How to Fix: Convert Windows Disk to Mac (Format HFS+)

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Sam G. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I have an old external 1 TB hard drive I'd like to format for use with Apple Time Machine backup. The problem is that the disk is currently formatted as NTFS and is not readable with Time Machine. I have searched Google on how to convert a Windows disk to Mac (format to HFS+ on Windows) but can't seem to find a solution to this problem. Any help would be appreciated! "

My response:

I asked Sam if he would like me to connect to his machine using my remote desktop support service in order to have a closer look, and he agreed.

Below I will discuss my findings.

How to Fix: Convert Windows Disk to Mac (Format HFS+ on Windows)

There are two ways you can format HFS+ on Windows: either use Paragon Partition Manager Free, Community Edition (CE), or by using diskpart.exe in Windows. The latter requires to you to use a command line interface, while the former uses a graphical user interface. For all intents and purposes, Paragon Partition Manager free is the most intuitive option.

As per comments below - there is a third option if you decided to format HFS+ on Mac: simply take the NTFS disk and insert into the Mac, then use "disk utility" to format. From what I'm read, Mac also supports reading NTFS volumes natively but not writing to them. So if you wanted to backup your NTFS data locally (from the NTFS volume to another HFS+ volume) before wiping the NTFS drive, it would certainly work.

Should you decide to format HFS+ using Windows, there are a few caveats before we continue:

  1. Both Paragon Partition Manager Free and diskpart are destructive, which means that all data on drive will be lost once you convert (format) from NTFS to HFS+.
     
  2. If you wish to retain your data currently on the drive prior to the conversion (format), you will need to backup the data first, wipe the drive using HFS+ filesystem, then copy the data back to the HFS+ volume. That leads us to the next caveat.
     
  3. Once the NTFS drive is converted to HFS+, it won't be visible or usable under Windows unless you install a third party application to use HFS+ volumes in Windows. At the time of writing, the only utility I know of that can achieve this is HFS+ for Windows by Paragon Software and it costs $19.95 USD.

    If spending money is out of the question, another option is to move the HFS+ drive to your Mac after it's been converted, then share the drive over the network and copy your data back, but that will take exponentially longer over a network versus having the drive attached to the same machine to copy the data - but that also depends on how much data is to be copied.

Option 1: Convert NTFS to HFS+ using Paragon Partition Manager Free

Note that this method is destructive, which means all data will be lost once the disk is converted from NTFS to HFS+.

Here are the steps:

  1. Attach the hard drive to the system that you wish to format using Mac HFS+ file system.
     
  2. Download Paragon Partition Manager Free if you have not already, then install the software.
     
  3. While the program loads, it will scan the disks attached to the system and present a list.
     
  4. Now you will need to select the disk you wish to format. There are two ways to select a disk, and depending how it is selected, you will have different options available on the "Operations" menu on the left of the screen.

    Option (a): if you click the disk icon, this will place an orange border around the entire disk icon and its partitions. Only a handful of options will be available in the "Operations" menu on the left, such as convert MBR to GPT, update MBR, view / edit sectors, etc. This is not the option you want.

    Option (b): if you left click the partition(s) to the right of the disk icon, this will allow you to format volume, delete partitions, move or resize partitions, and similar. This is the option you want. Select each partition on the drive, then delete it. Repeat until all the space on the drive says "Unallocated".

    Now, select the unallocated space on the drive and choose "Create Volume" from the "Operations" menu on the left. The "Create New Volume" window will appear; make sure you expand the "Show Advanced Options", and then select "Apple HFS" under the "File System" header. Once that is done, click the "Create Now" button to format the drive has HFS+.

The disk will now be formatted to HFS+, but will not be visible, nor usable under Windows unless you install a third party utility to read the HFS+ filesystem (such as HFS+ for Windows by Paragon Software, for example). This is paid software but there may be freeware that achieves the same result; I have not looked - please search Google.

Option 2: Convert NTFS to HFS+ using DiskPart

Yet another way to convert an NTFS volume to HFS+ using Windows is through the administrative command line.

Once again: this method is destructive, which means all data will be lost once the disk is converted from NTFS to HFS+.

To do so:

  1. Click Start, then type in "cmd" (no quotes); wait for "CMD.EXE" or "Command Prompt" to appear in the list, then right click it and select "Run as Administrator".
     
  2. Next, type in "diskpart" and press Enter on the keyboard. Once diskpart is loaded, type in "list disk" to show the list of disks attached to the system.
     
  3. Type in "select disk #" to select the disk you wish to format, replacing the # sign with the actual number. A word of warning: make sure you select the correct disk to format, otherwise you may end up wiping the wrong disk in the proceeding steps. Backup all data on the system before proceeding.
     
  4. Assuming you have selected the proper disk, type in "clean" to wipe the disk and press Enter. Then, type in "create partition primary id=af" and press Enter. Next, type in "select partition 1" and press Enter, then type in "active" and press Enter. Type in "exit" to exit diskpart.

The disk will now be wiped but not formatted. You should then be able to attach the disk to your Mac machine and it will continue with the format.

Visually, the list of commands will look something like this:

DISKPART> list disk

DISKPART> list disk

Disk ### Status Size Free Dyn Gpt
-------- ------------- ------- ------- --- ---
Disk 0 Online 120 GB 1024 KB            <=== disk 0 is almost always the Windows partition
Disk 1 Online 60 GB 1024 KB              <=== disk to format as HFS+

DISKPART> select disk 1

Disk 1 is now the selected disk.

DISKPART> clean

DiskPart succeeded in cleaning the disk.

DISKPART> create partition primary id=af

DiskPart succeeded in creating the specified partition.

DISKPART> list partition

 Partition ### Type Size Offset
------------- ---------------- ------- -------
* Partition 1 Primary 59 GB 1024 KB

DISKPART> select partition 1

Partition 1 is now the selected partition.

DISKPART> active

DiskPart marked the current partition as active.

DISKPART> exit

I hope that helps.

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I need more computer questions. If you have a computer question - or even a computer problem that needs fixing - please email me with your question so that I can write more articles like this one. I can't promise I'll respond to all the messages I receive (depending on the volume), but I'll do my best.

About the author: Dennis Faas

is the owner and operator of Infopackets.com. With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.

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Comments

billgruber_12965's picture

Just attach the drive to the Mac, enter Disk Utility on the Mac and format it HFS+. There really is nothing to it and a PC never needs to get involved. Disk Utiltiy will see the drive regardless of its format (if any at all).

ronangel1's picture

I wondered about why this was not suggested to start with,as going to use on a mac so must have one available.

Dennis Faas's picture

Yes that is also true - however, many users asking this question via search engine are wanting to carry this job out on a PC, presumably to retain data - hence I answered the question the way I did. In fact if you read the question it says specifically "[I want to] ... format HFS+ on Windows". I will update the article to include your suggestion as well.