If you’ve installed Windows using Boot Camp on a Mac, or you plug in an external drive that’s been set up on a Mac, chances are – at best – you only have limited access to any drive or partition that’s been formatted in the HFS+ format used by Apple Macs.

That’s because Apple only provides read-only drivers for accessing Mac-formatted drives on Boot Camp Windows installs on the Mac, while Windows itself comes with no support at all. Free read-only utilities exist, but if you wanted full access to a HFS+ drive, you’d have had to pay for it – until now.

Paragon HFS+ for Windows 8/8.1 Free Edition is one of those applications that simply does what it says on the tin. Once installed, your Windows 8 or 8.1-powered PC, or Mac running Windows 8/8.1 via Boot Camp, will be able to freely access any HFS or HFS+ formatted drive just like it was NTFS, FAT or exFAT – that means full read and write access, job done.

You’ll need to register the program with Paragon for free during the setup process to gain a product key and serial number – Paragon also strongly recommends you disable the Windows 8 Fast Startup option via the Power Options Control Panel before installing the driver to prevent possible file system corruption, although we installed it with Fast Startup enabled and had no problems. Regardless, it’s all very straightforward, and once done, installation proceeds smoothly, you reboot and voila, HFS+ support is up and running.

It simply works out of the box too – previously inaccessible drives suddenly show up like any other, and you can now easily transfer data to and from a Mac using an external HFS+ formatted drive as an intermediary. There’s no performance penalty either – we happily transferred multi-gigabyte files via a USB 2 connection at around 40MB/s, for example.

And that’s it: no complicated installer to navigate, nor is there any configuration tool to tweak – Paragon HFS+ just works from the get-go. A paid-for version is available that supports all versions of Windows from XP upwards, allows commercial usage and also extends support to the newer HFSX format should it be needed.

Verdict ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings

Simple to install, and a no-brainer for anyone running Windows 8 or later who needs access to Mac-formatted hard drives.