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Reader Question: APFS or HFS for Hard Drive Backup?

re: BBEdit

Reader Michael J writes:

First want to thank you for the amazing information and testing you provide.

I am setting up my first OWC 4 bay Mercury Elite Pro Quad for backup purposes, Time Machine, Lightroom Catalog, etc.

I am finding different recommendations on line for formatting a traditional spinning HDD for Mac using Ventura. Mac OS Extended (Journaled) or APFS ??

see an article you had from 2021 saying Mac OS Extended (Journaled) for HDD but see other sites OWC, Apple recommending APFS on newer OS. Has anything changed to recommend one format over the other for HDD?

After getting formatted I have to decide on a naming convention and volumes to streamline drives and multiple backups using cloning.

MPG: APFS was designed assuming a fast random access device eg an SSD.

APFS can be used for hard drives but because of the way it organizes and allocates information, it is a bad match to the performance characteristics of a hard drive. AFAIK, this is inherent to its design and thus the use of macOS Ventura vs macOS Monterey or earlier has no relevance.

APFS used on a hard drive will get slower and slower over time, far above and beyond conventional fragmentation. Even initially, I have observed extremely poor performance with some operations (eg file deletion).

Tradeoffs exist: fans of versioned snapshots might with to use APFS even on hard drives. Don’t expect good speed, but if that is a goal (it isn’t, for me), then APFS should be used.

Should a drive crash and need recovery, APFS is more or less hopeless whereas MacOS Extended volumes have strong industry support. But a proper backup strategy should never have to resort to recovery of a damaged volume.

Overall, MPG strongly recommends sticking with MacOS Extended (Journaled) format for any hard drive storage, backup or otherwise. Use APFS for SSDs.

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