Apple File System: File System APFS to replace 2015 HFS + (from macOS Sierra 10.12)

At the WWDC 2016, Apple had presented its new file system APFS, which is to replace the currently still used HFS Plus. In the course of the current year 2017, the Apple File System could now replace HFS +. What changes does this and why Apple wants to implement a new file system at all, I have summarized you in this article. In addition, you will get further insights into the current functionality of APFS.

APFS, or also Apple File System, is the new file system for macOS, iOS, watchOS and tvOS from 2017. Details you get in this post.

What is a file system?

Before I go to the HFS, APFS, macOS Sierra and macOS 10.13, I would like to briefly discuss the root cause of the issue and answer the question “What is a file system?”. The organization, which is also known as an English file system or filesystem, for storing files on a data carrier ensures that files can be written, stored, read and deleted. The file system is (usually) a part of the operating system like OS X or macOS and helps the user to create, use, delete files and basically find them again. More info on the topic has Wiki.

Small history of Apple file systems

Let’s get to Apple and the file systems for Macintosh, Mac, iMac, MacBook and so on. The history, which led to the current file system APFS, is actually quite interesting when one has read itself once. Here is only a small demolition, so you can get an overview:

  • Macintosh File System (MFS): released in 1984 with the Macintosh and designed for 400K diskettes
  • Hierarchical File System (HFS): introduced in 1985 with the Macintosh System Software (operating system) and replaces the MFS
  • Mac OS replaces Macintosh system software: 1996 the operating system Mac OS is introduced, which leads to adjustments in the HFS
  • Hierarchical File System Plus (HFS +): Mac OS 8.1 introduces HFS + in 1998, which is still the file system for Mac OS, OS X and macOS (Sierra) as well as for iOS, watchOS, tvOS and so on
  • Apple File System (APFS): will be presented at the WWDC 2016 and 2017 probably for macOS 10.12 Sierra and macOS 10.13 available; also iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch are equipped with it

APFS: Apple File System as a new file system from 2017

The year is still young and it is not really clear when exactly Apple provides the new file system for the end user as an update. The current operating system macOS Sierra 10.12 is definitely compatible with APFS. The probably synonymous 2017 appearing macOS 10.13 will surely already use completely APFS as a file system. Developers have also been able to deal with APFS since last year. A release this year is almost certain.

But what is new and what should be better at this file system? I’ve written you back into a clear list. I hope that I have covered all the important points:

  • APFS is a 64-bit system that supports up to 9 trillion files on one volume
  • The system is optimized for SSD flash memory but is also usable with HDD hard disks
  • Apple File System on all platforms: not only under macOS on Mac, iMac, and MacBook should be applied, but also under iOS on iPhone and iPad as well as under watchOS on the Apple Watch, as well as with tvOS, etc.
  • Time Machine as a backup function is not supported in the pre-release version as well as probably in the final version of APFSFusion Drive is not currently supported)
  • Snapshot: a snapshot creates a system or file backup that can only be read; important for resetting the system
  • Clones: Clones are modifiable file or system images; the immediately available images can be changed, only the change is saved, the output file serves as a source for all adjustments (advantage: it saves a lot of space/disadvantage: if the output file is damaged or deleted, probably also the clones are unusable)
  • Space Sharing: Logical drives use their partition as well as the rest of the disk space (for example SSD has 100 GB, drive A uses 20 GB, and Buses 30 GB, so both share the remaining 50 GB)
  • Case Sensitivity: APFS is Case Sensitive, which is case-sensitive for filenames
  • Encryption: under the new file system the encryption of data and files is offered/performed as standard
  • Interaction with old systems: Storage media (SSD disks or flash memory like USB sticks) formatted with APFS are only supported on macOS Sierra 10.12; under OS X Yosemite 10.11 or older operating system, they are not recognized
  • More information: AppleFile System Guide on

What is your opinion?

What do you think, after more than 30 years, will it finally be time for a modern file system? Is Apple once again ahead of time and shape the future or is the focus on SSD and savings in memory is not your thing? Let’s leave a comment

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