APFS vs Mac OS Extended


My clients often ask me ‘What are the advantages of APFS vs Mac OS Extended?’ Let’s find out!

What is APFS?

APFS or Apple File System was introduced by Apple at the 2017 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) as a replacement for their current HFS+ file system.

Earlier, Mac OS Extended, or HFS+, was the file system that was being used on all Mac computers. It was originally developed at NeXT Computer Inc., which then merged with Apple Inc. in 1997 to become what we know today as apple products.

What are the advantages of APFS?

The new APFS has many features, including

1. Enhanced encryption
2. Crash protection
3. Instant data cloning and
4. Safe document saves

With these new additions it should be much safer to store important files on your computer without having to worry about losing them.

The advantages of APFS are numerous, one being that it is able to use all available space on the drive. Along with its efficiency in file size over HFS+, this allows for larger files to be written faster and more efficiently. For example, when you install iOS 10 or MacOS Sierra onto your old Macbook Pro (without an SSD), it takes longer than what was expected. However with the new MacBook, this process took about 5 minutes less time due to its TRIM feature (a specific command sent by the operating system to tell the storage device which blocks are free so they can be wiped).

Another advantage is its native encryption features, offering security not offered before in HFS+. Finally, the largest advantage of APFS was seen in a demo by Craig Federighi, Apple’s SVP of software engineering. In the demonstration, Federighi made a folder containing 57,000 files and emptied that folder into a file called data. The time it took to move those 57,000 files from one folder to another? A mere 1.2 seconds! In comparison, HFS+ took around 20 seconds to complete the same task.

In contrast to traditional HFS+, APFS is more fitting towards future technologies because significant changes have been implemented from current versions of Mac OS X. For example, a new copy-on-write metadata scheme has been introduced for better space efficiency and crash resiliency which allows the operating system to make efficient file updates without requiring multiple copies of files.

What are the disadvantages of Mac OS Extended?

One of the main disadvantages of HFS+ was that it wasn’t as safe as newer file systems due to its lack of native encryption. Another disadvantage is that there are no third party apps that can take advantage of its features. Morever, it is not as secure as APFS – File system is still subject to bugs and crashes of the OS itself (e.g., like what happened with High Sierra 10.13) and other issues like disk utility not loading etc.

What are the requirements for APFS?

In order to upgrade from Mac OS Extended to APFS, you will need a mac that has a 64 bit CPU with an EFI-capable BIOS. This means that only certain models will be able to support this new filesystems. Some examples include iMacs from 2015 and 2016, MacBook Air 2012-2015, and the Mac Mini 2010-2011.

However, if your supported model is not compatible you can downgarde back to HFS+ without having any issues.


Why external drives till use Mac OS Extended (HFS+)?

Apple’s new preferred file system for macOS is APFS. The new filesystem replaces the old Mac OS Extended (HFS+) format as default on all Apple devices running macOS High Sierra, including iMacs, MacBooks, Mac minis and Mac Pros. However, if you are using an external hard drive or flash drive with your Mac computer, it will still use the familiar HFS+ format by default. Many users have questions about why they cannot upgrade to APFS on their external drives.

This article attempts to explain what problems exist when upgrading to APFS that prevent it from being used on most external drives today.

APFS was primarily for flash storage which makes it better suited for SSDs. Since most external drives are spinning disks, the overhead of APFS would not lead to a considerable performance gain and therefore it makes little sense for Apple to support it on such devices.

The advantages, on one hand, are ofcourse improved data security and disadvantages are higher disk space requirements and slower write speeds.

What are the advantages of the new Mac OS Extended format?

The new Mac OS Extended format supports all the features that were previously available in Mac OS Extended file system along with several advanced capabilities. This includes

1. Improved protection against power outages
2. Improved metadata handling capabilities allowing instant secure erasure,
3. Snapshots & cloning providing quick multiple backup copies &
4. More efficient low level formats to reduce required storage capacity by up to 30%.
5. Faster read speeds over the old HFS+

Additionally, this format also allows case sensitive and case insensitve file names.

How to convert to the APFS format?

I’m afraid you won’t be able to do this on your own but we can upgrade your Mac to the new format.