The difference between APFS, Mac OS Extended (HFS+), ExFAT (2023)

The difference between APFS, Mac OS Extended (HFS+), ExFAT (1)

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(Video) File System Explained: APFS, MacOS Extended, FAT, exFAT and More

Most of the time, you won't bother to think about the file system your Mac uses. Many of us just create, store, and back up files as needed without even thinking about what kind of file system we're on. wearing.

For example, if you need to partition a drive, the type of file system you choose becomes extremely important. Depending on how you want to use the partition, and with whom, choosing the file type you want to use on your computer is critical.

Here we discuss all the Mac formats for its file system, APFS vs Mac OS Extended, the best format for external hard drives Mac might be using, ExFAT vs HFS+, and everything you need to know about macOS file systems.

Types of a file system

Before I get into things like ExFAT vs. Mac OS Extended, it is important that we define the file systems that we are going to discuss. There are three main file systems for the Mac environment, but your choice will depend on both the hardware available and whether you intend to work with Windows computers.

What is APFS?

APFS is an acronym for "Apple File System" that was first introduced with macOS High Sierra. This move coincided with the Mac shifting to Solid State Drives (SSDs) on all hardware, as APFS is optimized for SSD storage solutions. APFS will continue to work on mechanical or hybrid drives.

On new Macs, APFS is the default file system, since all modern Macs have SSD drives. If you're formatting a drive for use with a Mac with an SSD, and plan to use the drive only with that Mac, it might be a good idea to format it to work with APFS file systems as well.

Mac OS Extended – Best suited for mechanical drives or drives used with earlier versions of macOS

Also known as HFS Plus or HFS+, the Mac OS Extended file system is the default file system for all Macs from 1998 to present on Macs with mechanical or hybrid drives. Even if a Mac is running macOS High Sierra, the file system is Mac OS Extended by default if you have a hybrid or mechanical drive.

(Video) What’s the Difference Between APFS, Mac OS Extended (HFS+), and ExFAT?

If you're formatting a drive for use with older Macs, or formatting a drive on an older Mac, Mac OS Extended should be your choice. Although APFS may work just fine, using Mac OS Extended is essentially a guarantee against problems.

Another thing to keep in mind is encryption. APFS can be encrypted, and Mac OS Extended Journaled is the method to use if you need to protect Mac OS Extended file systems. Just remember that you need to protect your encryption key for both, and encryption may slightly affect your performance.

ExFAT: Best for external drives shared with Windows computers

ExFAT is a cross-platform solution for use with Mac and Windows devices that now serves as the foundation for files shared and edited between the two platforms. If you frequently work with both Mac and Windows computers, ExFAT might be the best option for your Mac.

Introduced in 2006, the ExFAT file system was developed by Microsoft to provide cross-platform compatibility between its FAT32 format and the Mac without worrying about file or partition size limitations. Being an older system, ExFAT is much more prone to fragmentation than Mac OS Extended or APFS and strips out file metadata.

Simply put, ExFAT allows you to work on files between Mac and Windows computers without reformatting those files, but it lacks many modern features that people might find important.

Other formats (MS-DOS (FAT) and Windows NT

MS-DOS FAT is an older type of Windows file system, a precursor to the ExFAT FAT32 file format. It is backward compatible, but should only be used in the rarest of cases. Macs that need to work with Windows XP or earlier should consider MS-DOS FAT, but that's very rare these days. Windows XP is mostly used for really old business platforms that wouldn't work well with the Mac environment anyway.

The Windows NT file system won't be something Mac users want to use very often. It's a Windows file system for use with Windows devices, and there's rarely a reason a Mac user should consider using it. However, if your Mac is essentially the hardware that runs Windows every day, Windows NT might be the right file system for you. However, if you're using macOS and simply transferring files between your Mac and a Windows device, we recommend ExFAT.

(Video) Which format to use in MacOS Disk Utility

Bonus Tip: Boost Your Mac

Whichever file system you choose, keep your Mac running at its bestclean up my mac x.

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The difference between APFS, Mac OS Extended (HFS+), ExFAT (2)

There are also dedicated malware removal, privacy, optimization, maintenance, and file management modules that you can use to dig deeper into your Mac and keep it running in tip-top shape. There's also a really handy app and plug-in set for updating and uninstalling things on your Mac, including the associated files left behind by removed apps.

Choose for detailed, real-time monitoring of your Mac's performancestatus menus. Located in the menu bar of your Mac, iStat Menus keeps contextual track of what your Mac is doing, constantly updating the menus in real time.

(Video) Apple: APFS vs Mac OS Extended (Journaled) for external HDD

iStat Menus tracks your CPU, GPU, network, battery (even for peripherals like keyboards and trackpads), memory, hard drives, and sensor performance. When you click the iStat menu icon in the menu bar, a continually updated graphics menu appears showing your Mac's performance. Hover over any section of this menu and a sub-menu with even more detail will appear.

But that's not all: if you hover the mouse over any graphic element in the submenu, it will still be displayedOthermenu with evenplusData. iStat Menus is great for giving you data at a glance, and even better for displaying data in submenus when you want to understand what your Mac is doing in real time, in more detail than you ever thought possible.

The difference between APFS, Mac OS Extended (HFS+), ExFAT (3)

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Bartender manages all apps and services hidden in your menu bar under a simple three-dot menu. Clicking on the Bartender icon quickly reveals the apps and services that normally clutter up the menu bar, but you can also arrange them however you see fit. It's great for building better muscle memory for finding apps on the go and organizing them by frequency of use or type (or both!).

The difference between APFS, Mac OS Extended (HFS+), ExFAT (4)

(Video) ExFAT vs Mac OS Extended (Case Sensitive, Journaled) vs APFS (Case Sensitive)

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Is Mac OS Extended format better than exFAT? ›

Simply speaking, these two formats are both compatible with macOS. When you need to format a USB drive or an SD card, the ExFAT is a better choice. If you want to format a hard drive, it's better to choose Mac OS Extended. Or, in macOS High Sierra and newer OS, you can choose to format your drive to APFS.

What is the difference between exFAT and HFS+ Mac? ›

exFAT allows for read/write operations across nearly all operating systems, while HFS+ is exclusive to Mac OS. Today, exFAT is used as the default format for many external storage devices and SD cards. HFS+ is used on older Apple computers and drives taken from older Apple computers to modern configurations.

Is HFS+ the same as Mac OS Extended Journaled? ›

Mac OS Extended (Journaled): Uses the Mac format (Journaled HFS Plus) to protect the integrity of the hierarchical file system.

Which is better APFS format or Mac OS Extended Journaled format? ›

The main difference between the two is that the APFS format is faster, while the Mac Os Journaled format can work on any Mac Os since it has reverse compatibility. APFS works mainly with SSD and flash drives whereas Mac Os extended is mostly used on Mechanical hard drives.

Is there a downside to exFAT? ›

Disadvantages of exFAT

Not as compatible as FAT32. It does not offer journaling functionality and other advanced features built into the NTFS file system.

What is the best format for a Mac hard drive? ›

If you need to format a drive, use the APFS or Mac OS Extended (Journaled) format for best performance. If your Mac is running macOS Mojave or later, use the APFS format. When you format a drive, any data on the volume is deleted, so make sure you create a backup if you want to keep the data.

What is the best format for SSD Mac? ›

While APFS is optimized for the Flash/SSD storage used in recent Mac computers, it can also be used with older systems with traditional hard disk drives (HDD) and external, direct-attached storage. macOS 10.13 or later supports APFS for both bootable and data volumes.

Should I format my external hard drive to APFS? ›

Using an External Hard Drive for Time Machine Backups

Ideally, the best file format is the one that covers your needs across all the platforms you use. For the best Time Machine compatibility, reformat your device with the GUID partition map scheme and HFS+ or APFS file format.

What is HFS+ format in Mac? ›

HFS Plus or HFS+ (also known as Mac OS Extended or HFS Extended) is a journaling file system developed by Apple Inc. It replaced the Hierarchical File System (HFS) as the primary file system of Apple computers with the 1998 release of Mac OS 8.1.

Does Mac use exFAT or APFS? ›

exFAT: The primary difference between exFAT and other Mac file systems is that APFS and HFS+ are only compatible with macOS, but exFAT also works with Windows. As a cross-platform file system, users can use it to move files between their Mac and Windows computers easily.

What is the difference between APFS and Mac OS Extended Journaled? ›

The main difference between APFS and Mac OS Extended is that the former is faster and more reliable, whereas the latter is compatible with older macOS releases. Depending on how you'll use a given drive, both the APFS and Mac OS Extended can be viable.

What does exFAT mean on Mac? ›

ExFat (Extensible File Allocation Table). It can be read/written by Mac or Windows and doesn't have the limitation of 4GB like Fat32.

What is best audio format for Mac? ›

  • A lossless audio file format is the best format for sound quality. These include FLAC, WAV, or AIFF. ...
  • From a browser compatibility standpoint, . MP3 and . ...
  • MP3 files are the most popular audio format. ...
  • .
Oct 6, 2021

What is the best partition for Mac? ›

GUID Partition Map is the best partition scheme for most situations. GUID stands for globally unique identifiers. It is the bootable standard for computers that use united extensible firmware interlace (UEFI). It is the standard for all the latest versions of Windows, macOS and Linux.

Why did Apple switch to APFS? ›

It aims to fix core problems of HFS+ (also called Mac OS Extended), APFS's predecessor on these operating systems. APFS is optimized for solid-state drive storage and supports encryption, snapshots, and increased data integrity, among other capabilities.

What is the disadvantage of exFAT on Mac? ›

However, it has notable drawbacks centered on limited maximum file size and maximum volume size that make it unideal as a storage solution for storing and transferring files larger than 4GB.

What format is best for USB drive? ›

exFAT is the ideal file system for USB flash drives. It doesn't have the 4GB file size limit and it's compatible with most Windows and Mac operating systems. Older operating systems might require an update to properly read and write to a USB drive with an exFAT file system.

Is exFAT safe for Mac? ›

exFAT is the best format for external drives that will work on Mac and PC. An exFAT device can be mounted on both Mac and PC and users can have full access to all files.

Is exFAT best format? ›

In a debate regarding exFAT vs NTFS vs FAT32, NTFS is the best format for storage devices with Windows operating system. However, exFAT is best for portable storage devices due to more efficient power and memory management. It also allows you to use a storage device on both Windows and macOS.

Should I use exFAT or journaled for Mac? ›

Here's a basic rundown of which format we recommend for your USB flash drive, broken down by use case. If you absolutely, positively will only be working with Macs and no other system, ever: Use Mac OS Extended (Journaled). If you need to transfer files larger than 4 GB between Macs and PCs: Use exFAT.

Is exFAT a good format for Mac? ›

The exFAT format on Mac is the recommended file format for external drives on Mac devices. It ensures seamless data transfer between Mac and Windows devices. And it allows clusters as large as 32MB to enable large storage devices. It uses 64 bits to describe file sizes and enables large Mac applications.

Does exFAT work well with Mac? ›

Yes, exFAT is compatible with all Windows and modern versions of macOS.

Is exFAT compatible with MacOS? ›

exFAT is a lightweight file system compatible with all versions of Windows and modern versions of macOS.

Why is exFAT not readable on Mac? ›

Corruption issues: In some cases, the ExFAT USB might not mount on the Mac operating system due to corruption. That prevents mounting. You will need to rebuild the directory or run the repair on the USB. Missing driver software: Another reason could be the lack of essential driver software for reading the ExFAT USB.


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