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AFS, or Apple File System, has been the default file system since macOS High Sierra (macOS 10.13) replaced macOS Sierra in 2017. Engineers developed AFS to address the shortcomings of its predecessor.Additionally,  APFS facilitates faster copying, pasting, erasing, and transferring functions, and more accessible metadata makes finding file details easier than ever. For most users, APFS is an excellent file system format due to the factors listed above.


In 1998, Mac OS Extended, or HFS Plus, was introduced. It was updated several times, starting with Mac OS X in 2002, and remained the default file system until 2017. Among the primary benefits of the Mac OS Extended file system in 2023 will be reverse compatibility. As a result of reverse compatibility, users can access data on old macOS (macOS Sierra or earlier) as well as newer versions of Mac OS, including Mojave, Catalina, Big Sur, Monterey, and Ventura.

Given these characteristics, Mac OS Extended is still a viable alternative for some.


A Mac external hard drive should be formatted according to the situation, as mentioned earlier. APFS and Mac OS Extended are exclusive to Macs. Users can also choose between exFAT and MS-DOS if they intend to use their external hard drive on Linux or Windows.

When it comes to RAID, SSD, and hard drive recovery, Data Recovery Perth understands how important it is to choose the right file system. Making the wrong choice could negatively impact the device’s operation and prevent users from accessing their data.Each file system is described in the following breakdown.

APFS: When to use it

In terms of advantages, APFS is a relatively new file system for macOS and iOS.

APFS is more reliable, faster, and offers additional features than Mac OS Extended without compromising fundamentals. Ultimately, APFS works without user input, making it appealing to beginners. APFS, however, offers Mac users other benefits and tools. The advanced encryption technology of APFS drives makes it more secure. The file system automatically encodes volumes when enabled, preventing unauthorized parties from removing the storage device and connecting it to another computer. A key will not be able to decipher a volume without login credentials.

Its copy-on-write approach to creating new data minimizes the chance of corruption, in addition to encrypting the drive. Even the state of a hard drive can be captured. A snapshot can be an effective and efficient way to recover from a failed update. However, the copies of data must be stored on the same device, so snapshots cannot be used as a backup drive.

Aside from that, APFS can clone files. Clones record incremental changes and reduce the aggregate size of files, saving storage space.Also, the file system supports space sharing, which eliminates the need to manually partition containers.

There are, however, two significant drawbacks to APFS.

Data from releases before macOS High Sierra cannot be read or written. In addition, it was designed to accommodate the growth of flash storage.  APFS works on HDDs, but users cannot experience its full potential without a solid state drive (SSD) or flash drive. With its modern features and optimized performance for flash storage, APFS is an obvious choice for Mac users with SSDs.

Choosing Mac OS Extended Journaled

Despite being a legacy file system, Mac OS Extended Journaled remains a viable option for some users.  As a result of its compatibility with older Mac OS versions, Mac OS Extended allows users to access their files across all Macs and save data to the same hard drive, making it the perfect choice for multisystem users.  Mac OS Extended works best with mechanical drives like HDDs, as well as hybrid drives like Apple’s proprietary Fusion drives. While APFS-formatted drives are specifically designed for SSDs, Mac OS Extended is ideal for mechanical drives like HDDs.

Another advantage of Mac OS Extended over APFS was that, until late 2020, Time Machine backups required users to format their hard drives with Mac OS Extended.  With the release of Big Sur, Time Machine was overhauled to support APFS, removing one of Mac OS Extended’s benefits.

How to choose between exFAT and MS-DOS (FAT)

There are exceptions to the recommendation of APFS and Mac OS Extended by most experts. The other options are reserved for users with Macs and Windows computers who use storage devices across platforms. Due to this, exFAT is the standard choice for macOS and Windows users.


The process of formatting is straightforward. There are several things to consider before formatting. Formatting the hard drive will erase all the files on it. Before formatting, save irreplaceable files to an external hard drive. In addition, if you are donating, selling, or trading a drive, make sure you follow proper data destruction procedures.

Please follow the formatting instructions below:

  1. Navigate to the Finder.
  2. Navigate to the navigation menu and select Applications.
  3. Utilities can be found by clicking here.
  4. Disk Utility should be open.
  5. The View button is located in the top-left corner of Disk Utility.
  6. Select Show All Devices.
  7. From the sidebar, select the desired storage device.
  8. At the top of the screen, click Erase.
  9. Name, Format, and Scheme should be changed.

There are two types of names: generic and unique.

It is important to choose the appropriate file system depending on how the drive will be used. (Note: APFS and Mac OS Extended Journaled are available, but users can also choose case-sensitive and encrypted options for each format. If files are formatted in case-sensitive, users can create both ‘Documents’ and ‘DOCUMENTS’ folders, as an example. The default options are sufficient for most users.)

Select GUID Partition Map for APFS or Mac OS Extended Journaled, and Master Boot Record for exFAT or MS-DOS.

Once you have named the device and decided its setup details, click erase.

Press Done when prompted.


In the debate between APFS and Mac OS Extended, there is no winner. Each file system discussed here is familiar to us as certified technicians and specialists in Mac data recovery. We have outlined the main differences between the most popular options, but we cannot offer a one-size-fits-all solution.

For smooth performance on a newer version of macOS, APFS is a strong choice. For reverse compatibility with an older macOS, Mac OS Extended is an option. For cross-platform support, exFAT is typically sufficient. Consider how the drive will be used before formatting, then select a file system that is suitable. In the end, your ideal file system is one that meets your individual needs




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