or HFS+ while a “Windows PC hard drive” is either FAT or NTFS. The physical hard drive, the actual hardware, is the exact same and will work on a Mac and Windows PC both. A “Mac hard drive” will work just fine on a Windows PC (after a little work).

That being said, what to do if you have a “Mac hard drive” but you are a Windows user? Well there are many ways to turn the “Mac hard drive” into a “Windows PC hard drive” but I did it this way (in my opinion it is the fastest, most simple, and universal method):

  • Download and install Partition Wizard on your [Windows] computer.
  • Run Partition Wizard. You should see something like this:

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This is your “Mac hard drive”. If you have more than one hard drive in your computer, your hard drive may show up as “Disk 3″, “Disk 4″, etc.

  • Single left click on the hard drive to select it. Verify the disk you have selected is your “Mac hard drive” and not one of your main hard drives. You can do this by seeing if it is “unallocated” and the hard drive size. Keep in mind the hard drive will not be exactly as advertised on the box (i.e. 1 TB as you can see if only 932 MB).
  • Click on the “Create” button from the top:

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  • You will be asked how you want to “partition” the hard drive:

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Type in the “partition label” (i.e. what you want the name to be) and click “OK”.

  • Go to the top and click on “Apply”:

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  • Wait..

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That should say “Applied all the…” not “Apply all the..”.

  • Enjoy:

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26 comments

  1. ThawM

    Hey man you might want to correct your post, your 1TB HDD is not 932 MB its 932 GB. Anyways thanks for the info i was taking apart a mac laptop with a broken motherboard and i wondered if i can take the hdd and put it in a pc laptop because of the so called “mac bios” sticker on the hdd but it works just fine in my dell laptop.

  2. adivineeternity

    OH.MY.GOODNESS.

    I bought a USB drive the other day and formatted it to use as a recovery drive for my MacBook, but then the Mac’s disc drive failed to function, so I was left with an HFS+ formatted flash drive and a Windows laptop. This just SAVED me. Worked perfectly and was super easy.

  3. josegnzlz

    Thanks for the advise i had bought the external hard drive with mac os and was completely lost thinking it would be simple to format. but after serching i found this very helpful thanks a million.

  4. Froyo

    Second the SkunkApeMan. Stick with Linux and use VirtualBox (with an old copy of XP) as needed to handle the odd windows program without an equivalent…things work MUCH (much) better on Linux, it’s faster, it’s more stable, no need for any security other than a router (yeah, I know, but compared to Windows it’s a friggin’ Fort Knox), you won’t be supporting the MS 1%’rs, you won’t ever need (or be tempted) to pirate anything, and (most important) you won’t really notice the difference.

    If you’ve tried (and dismissed as being too nerdy) Linux in the past, give it another try (any distro with Gnome 2 or KDE)…they’ve made *tremendous* strides with this thing and you *will* be impressed.

  5. cryptowiz

    Hello from Australia!

    Here’s my way to do the same without third-party tools (a few friends and I bought cheap Mac firewire external drives a couple of years back and ran into issues trying to format them. This is my alternative method…)

    Drop to the command line and run “diskpart”

    Then run “list disk” to see which disk it is

    Run “select disk X” to make that disk is the one you will work on

    Run “clean” to wipe it

    Then initialize the disk using Computer Management in the Administrative Tools. Go to Disk Management (under Storage) and you will see your drive. Right-click it and select “initialize”. Once that’s done you can partition it (right-click and choose “partition”). Finally, you can format it and start using it.

    Worked a treat!

  6. tejas

    Thanks for the info Ashraf….. I didn’t realize the hard drives are the same.(hadn’t really thought about it)

    Knowing it ‘could’ bite me in the hind-quarters, I’ll opt for the quick format every time. If I have problems, then I’ll check for bad sectors. Saves time in the long run. YMMV.

  7. Ambuj Saxena

    @Ashraf,

    I would still recommend doing a full format on a new drive. Difference between quick and regular format is that quick format ignores the bad sector check and assumes that the original mapping of bad sectors in the file system is accurate. When we change the file system during formatting (HFS to NTFS, or even in case of FAT32 to NTFS), the bad sector information is lost during the format. An updated map of bad sector is required because the file system doesn’t know anything about the disk. Granted that there is little chance that a new disk drive will have bad sectors, but it is better to be on safer side. Even MS The Great says “Only use this [Quick Format] option if your hard disk has been previously formatted and you are sure that your hard disk is not damaged.” …(http://support.microsoft.com/kb/302686/en-us)

  8. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @J. L.: Man I thought I was being clever posting this. Guess not, hehe.

    Anyway, what you say is all true but checking for bad sectors on a new hard drive is kind of pointless isn’t it?

    Yes, as far as I know, Partition Magic has a feature to check for errors but you need to manually use it… I don’t think it does it before a format.

  9. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @Ambuj Saxena: Oh I see what you mean. Yes you are right, hence why I said there are multiple ways of doing this. However, I must point out, it is a lot faster using Partition Wizard than Disk Management. Disk Management takes forever (in my experience).

  10. Ambuj Saxena

    The drive would still show under Computer Management>Storage>Disk Management. We can format it from there.

    PS: You can access Computer Management by right clicking on the My Computer icon and choosing manage.