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A Quick Overview of the Apple File System

After about three decades Apple has finally thrown in the towel on HFS Plus (HFS+) which in turn replaced Hierarchical File System (HFS) the primary file system used on Macintosh computers. This is being done in favor of Apple File System (APFS).

So how can you get to start using APFS? Hold your horses, not so fast. Like every other Apple product that hits the market, it all starts with an announcement. APFS is scheduled to be production ready in 2017 and we will bring you that news when it happens.

Why Have They Come up With Apple File System?

For starters Apple wants is moving towards having a single file system across all their devices be it Watches, TVs, iPhones, iPads or Macs. In short, APFS would be a suitable fit for macOS, iOS, tvOS, and watchOS.

Built with latency in mind, the new Apple file system has been optimized for solid-state and flash storage. This is important for the wide majority of their devices where faster boot and app loading times make a huge difference.

Encryption is also a first-class feature in the Apple File System with the ability to encrypt the entire disk or individual files. You can choose not to encrypt or if you do you can select single keys for all files or multiple keys for different files.

As far as space sharing goes, APFS volumes can grow and shrink without volume re-partitioning. This allows multiple file systems to share the same underlying free space on a physical volume.

Apple file system comes with improved cloning of files and directories. This feature allows you to save space by only saving the changes between two files and retaining a single copy of what is similar on disk. With this in mind, the file system can make use of snapshots for ore efficient backups.

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APFS will supports 1 nanosecond timestamps as opposed to the current 1 second timestamps. This filesystem also supports 64-bit inode numbers. This means it can store more than 9 quintillion files on a single volume. This may not make sense now but like the issue with IPv4 you never know what the future holds. Fast Directory Sizing is supported to quickly determine directory sizes and update as the hierarchy changes.

What’s the Catch?

Apple File System volumes cannot currently be used as a startup disk. Secondly, filenames are case sensitive and it doesn’t support Time Machine backups. FileVault cannot encrypt APFs files. Older Mac versions (OS X 10.11 Yosemite and earlier) cannot read APFS files.

Unless you are a developer or power user, we would advise you wait until a stable versions of Apple File System ships in 2017 to get started with it. Meanwhile, you can read the official Apple File System Guide here to get and understand all the details about this new file system

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