Introduction To The Apple File System

The Apple File System, also known as APFS, was Apple’s method of upgrading their popular Mac operating system while simultaneously creating a standardized format for use in all of their devices – from desktop and laptop computers to the iPhone, the Apple Watch, and even the iPod.

Whereas Microsoft Windows has been around for nearly 40 years, the standard MacOS has only been around since 2001. Roughly half the age of Windows, macOS uses an even younger file system – APFS – when compared to Windows-based computers.

Introducing APFS

Believe it or not, APFS has only been around since 2017 – having first been introduced via iOS in March 2017 and within MacOS in September of that same year. Although it hasn’t had much time to prove itself, APFS is already making headlines across the industry.

It was originally designed to fix some key problems with its predecessor, Mac OS Extended or HFS+, and it does the trick quite well. However, it’s important to note that APFS is designed and optimized specifically for solid-state drives (SSDs) and flash-based storage; users who still rely on traditional, mechanical hard drives might not see the same amount of benefit from APFS.

For these users, it still offers quite a bit of standardization across all of Apple’s platforms. This is especially useful if you own multiple Apple devices – like an iPhone, Apple Watch, or iPod. Being able to use the same file system on all of your digital devices is just too convenient for some users to ignore. Not only does it let you easily share files between these devices, but it provides a seamless experience when switching between devices throughout the day.

APFS was also specifically built with encryption in mind. To this extent, APFS offers full disk encryption for any device that takes advantage of the file system. Given the constant threat of identity theft and growing concerns surrounding data privacy, this built-in encryption could prove to be an invaluable tool when defending against cybercrime.

Moreover, APFS provides built-in cloning functionality that lets the operating system create file copies – even on the same volume – without taking up any additional storage space. It achieves this by saving these cloned files as delta extents, which greatly reduces the amount of storage space needed, but it sacrifices all deduplication functionality in the process.

Some of the other features that round out APFS include built-in crash protection, enhanced data integrity, multiple forms of transparent data compression, and support for more files than Mac OS Extended. As a result of all of the upgrades, some power users – particularly those with SSDs – view APFS as the best file system to date.

Despite the power and efficiency of APFS, it’s not quite perfect. In fact, many opponents of APFS are quick to cite the file system’s lack of compatibility with Apple Time Machine – especially when the prior file system, Mac OS Extended, included full support for the popular service. However, any loss of functionality is easily negated through the use of third-party disk utilities, some of which provide even more features and usefulness than Time Machine ever did.


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