As the technology is growing day by day, Apple has made some changes for big users. Siri on 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. The operating systems of Apple have used the HFS+ file system since 18 years, but that era is coming to an end. At the Platform State of the Union after the WWDC keynote, Apple has taken the wraps off the replacement for HFS+, its new Apple File System.
Now, the file system is pretty well hidden from most of the users. It is comp0letely possible that you have used Mac for more than 18 years, and only come across a reference to HFS+ when formatting a new drive in the Disk Utility – we know this because that is the kind of user we are. But, Apple File System will have some advantages that should be a really big deal for the developers.
According to a document on Apple’s Developer site, Apple File System drastically improves on HFS+ while supporting “nearly all” of its features. However, it is optimized for flash and SSD storage, with modern touches like 64-bit support and strong encryption.
In the Platform State of the Union, Apple has highlighted two big features of the Apple File System. The first one is cloning. As you use any operating system, some files are duplicated, and even if the operating system can clean all that up for you later, it still hogs resources and the disk space while it is happening. Apple File System clones the duplicate files rather than copying them because that is faster and takes up no extra space beyond the first copy. It can clone files, directories, and the hierarchies.
The next big addition is the 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 on stage involved a classroom: say you are a teacher and had setup your classroom’s Macs or iPads with certain content, Apps, and settings for a lesson. Then, the kids come in and start making monkeying around. At the end of the class, instead of having to undo all those changes, the teacher can roll back the content of the device 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, and Apple says that it won’t ship until 2017. This is because while SSDs and cloning files are fast, changing the file system across all of Apple’s operating systems and devices – well, that is going to take a little while. Apple File System has a way to go until it is ready for prime time as well. As of today, APFS Volumes cannot be encrypted with the FileVault or backed up with Time Machin, and Fusion Drives cannot use APFS yet, either.
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