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APFS vs. Mac OS Extended: What’s the Difference and Which is Better?

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APFS vs. Mac OS Extended: What’s the Difference and Which is Better?

Key Points

  • APFS offers improved speed and performance compared to Mac OS Extended, especially on SSDs and flash drives.
  • APFS supports full-disk encryption, while Mac OS Extended supports file or folder encryption.
  • APFS has built-in snapshot and cloning capabilities, while Mac OS Extended lacks native support for these features.
  • Mac OS Extended has wider compatibility with other platforms, while APFS is primarily designed for macOS and Apple devices.

APFS vs. Mac OS Extended are two different file systems used by Apple. The main difference lies in their underlying architecture and features. APFS, introduced in 2017, is a modern file system designed specifically for Apple devices, offering enhanced performance, security, and reliability. It supports features like snapshots, encryption, and native support for SSDs.

On the other hand, Mac OS Extended, also known as HFS+, is an older file system used in previous versions of macOS. While Mac OS Extended is compatible with older Macs, APFS is recommended for newer devices. The selection between APFS and Mac OS Extended hinges on the individual’s particular needs and compatibility demands.

APFS vs. Mac OS Extended: Side-By-Side Comparison

FeatureAPFSMac OS Extended
IntroductionIntroduced with macOS 10.13Used on Mac OS 8.1 and later
Default File SystemThe default for Mac OS X until replaced by APFSDefault for Mac OS X until replaced by APFS
OptimizationOptimized for SSDs and flash storageUsed on various Mac devices
SnapshotsSupports snapshots for creating backupsDoes not support snapshots
Read-Write SpeedGenerally offers higher read-write speedGenerally slower read-write speed
Time Machine BackupSupported from macOS Big SurSupported on macOS Catalina and earlier
EncryptionSupports full disk encryptionSupports file or folder encryption
Encryption PerformanceHigher encryption performanceLower encryption performance
Disk Format OptionsBetter for SSDs and Flash DrivesBetter for HDDs
ConversionCan convert APFS to Mac OS ExtendedCan convert Mac OS Extended to APFS

APFS vs. Mac OS Extended: What’s the Difference?

APFS vs. Mac OS Extended are two file systems used by Apple on their macOS. While Mac OS Extended has been the traditional file system for many years, APFS offers significant improvements in performance, security, and storage management. Below are the key differences between APFS and Mac OS Extended.

Speed and Performance

APFS offers improved speed and performance compared to Mac OS Extended. In speed tests conducted by Malc on a MacBook Pro (2017) running macOS High Sierra, APFS showed higher sysbench read-writes in comparison to Mac OS Extended. The read-write speed of APFS is particularly enhanced when used with flash drives and SSDs.

APFS takes advantage of the high-speed features of these storage devices, resulting in faster data access and transfer. Additionally, APFS allows for instantaneous copy and paste of folders on an APFS drive, providing a noticeable speed advantage over Mac OS. While Mac OS Extended has been the default file system for macOS for many years, it lags behind APFS in terms of speed and performance.

Although it can still provide satisfactory performance, especially when used with traditional hard disk drives (HDDs), it doesn’t benefit from the speed enhancements and optimizations specifically designed for flash drives and SSDs that APFS offers. Mac OS Extended relies on older technology and lacks the efficiency and responsiveness of APFS.

Time Machine Compatibility

Starting from macOS Big Sur, both APFS and Mac OS Extended are supported as formats for Time Machine backups. However, APFS is now preferred for Time Machine backups on macOS Big Sur and later versions. APFS-based Time Machine backups provide advantages such as faster backup and restore processes, efficient storage utilization, and improved snapshot functionality. It is worth noting that APFS-based Time Machine backups created on macOS Big Sur cannot be used on macOS Catalina or earlier versions.

Time Machine only supports Mac OS Extended drives as backup destinations for macOS Catalina and previous versions. Mac OS Extended has been the standard format for Time Machine backups until the introduction of APFS. It continues to offer reliable backup capabilities but lacks some of the performance and efficiency benefits provided by APFS. Mac OS Extended remains a suitable choice if you’re using an older macOS version and rely on Time Machine for backups.

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APFS is preferred for Time Machine backups on macOS Big Sur and later.

Encryption Options

APFS includes built-in encryption support known as FileVault encryption. It uses an AES encryption algorithm in XTS mode with a 128-bit key length. APFS supports full-disk encryption, ensuring that almost everything on the disk, including temporary files and the swap space, is encrypted.

This comprehensive encryption provides higher security and privacy for the data stored on APFS-formatted drives. The encryption process in APFS is seamless and integrated into the file system, allowing for efficient encryption and decryption operations.

Mac OS Extended also supports encryption through the FileVault encryption feature, which uses the same AES encryption algorithm in XTS mode with a 128-bit key length as APFS. However, Mac OS Extended encryption is limited to file or folder encryption and does not provide full-disk encryption capabilities.

Achieving encryption on Mac OS Extended requires additional layers, such as Core Storage. While Mac OS Extended encryption can still protect specific files or folders, it doesn’t offer the same level of overall disk encryption as APFS.

Snapshot and Cloning Capabilities

One significant advantage of APFS over Mac OS Extended is its snapshot and cloning capabilities. APFS volumes allow users to create snapshots, which are point-in-time copies of the file system. These snapshots capture the state of the file system at a specific moment, allowing users to revert to previous versions of files or restore the entire system to a specific snapshot.

This feature is particularly useful for data backup, system recovery, and version control. APFS also supports efficient cloning, where files or directories can be instantly duplicated without consuming additional storage space. Cloning enables users to create multiple instances of the same file or directory, making it easy to work with templates, prototypes, or frequently used data without the need for redundant storage.

In contrast, Mac OS Extended lacks native support for snapshots and cloning. While creating manual backups or using third-party software to replicate files and directories is still possible, the process is not as seamless and integrated as with APFS.

Users relying on Mac OS Extended may need to employ separate backup strategies or tools to achieve similar functionality. With built-in snapshot capabilities, reverting to previous file versions or recovering from system issues becomes easier and more convenient. Similarly, the absence of native cloning support may result in duplicated storage usage or the need to manually manage and update multiple copies of files.

Metadata and File System Efficiency

APFS introduces significant metadata and file system efficiency improvements compared to Mac OS Extended. APFS utilizes a more advanced data structure that optimizes storage utilization and enhances overall performance. It employs a copy-on-write mechanism, where modifications to files or directories are written to new locations instead of overwriting existing data.

This approach minimizes the risk of data corruption and enables faster and more efficient file operations. APFS also employs a space-sharing technique called “containerization,” which allows multiple APFS volumes to dynamically share the available free space. This dynamic allocation of storage resources ensures optimal space utilization across multiple volumes, reducing wastage and maximizing available storage capacity.

Mac OS Extended, an older file system, needs the advanced metadata and space-sharing techniques in APFS. It uses a more traditional approach to manage data, which can result in less efficient storage utilization and slower file operations. Mac OS Extended does not implement copy-on-write, so modifications to files involve overwriting existing data. This increases the risk of data corruption, especially in cases of unexpected power loss or system crashes.

Furthermore, Mac OS Extended does not offer built-in mechanisms for dynamic space sharing, meaning that each volume must have its allocated space, potentially resulting in uneven utilization and wasted storage capacity.

Compatibility with Other Platforms

APFS is primarily designed and optimized for macOS and Apple devices. It is the default file system for Mac hard drives and is compatible with macOS High Sierra and later versions. While APFS offers robust functionality within the Apple ecosystem, its compatibility with other platforms is limited.

APFS support on non-Apple platforms, such as Windows or Linux, is limited or requires additional software or drivers to access APFS-formatted drives. This can be a consideration for users who frequently share storage devices between different operating systems or require cross-platform compatibility.

Mac OS Extended has been the standard file system for macOS for a long time. One advantage of Mac OS Extended is its wider compatibility with other platforms. Mac OS Extended drives can be accessed and read by various operating systems, including Windows and Linux, without the need for additional software or drivers.

This cross-platform compatibility can be beneficial for users who work in mixed environments or frequently share data between macOS and non-Apple platforms.

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For Windows users, APFS support is limited, but Mac OS Extended drives have wider compatibility.

APFS vs. Mac OS Extended: 8 Must-Know Facts

  • APFS, introduced in macOS 10.13, is the default file system for Mac hard drives.
  • APFS is optimized for SSDs and flash storage devices, providing faster read-write speeds.
  • APFS supports snapshots, allowing you to create point-in-time backups of your data.
  • Mac OS Extended, also known as HFS+, was the default file system before APFS.
  • Mac OS Extended has a “journaled” feature that prevents file corruption in case of accidents or power loss.
  • APFS outperforms Mac OS Extended in terms of read-write speed, as shown in speed tests.
  • For Time Machine backups, Mac OS Extended is supported in macOS Catalina and earlier, while both Mac OS Extended and APFS are supported in macOS Big Sur and later.
  • APFS offers full-disk encryption, while Mac OS Extended only supports file or folder encryption.

APFS vs Mac OS Extended: Which One Is Better? Which One Should You Use?

Both APFS and Mac OS Extended have distinct advantages and considerations, making choosing the appropriate file system based on your specific needs crucial.

APFS, introduced with macOS 10.13, is optimized for SSDs and flash storage devices. It offers higher read-write speeds, making it ideal for devices with faster storage technologies. APFS also provides the ability to create snapshots for backup purposes, ensuring data protection.

On the other hand, Mac OS Extended, also known as HFS+, has been the default file system for Macs since 1998. It is more suitable for traditional hard drives and offers the “journaled” feature, which prevents file corruption in case of accidents such as sudden power loss or unplugging the drive during operation.

When it comes to speed, APFS outperforms Mac OS Extended, especially on SSDs and flash drives. Additionally, APFS has become the preferred format for Time Machine backups on macOS Big Sur and later versions. However, Mac OS Extended is the only supported format for macOS Catalina and earlier. Both file systems support encryption, but APFS offers full-disk encryption, providing enhanced security compared to Mac OS Extended file-level encryption.

Factors such as the type of storage device, the macOS version you’re using, and your specific requirements for speed, backup compatibility, and encryption determine the choice between APFS and Mac OS Extended. Carefully consider these factors and choose the file system that best suits your needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is APFS and Mac OS Extended (Journaled)?

APFS (Apple File System) and Mac OS Extended (Journaled), also known as HFS Plus or HFS+, are file systems utilized in macOS for storing and retrieving data on storage devices such as hard drives. They possess distinct structures and features.

Which file system is superior, APFS or Mac OS Extended?

APFS and Mac OS Extended both have their own strengths concerning speed, flexibility, and security. APFS provides higher read-write speeds and supports features like snapshots, making it more optimized for solid-state drives (SSDs) and flash storage devices. Mac OS Extended, on the other hand, is suitable for HDDs and offers compatibility with older macOS versions.

How do APFS and Mac OS Extended differ in terms of speed?

In speed tests conducted by Malc, APFS demonstrated higher sysbench reads and writes in comparison to Mac OS Extended (HFS+). APFS benefits from speed enhancements, allowing for faster folder copying and pasting. These speed improvements are particularly noticeable when using SSDs and flash drives.

Can both APFS and Mac OS Extended be used for Time Machine backups?

The file system selection for Time Machine backups depends on the macOS version. Time Machine only supports Mac OS Extended (HFS+) drives for macOS Catalina and earlier. However, starting from macOS Big Sur, both HFS+ and APFS are accepted as Time Machine backup formats, with APFS being the preferred format for macOS Big Sur and subsequent versions.

How do APFS and Mac OS Extended differ in terms of encryption features?

Both APFS and Mac OS Extended offer encryption capabilities. APFS encryption, known as FileVault encryption, supports full disk encryption, encompassing almost everything, including temporary files and swap space. In contrast, HFS+ encryption allows only file or folder encryption and necessitates the addition of encryption as a layer through Core Storage. APFS provides higher encryption performance due to its built-in encryption support.

How do you format a disk with APFS or Mac OS Extended?

The choice of file system for formatting a disk depends on the type of drive and its intended use. APFS is better suited for SSDs and flash drives, and it is the default file system for the startup disk. It is also recommended for Time Machine backups from macOS Big Sur. Mac OS Extended is suitable for HDDs and is the only file system supported for Time Machine backups on macOS Catalina and earlier versions.

Is it possible to convert Mac OS Extended to APFS?

Yes, converting an externally formatted Mac OS Extended drive to APFS is possible. This can be achieved in macOS Recovery Mode by opening Disk Utility, right-clicking the external hard drive, and selecting the “Convert to APFS” option. It is important to note that converting or deleting a file system will result in data loss, so it is crucial to back up the data before performing any conversions.

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