What the new Apple File System (APFS) means for imaging

The new Apple File System (APFS) looks set to revolutionise everything including imaging, backup, OS upgrades and security. And with iOS 10.3 the first OS to adopt the new Apple File System (APFS), developers and systems engineers all over are getting very excited.

The old HFS+ file system has been at the heart of Apple’s ecosystem for donkeys’ years (since 1998 to be precise), back when floppy disks were a primary means of storage, rather than just a smart-looking save symbol. So in an age when people now store hundreds of gigabytes and access millions of files on high-speed, low-latency flash drives, it was definitely time for a refresh.

Step in Apple File System, a new 64-bit file system supporting over 9 quintillion files on a single volume. Apple have developed APFS to replace all their variants of HFS+ for various different products, as one system that will scale across all of Apple’s operating systems including macOS, iOS, watchOS and tvOS. APFS is optimised for Flash/SSD storage and features strong encryption, copy-on-write metadata, space sharing, cloning for files and directories, snapshots, fast directory sizing, atomic safe-save primitives, and improved file system fundamentals.

As well as Flash/SSD storage, APFS can also be used with traditional hard disk drives (HDD) and external, direct-attached storage. You can share APFS-formatted volumes using the SMB or NFS network file-sharing protocol, but interestingly you cannot share APFS-formatted volumes using AFP.

With the AFP protocol not being supported, there are whispers that it may finally be dead, putting a shelf life on certain third-party applications too. It also may potentially be killed off in macOS sever, meaning they might not develop the client further. Interesting times for the future of security and imaging, with many tech soothsayers proclaiming that APFS will mark the end of disk imaging on Macs, with the focus shifted to DEP and MDM. All eyes on Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2017 in June for more from Apple on this then…

Upgrading to Apple File System

Apple will offer non-destructive in-place upgrades from HFS+ to APFS for all boot volumes when Apple File System ships in 2017. Tools will be available to convert external volumes from HFS+ to APFS format. And while you can use Disk Utility to erase an APFS-formatted volume and reformat as HFS+, your data will not be preserved.

– A Developer Preview of Apple File System is available in macOS Sierra, and Apple are planning to release Apple File System as a bootable file system in 2017.

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Tom H
Tom H
Call us: 03332 409 306

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