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macOS High Sierra: Caution Advised

MPG has long advised that professionals delay by at least 3 months the adoption of any new Apple operating system. In the case of macOS High Sierra, the major change is Apple File System (APFS). Without APFS, the release would be little more than a minor revision of macOS Sierra. So it is all about APFS.

With macOS High Sierra on the horizon, rumblings abound of issues.

Accordingly, MPG hereby raises that 3 month 'wait' recommendation to a full six months from here on in. That’s because (a) a change in file system is a major change with repercussions and (b) Apple cannot be trusted to respect users or their data or their workflow, with poor judgment seem repeatedly many times over in recent years. The name for this macOS release is apt.

Remember, Apple ships on a calendar basis. Not when requisite software quality is achieved—if the bar is too high, the bar is lowered and the software ships on schedule. This has been going on for years and now with iOS and macOS tied together with APFS and iCloud, it won’t stop—the iPhone drives all.

APFS and High Sierra in trouble captures in a nutshell my concerns about macOS High Sierra, capturing multiple disturbing lapses in judgment at Apple.

Introducing a new file system is a very major undertaking, not something to be breezed away in a couple of press releases and fatuous PR claims. It is comparable in scale and effect to introducing Mac OS X itself – something which Apple left in public beta for more than six months. APFS has instead had just two months in public beta, over a period when many people around the world take their major annual holiday.

Even before those public betas, some of Apple’s decisions about APFS have proved to be misjudgments. Most obvious was the design feature that the new file system would not perform any Unicode normalisation of file and folder names – which was still a feature of APFS when it was released to hundreds of millions of iOS devices back in March.


MPG: see Malcom C’s comments below about compatibility. The source above may have been mistaken about APFS being unreadable with Sierra.

See also Apple Core Rot.

Martin D writes:

FWIW, iOS 11 is atypically flaky and unstable this late in development. Perhaps the GM will surprise us, but the latest developer beta is just plain buggy. The bugs I’m hearing about are worse on the iPhone than the iPad, but I’m also seeing plenty of oddities on the iPad Pro I’m testing on.

MPG: iOS uses APFS, so this does not bode well for macOS using APFS. It should all end well, but it might be a year before that is achieved.

Malcom C writes:

Like you I am very interested/concerned about moving to High Sierra and APFS. So I have installed the latest Beta on a 100 GB partition of a Samsung SSD on my 2011 iMac.

The main partition running 10.12.6 can read the APFS partition without problems. So my next check was to format a rotational drive in a USB case as APFS from the 10.13 OS.

According to the ECLECTIC LIGHT CO article dated 10 Sept. an APFS partition is ONLY readable from 10.13 NOT 10.12. However on my iMac the USB drive formatted as APFS is readable by 10.12.6 without any problems.

Also as a very rough test the Blackmagic Disk Speed software reports that the USB rotational drive data transfer speeds are about 2x faster under APFS.

I realise that APFS is a big step but if articles are written during a beta test period nothing can be treated as final until the GM version is available.

My quick and dirty test indicates that Sierra can read and write APFS I copied the Sierra Install file and it would read as expected. I was able today to check that Yosemite and El Capitan however cannot even see the drive.

MPG: taking the last point first, the golden master (GM) won’t have any meaningful changes at this point; the public beta is in effect the GM already. This has been true for every release for the many years this close to final release, which is nearly at hand.

My key source indicates speed issues with hard drives. Let’s hope one expert is wrong. APFS is optimized for SSDs.

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