Ever since Apple started using Intel processors, the line between Macs and PCs has been blurred as Mac users have the option to combine the Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows in one machine with help from Apple's Boot Camp. Version 3 of Boot Camp, which comes with Snow Leopard, makes it even better by offering Windows the ability to read a Mac partition, which is formatted in HFS+ or HFSX file system.
Boot Camp, by the way, is a bundle of software drivers and utilities that allow you to install the Windows operating system on an Intel-based Mac. You then have the option of booting the computer in either Mac OS or Windows. You can also install and use only Windows on the Mac hardware.
However, if you want the ability to have full read-write access to a Mac partition from Windows, you'd need another utility, such as HFS+ for Windows from Paragon.
Paragon announced Thursday the latest version of this software, called Paragon HFS+ for Windows 8. The company claims that this version is the industry's fastest two-way solution, capable of transferring files between Windows and Mac OS X at a rate higher than native HFS file-system performance.
Paragon also says this is currently the only solution on the market that provides full read-write access to HFS+/HFSX partitions on any type of disk configurations, inducing APM, GPT and MBR, and for the largest selection of Windows revisions, including both the 32-bit and 64-bit editions of Windows XP, Vista, 2003 or 2008 Server, and Windows 7. The software is also designed to work with all types of hard-drive connections, including USB, FireWire, eSATA, SATA, and IDE. It also adds modern hard-drive support to older Windows, including the ability to mount HFS+ volumes from GPT disks under Windows XP.
I tried the new software out on my MacBook Pro that runs both Mac OS 10.6 and Windows 7 and it worked much like Paragon claims. The software is actually just a driver; once it's installed, there's nothing else for you to do. Windows 7 is now able to write on the Mac partition of the hard drive. This means you can open, edit, and create files and folders, and even use this partition to host software for Windows. The copying speeds from between the two partitions, in my anecdotal tests, seem the same as those within the Windows partition.
Note that you might need to restart the computer a few times after the installation. In my case, after the first restart, the mouse didn't work on Windows 7 32-bit and I ran into a blue screen of death with Windows 7 64-bit when trying to make a new folder within the Mac partition. After the second restart, however, everything worked fine.
All in all, this is a must-have piece of software for those who want to use Windows on Mac hardware. It is especial helpful for those who want to install Windows on their Mac using Boot Camp.
To install Windows on a Mac, you'll first need to use the Boot Camp assistant from within OS X to create a partition for Windows. It's always hard to pick the size for this partition as you can't change it afterward without having to reinstall Windows from the beginning. Now with Windows being able to read and write to the partition used by OS X, it doesn't really matter how big you want the Windows partition to be, as long as it's large enough to contain Windows itself.
The Paragon HFS+ for Windows 8 software is available now and costs around $40. If you have been running Windows on a Mac or are plan on doing so, it's totally worth it.