Apple File System: APFS file system to replace HFS + in 2017 (from macOS Sierra 10.12)

In 2017, Apple will replace the HFS Plus file system with APFS in macOS, iOS, watchOS and tvOS.

At WWDC 2016, Apple presented its new APFS file system, which is intended to replace the HFS Plus that is currently in use. In the course of the current year 2017, the Apple File System could now replace HFS +. In this article I have summarized the changes that will bring and why Apple wants to implement a new file system at all. You will also get further insights into the current functionality of APFS.

APFS, or Apple File System, is the new file system for macOS, iOS, watchOS and tvOS from 2017. You can find details in this post.

APFS, or Apple File System, is the new file system for macOS, iOS, watchOS and tvOS from 2017. You can find details in this post.

What is a file system?

Before we get down to the nitty-gritty and get to HFS, APFS, macOS Sierra and macOS 10.13, I would like to briefly address the primordial slime of the subject and answer the question "What is a file system?" The organization for storing files on a data carrier, also known in English as the file system or file system, ensures that files can be written, saved, read and deleted. The file system is (mostly) part of the operating system like OS X or macOS and helps the user to create, use, delete and basically find files again. Has even more information on the topic Wiki.

Brief history of the Apple file systems

Now let's get to Apple and the file systems for the Macintosh, Mac, iMac, MacBook, and so on. The story that led to the current APFS file system is actually quite interesting once you have read it. But here is just a small outline so that you can get an overview:

  • Macintosh File System (MFS): launched in 1984 with the Macintosh published and is designed for 400K floppy disks
  • Hierarchical File System (HFS): introduced in 1985 with the Macintosh System Software (operating system) and replaces the MFS
  • Mac OS replaces Macintosh system software: In 1996 the Mac OS operating system is introduced, which leads to adjustments in the HFS
  • Hierarchical File System Plus (HFS +): With Mac OS 8.1, HFS + is introduced 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 WWDC 2016 and in 2017 for macOS 10.12 Sierra and macOS 10.13 be available; iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch are also equipped with it

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

The year is still young and it is not really foreseeable when exactly Apple will make the new file system available as an update for the end user. The current operating system macOS Sierra 10.12 is definitely already compatible with APFS. The macOS 2017, which will probably also be released in 10.13, will certainly already use 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 about this file system? I wrote that down in a clear list for you. I hope I've covered all the important points:

  • APFS is a 64 bit systemthat supports up to 9 trillion files on one volume
  • The system is optimized for SSD flash memory, but can also be used with HDD hard drives
  • Apple File System on all platforms: APFS should not only be used under macOS on Mac, iMac and MacBook, but also under iOS on iPhone and iPad as well as under WATCH on the Apple Watch as well as on tvOS, etc.
  • time Machine as a backup function is not supported in the pre-release version and probably also in the final version of APFS (in addition, Fusion Drive unsupported)
  • Snapshot: a snapshot creates a system or file backup that can only be read; important for resetting the system
  • Clone: Clones are changeable file or system images; the immediately available images can be changed, only the change is saved, the original file serves as a source for all adjustments (advantage: a lot of storage space is saved / disadvantage: if the original file is damaged or deleted, the clones are probably unusable)
  • Space sharing: Logical drives use their partition as well as the rest of the hard disk space (example: SSD has 100 GB, drive A uses 20 GB and B uses 30 GB, so they both use the remaining 50 GB)
  • Case sensitivity: APFS is case sensitive, so file names are case-sensitive
  • Encryption: under the new file system, the encryption of data and files is offered / carried out by default
  • Interaction with old systems: Storage media (SSD disks or flash memory such as USB sticks) formatted with APFS are only supported from macOS Sierra 10.12; they are not recognized under OS X Yosemite 10.11 or older operating system
  • Further information: Apple File System Guide on apple.com

What is your opinion?

What do you think, after more than 30 years, is it finally time for a modern file system? Is Apple again ahead of its time and shaping the future or is the focus on SSD and savings in storage requirements not your thing? Feel free to leave a comment :)

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4 comments

  1. j.goldbach says:

    What does "Fusion Drive" is not supported? Will the SSD (28GB) and the FP (1TB or 2TB) be set up as separate drives?
    If TimeMachine is also no longer supported, can you no longer write the data back from TimeMachine after reinstalling APFS?
    How is it all supposed to work?
    I just bought an iMac 27 ″ 5K Retina Late 2015 !!!

    • sir appleot says:

      Hello! I'm relatively sure that Apple won't just switch the file system and then people will be left out in the rain. The current status quo is that Fusion Drive, for example, is not supported. One can assume that Apple is still working on it and making it compatible. Also with regard to the TimeMachine, either a conversion tool is to be expected, or something that immediately saves the TimeMachine data in an APFS format. I would say not to panic. If APFS is introduced in 2017, that doesn't mean that HFS + will no longer work. ;)

  2. Le Bor says:

    I have 2 problems with Appel:
    Actually, I wanted to spruce up my vacation calculator - mac book air 2012 - with Sierra, possibly High Sierra, but unfortunately no information on 'whether and how' was found on the internet.
    I also have an old Mac 2009 that runs on High Sierra, but currently has a problem: Both Safari and Emil are no longer working and Appelsupport couldn't give me remote help.
    Now I want to make a backup of the Mack - but don't know how - and would have to buy an external hard drive.
    Would you also use an external SSD that could be installed in the computer instead of the hard drive after the backup or could also be operated from the outside?

    I would be grateful for any relevant information with an appropriate donation (please indicate the amount).

    • Jen Kleinholz says:

      Hello Le Bor! Thanks for the offer with the donation. If you would like to donate something, I will of course leave the amount of the donation to you. Otherwise it wouldn't be a donation. : D
      To the questions:

      1. The last system running on the 2012 MacBook Air is (loud MacTracker) 10.13.6 - your targeted macOS High Sierra. So that should work.

      2. You perform the update by opening the "App Store" app on the Mac. Usually the update will be suggested to you there. If not, see if you have something under System Preferences> Software Update.

      3. BEFORE the update, a 1: 1 backup with a tool like Carbon Copy CLoner or do so. If something goes wrong, you still have all the data and can boot from the backup hard drive. As a hard drive, I would use a WD Elements Portable recommend. The 5 TB variant is currently very cheap.

      4. With the second Mac with the quirks, I would try to install the system again "over it". To do this, reboot the Mac and hold the apple key (CMD) + R pressed. Then it should actually start in recovery mode and you can select "Reinstall Mac OS". No data is lost in the process, but sometimes the quirks are gone.

      5. In principle, you can also use an SSD as an external hard drive and then build it into the Mac, but I would still always use a normal hard drive as a backup. The SSDs offer hardly any speed advantages for backup and are still relatively expensive in terms of the costs per GB. But you can also do it like you say: backup to an external SSD and then have the SSD installed internally by a specialist.

      I hope my answers have been of some help to you.

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