Apple previews Apple File System to replace HFS+ in 2017

The current file system, HFS+, is starting to show its age. At WWDC 2016, its successor was finally born.

Some changes are big for users: Siri on the Mac, fireworks in the Messages app, a new Breathe app on the watch! Others are a more seismic shift that end users may or may not notice. Apple’s operating systems have used the HFS+ file system for more than 18 years, but that era is coming to an end. At the Platform State of the Union after the WWDC keynote, Apple took the wraps off the replacement for HFS+, its new Apple File System.

Now, the file system is pretty well hidden from most users. It’s entirely possible that you’ve used the Mac for 20 years and only come across a reference to HFS+ when formatting a new drive in Disk Utility—I know this because that’s the kind of user I am. But Apple File System will have some benefits that should be a really big deal for developers.

According to a document on Apple’s Developer site, Apple File System improves on HFS+ while supporting “nearly all” of its features. But it’s optimized for flash and SSD storage, with modern touches like 64-bit support and strong encryption.

In the Platform State of the Union, Apple highlighted two big features of the Apple File System. The first is cloning. As you use any operating system, some files are duplicated, and even if the OS can clean all that up for you later, it still hogs resources and disk space while it’s happening. Apple File System clones these files rather than copying them because that’s faster and takes up no extra space beyond the first copy. It can clone files, directories, and hierarchies.

The second big addition is Snapshots. Those are, well, snapshots of a full volume. Snapshots can be mounted, and support reverting to an older version, to let you back up a view of the whole file system at a certain point in time. The example given onstage involved a classroom: Say you’re a teacher and you set up your classroom’s Macs or iPads with certain content, apps, and settings for a lesson. Then the kids come in and start monkeying around. At the end of class, instead of having to undo all those changes, the teacher can roll back the device’s content and settings to the previous Snapshot, so everything is ready for the next class of students.

Apple File System, which Apple is also calling APFS, is a developer preview in macOS Sierra (aka OS X 10.12), and Apple says it won’t ship until 2017. Because while SSDs and cloning files are fast, changing the file system across all of Apple’s operating systems and devices—well, that’s going to take a little while. APFS has a way to go until it’s ready for prime time as well. As of today, APFS volumes can’t be encrypted with FileVault or backed up with Time Machine, and Fusion Drives can’t use APFS yet either. Baby steps.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags iOS 10MacOS SierrawwdcwatchOSApple TVfile management

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Susie Ochs

Macworld.com
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?