10 Things You Should Know About APFS; Apple’s New File System

BY Khamosh Pathak

Published 29 Mar 2017

10 Things to Know About APFS

iOS 10.3 just went live and with it, millions of users across the world updated to an entirely new file system. APFS is Apple’s new file system that will make its way to all of their major platforms. But why is Apple doing it? What’s so special about it? Read on to find out.

1. Apple File System

APFS stands for Apple File System. It’s Apple’s replacement for HFS+ file system and it will eventually make its way to iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS – covering everything from your Mac, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV and Apple Watch.

Right now, iOS 10.3 is the only publicly available OS that runs on APFS.

RecommendediOS 10.3 Features and Updates: What’s New

2. APFS Is Designed To Scale Across All Apple Platforms

HFS+ came about in 1998 and it’s almost 20 years old now. It’s a relic from an era far gone. It came about in the era of the Mac and has been tweaked to adapt it to iPhone, Apple Watch and Apple TV.

In those last 20 years, a lot has changed. We upgraded from hard drives to SSD, we shifted from installing software from CDs to downloading them. Our backups also shifted to the cloud.

3. Optimized For Flash Storage

Almost every new device Apple sells these days runs on flash storage, including most Macs. And APFS is designed to work best on Flash storage. So we’ll see things like faster read and write times and generally more reliability when it comes to data retention and transfer.

4. Headline Features: Snapshot and Clones

Two of the biggest features in APFS are snapshots and clones.

Snapshots are a single, point-in-time, read-only instance of the file system.

Using Clones, APFS will be able to create quick copies of the same volume without occupying additional storage space.

5. Low Latency Makes APFS Devices Feel Faster

APFS focuses on low latency. Which means that things like app launches and data delivery will be noticeably faster. This should reduce load times – the spinners on iOS and beachballs on the Mac.

6. Free Flowing Partitions

If you’re a Mac user who uses partitions, APFS will change things up a bit. If one partition is running out of space, APFS can automatically claim storage space from another partition. APFS can do this because APFS creates a container around all available partitions.

7. Encryption First

APFS is designed with encryption as a primary function. It supports both single key and multi-key encryption.

8. Future Proof

HFS+ supported 32-bit file IDs. APFS supports up to 64-bit inode numbers. APFS is designed to be future proof and it will only get better with future updates.

9. iOS 10.3 Gives You Storage Space Back

Upgrading to APFS has one clear upside. You’ll get valuable storage space back – the degree of it depending on how much storage space you’ve occupied. Some users are getting back a couple of GBs after updating.

10. APFS for Mac is still in Beta

While the iOS version is live, the Mac version is still very much in beta. And Apple will have a much harder time getting APFS to work just right on the Mac. While iOS has a closed file system, on that isn’t exposed to the user, Mac has an open, editable file system. Which means that APFS can run into all sorts of edge cases that Apple hasn’t thought about yet. Hopefully, all the issues are ironed out in the beta period. While it’s in beta, you can test it out if you want. But it’s not ready. APFS doesn’t support startup disks, Time Machine, FileVault encryption, and Fusion Drives.

Yes, You Should Upgrade to iOS 10.3

Right now, iOS 10.3 is the only way you can get access to APFS. And even though it’s an entire new file system, you should update. The update has been tested for the past couple of weeks by a lot of beta testers (including yours truly) and there’s nothing but upside to updating. The transition is smooth, fast and you won’t lose any data. Although, you can never be too carful so we would suggest you take an iTunes or iCloud backup before updating (as you always should).

Are you impressed by APFS? Or disappointed? Will you upgrade? Share with us in the comments below.