Apple releases next-gen encrypted File System after over 30 years

At the ongoing WWDC 2016, Apple unveiled the next generation Apple File System (APFS) with support for native encryption.

The new file system replaces the currently available HFS+ system and mainly focuses on encryption and optimization for Flash/SSD storage. The new APFS file system will be compatible with iOS, macOS (formerly OS X), tvOS and watchOS.

Since Apple’s new device like the upcoming MacBook Pro ships with SSD storage drives, there is a need for a dedicated file system mechanism. The currently available HFS and HFS+ are almost 30 years old and Apple requires a new improved file system, which will be capable of tackling the latest technological challenges.

According to Apple, the new file system is designed to provide support for both single-key and multi-key encryption instead of just a simple file vault. However, it inherits all the features of both HFS and HFS+ in addition to several core features.

Optimized for flash/SSD storage, the new APFS system offers support for copy-on-write metadata, space sharing, cloning for files and directories, snapshots, fast directory sizing, atomic safe-save primitives, and enhanced file system fundamentals.

Even though APFS is available to developers with macOS Sierra as a pre-release build, the new system is not fully functional and hence can’t be used as a startup volume. We expect Apple to launch a stable release of APFS in September along with iPhone 7 and MacBook Pro release.

Since APFS cannot be used as a Time Machine volume, you will not be able to apply File Vault encryption on it or make use of it as a Fusion drive. As of writing this, APFS is highly case-sensitive but this trend will change with the final release.

The APFS has been upgraded to 64-bit inode numbers from the currently existing 32-bit file IDs in HFS+. While APFS provides support for one nanosecond timestamp granularity, the HFS+ provides support for one second, which is a remarkable change. You can expect increased file reading speeds.

With APFS, you will be able to quickly create read-only snapshots and editable clones of directories and files in addition to fast directory sizing, and atomic safe-save.

At WWDC, Apple announced series of new features and upgrades to watchOS, tvOS, iOS 10 including the renaming of OSX to macOS. Moreover, the iOS 10 offers a wide range of new features for not only phone and messages but also Photos, Maps, and Apple Music.