How to Restore Files From a Windows Backup on a Mac

By Chris Hoffman on March 5th, 2016

Need a file from an old Windows backup on your Mac? Macs can read Windows drives, but Time Machine won’t help you recover files from a Windows backup. You have to extract files from the backup manually, and it’ll take a bit of work.

We’ll cover three different types of Windows backups here: File History backups created with Windows 10 or 8, Windows Backups created with Windows 7, and System Image Backups created with either.

Restore Files from File History on Windows 10 and 8

If you have a File History backup, you’ll see a “FileHistory” folder on the external drive containing the backup when you connect it to your Mac. Just connect the external drive to your Mac, open a Finder window, and view its contents.

You can actually just browse this folder and extract your files. You’ll find them under FileHistory/USERNAME/COMPUTERNAME/Data/. For example, if you want to recover files that were stored in your Documents folder, browse to FileHistory/USERNAME/COMPUTERNAME/Data/C/Users/USERNAME/Documents in Finder.

This may sound a bit complicated, but it’s really not. There shouldn’t be many other folders getting in your way, so you can just poke around inside the FileHistory folder until you find the files you want to restore to your Mac.

Restore Files from Windows Backup on Windows 7

Warning: We really don’t recommend restoring a Windows 7 backup in this way. It won’t preserve your directory structure, and you’ll have trouble finding the files you’re looking for. It would take forever to restore a large amount of files in this way, but if you’re desperate, this method will work. If you have a Windows 7, 8, or 10 PC lying around, though, using it would be a much better option. You’ll be able to restore the files from the backup, and then you can copy them to a USB drive and move them to your Mac. You may even want to consider installing Windows 7, 8, or 10 in Boot Camp.

If all you have is a Mac with OS X, though, plug the drive into your Mac and open it in Finder. You’ll see a folder named after the name of the computer it was created on. Inside that folder,  you’ll see at least one “Backup Set” folder, “Catalogs” folder, and “MediaID.bin” file.

The Backup Set folders contain your files. Choose the one with the date you want to restore files from–probably the most recent backup. Inside it, you’ll find a “Backup files” folder. Inside that, you’ll find multiple “Backup files” .zip files.

The Windows Backup tool on Windows 7 actually stores your files inside .zip files. However, each “Backup files” folder is an incremental backup. The first folder contains the first backup, and then the second folder contains only files that are new or have been changed.

You may wish to copy the “Backup files” .zip files to your desktop or somewhere else on your Mac, and then double-click them to extract them. The files you get will be a mess–rather than be inside folders, they’ll be named after the folder. However, if you dig enough, you should be able to find the important files you’re looking for.

Restore Files from System Image Backups

If you have a system image backup on a drive, you’ll have a “WindowsImageBackup” folder and a “MediaID.bin” file.

Even on Windows, it’s not possible to restore individual files from a backup without doing it by hand. These files are stored in Microsoft VHDX virtual hard drive image files. Mac OS X can’t normally access them.

To gain access to these files, install Paragon’s virtual disk mounter application. It’s called “Paragon VMDK Mounter,” but it can also mount other types of disk image files. You’ll have to provide your email address to register, but the application is otherwise completely free. After the disk image is “mounted,” you’ll be able to browse it and extract files.

Once it’s installed, you can open Paragon VMDK Mounter and navigate to the VMDK file you want to mount at WindowsImageBackup/COMPUTERNAME/Backup [date]/[something].vhdx. You can also just double-click the .vhdx file in Finder.

You may see multiple VHDX files. Each represents a single different hard disk partition. You probably want to open the largest hard disk partition, which will be your system drive in most cases.

If the .vhdx file is on an external drive formatted with Microsoft’s NTFS file system, you’ll need to copy the .vhdx file to your Mac or an external drive formatted with another file system before continuing. Macs can’t write to NTFS drives by default, and this causes an error when mounting the image with Paragon’s tool.

After it’s mounted, you’ll find it under “Devices” in the Finder’s sidebar. You can browse the files inside the image and extract whichever files you’d like. For example, you’ll find your user account’s directories at Users/NAME inside the image.


You can also extract files from a Time Machine backups on Windows, if you need to. However, it’ll usually be easier to restore the files with the operating system’s official restore tool and copy them to a removable drive before moving them between operating systems.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 03/5/16
More Articles You Might Like

Enter Your Email Here to Get Access for Free:

Go check your email!