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Have Time Machine backups on a Western Digital External HD. The Time Machine backups were done on my now dead Mac G4 running OSX Leopard.

I am waiting on a new iMac but in the meantime I need to access some of my backup files urgently. I have a laptop running Windows 7 so is there any safe way of accessing some of the files from the Time Machine backup on my laptop and still be able to do a full restore when the iMac arrives?

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As an aside: if you can temporarily use another Mac, then hold down Option while clicking its Time Machine icon. This will make "Enter Time Machine" change into "Browse other Time Machine disks", after which you can use the regular Time Machine star field to browse your backup disk. – Arjan Jun 6 '10 at 18:09

I am no Windows expert, and untested, but combining some sources gets me:

To read Mac OS Extended (aka HFS+) disks on Windows, according to Wikipedia:

HFSExplorer is an application for viewing and extracting files from an HFS+ volume (Mac OS Extended) or an HFSX volume (Mac OS Extended, Case-sensitive) located either on a physical disk, on a .dmg disk image, or in a raw file system dump.

It seems that an Ubuntu Live CD also has support for HFS+.

Once you have access to the drive you will see a structure of folders. This screenshot from the HFSExplorer web site shows such Time Machine backup folder:


Browsing to Backups.backupd/<computer name>/Latest should get you your latest backup. Your documents will be in the sub folder <hard disk name>/Users/<user name>.

And even though there's no need to make any changes to the disk: remember to always use something "Safely remove hardware" before unplugging the disk from Windows (just like you would "eject" it on a Mac).

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