How To Use TestDisk & PhotoRec To Recover Mac Hard Drive from Windows


When a computer stopped working, it doesn’t mean all the data are gone nor does it mean all the hardware are useless. Computer dies for many different reasons, and one of the most common causes of death is because of the hard drive failure. Recently I have a Mac stopped working. After diagnosis, it appears the logic board has died. That’s both bad and good news. The bad news is that your core computer are pretty much useless, and the good news is that your data should still be intact (given that’s not an SSD soldered to the motherboard). Today I am going to show you how to recover a Mac formatted partition from Windows.

How To Recover Data from HFS/HFS+ partitions on Windows

Because Mac’s file system is different than Windows, you can’t just plug in the hard drive and read what’s inside with Windows Explorer. Fortunately, we have a tool called TestDisk that works across platform and supports to read almost any disk formats. It’s a bit tricky to use, though, as it’s a command line utility.

First of all, you need to extract the external hard drive and connect into a USB docker or HDD enclosure or USB to SATA cable so it can be connected to your Windows machine via USB.

Then download and extract TestDisk.


Launch Windows Command Prompt and navigate to the extracted directory. Run testdisk_win.exe


This will launch a separate Window and from there you can interact the selected hard drive with this command line utility. Choose “Create” to proceed.


At this stage, you will get prompt to choose which disk you want to recover from. If you have successfully connected the hard drive, you should be able to see your hard drive listed above. For me, it’s the “Disk /dev/sdd – 1500 GB / 1397 GiB”. Press enter to proceed to the next stage.


Choose “Intel” if you don’t know what your partition table is.


Next, analyze what’s inside the current partition or search for any lost partitions.


Select “Quick Search” to continue.


It should list all the partitions on your hard drive. Unfortunately, TestDisk wasn’t able to read what’s inside any of the partitions it has discovered. Therefore, an in-depth search is required. There are two options available, either attempting to fix the partition table which means you will perform some write options onto the corrupt disk, or use the companion app that comes with TestDisk, called “PhotoRec.”


We are going to proceed with the second option to use PhotoRec to attempt to recover some of the files on the disk. It comes with TestDisk, located in the same directory as TestDisk. For Windows, it should be named as “photorec_win.exe”. It finds not only photos but any files that can recover as well.


Launch the app and we are prompt for the same Window again, here choose the selected disk.


Next, you will get options as to where you want to save the recovered files. And proceed.


Here you will find all the files it was able to discover and recover. All recovered files are saved under “recup_dir.x” directories.


and if you navigate further you can find recovered files inside each directory.

That’s it. That’s how you can recover data from your Mac hard drive in a Windows machine. Give it a try the next time when your hard drive crashes. TestDisk is a low-level utility that can bypass all the OS level restrictions and read what’s directly saved on the disk physical cylinder.


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