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APFS is coming soon: iOS 10.3 will automatically upgrade your filesystem



After many years and at least one false start, Apple announced at WWDC last year that it would begin shipping a new, modern file system in 2017.



Dubbed APFS (for Apple File System), it is designed to improve support for solid-state storage and encryption and to safeguard data integrity. When released, it will finally replace the nearly two-decade-old HFS+ filesystem that Apple has been tacking new features onto since 1998.


An early version of APFS was included in macOS Sierra as a beta for developers to experiment with, but it was intentionally limited in some important ways; it couldn't be used as a boot drive, it didn't support Fusion Drives, and you can't back up APFS volumes with Time Machine. We weren't expecting to hear more about a final APFS rollout until this year's WWDC, but it looks like Apple is getting ready to start the party already: according to the beta release notes for iOS 10.3, devices that are upgraded will automatically have their HFS+ file systems converted to APFS. From the release notes:


When you update to iOS 10.3, your iOS device will update its file system to Apple File System (APFS). This conversion preserves existing data on your device. However, as with any software update, it is recommended that you create a backup of your device before updating.


Apple's stated end goal is to perform an in-place file system conversion for all its currently supported devices, including all Macs, iPhones, iPads, iPods, Apple TVs, and Apple Watches. iOS 10.3 will provide some early information on how reliable that conversion will be.


It's an approach that makes sense; there are way more iDevices than Macs out there, which would increase the number of affected users if anything goes wrong. But iOS doesn't give users direct control of the file system or of their devices' partition maps, so it's a reasonably safe, controlled environment. Macs can have a wider variety of partition and file system setups, increasing the likelihood that some edge case will throw things off. There's no suggestion in the macOS 10.12.4 release notes that any drives will be converted to APFS, and we may need to wait for the next major release of the operating system before that starts happening.


We've asked Apple if it has any more information to share about the timing of the APFS rollout, and we'll update this article if we receive a response.



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1 hour ago, Solaris said:

I wonder what advantages it has over HFS+.

There's quite a bit, actually. Apple has a nice list of features here https://developer.apple.com/library/prerelease/content/documentation/FileManagement/Conceptual/APFS_Guide/Features/Features.html#//apple_ref/doc/uid/TP40016999-CH5-DontLinkElementID_17


In the first sentence, it says that APFS supports 2^64 - 1 files, which HFS+ supported only 2^32 - 1 files. So it's a bajillion files versus a few billion files now.


One thing I really like is the snapshot feature. NTFS has supported shadow copies for quite a while, and being able to revert to a previous version of a file can be rather critical.


Another thing I'm interested in is the cloning feature. This allows you to copy a file or directory without the file data taking up any additional space, as both the original and copied file use the original data and store changes from the original data. This can be useful for storing local backups of files. One really cool way I can see this being used is for virtual machine cloning.


Space sharing is another interesting feature. From my understanding, it's basically one physical partition can have multiple file systems which act kind of like folders, in that their remaining space is the same as the remaining space of the physical partition. The example was given that if you have a 100 GB APFS partition with two file systems, one using up 10 GB and the other using 20 GB, both file systems will have 70 GB remaining.


Native support for encryption for full-disk encryption as well as per-file encryption looks pretty cool. NTFS has supported encryption for quite a while. Mac users won't have to deal with a Windows Pro paywall, too, as there isn't any "professional" version of the operating system (with how much Apple charges, they'd better be getting the full experience).

Solaris likes this



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