Where’s the macOS GUI App For High Sierra Snapshots?

2 minute read
| Editorial

One of the signature features of macOS High Sierra is the APFS snapshot, and yet there’s no GUI to manage it. Yet.

 

The new file system used with macOS High Sierra, Apple File System (APFS), is noted for its ability to take file system snapshots. According to Apple,

A volume snapshot is a point-in-time, read-only instance of the file system .The operating system uses snapshots to make backups work more efficiently and offer a way to revert changes to a given point in time.

And yet, here we are weeks from the September 25 release of High Sierra and there’s no way for the user, at the Finder level, to actually take snapshots of the file system.

Because Reasons

There could be several reasons for this omission. First, while Apple has touted the feature to developers, there’s no mention of it on Apple’s High Sierra page. It could well be that snapshots are considered a system level feature to be used by the OS (and developers) to invoke a more modern back up functionality. After all, if Apple doesn’t tout a feature on the product page, that’s an indicator.

As an aside, for background on using Time Machine with High Sierra, see: “Time Machine and APFS: What You Need to Know.”  Also, for background on APFS itself, see: “An APFS FAQ: Partitions, Volumes, and AFPS Containers.”

Continuing … Another reason might be that APFS right now is best used with SSDs. The High Sierra installer only upgrades the HFS+ file system to APFS on SSDs. HDD support will probably come soon, for supported drives, and APFS support for Fusion drives is still being developed.  It could be that Apple doesn’t want to roll out a user level feature, GUI snapshot manager, until everyone can use it reliably.

A final reason is that Apple will never intend to let the ordinary user take APFS snapshots because over-use could get out of control or incur other storage or usage penalties. That’s just a surmise.

A Fantasy

One thing we do know is that Parallels Desktop for Mac has allowed users to take snapshots of the guest OS for years. When I first heard about APFS snapshots, I hoped that this feature would similarly surface to the macOS user in the form of a GUI app that:

  1. Allows a file system snapshot to be taken.
  2. Lists all snapshots taken with a time stamp.
  3. Allows a user to select a specific snapshot and revert to it quickly and easily,

That seems a lot cleaner than the process we go through now to restore an entire volume from a conventional Time Machine archive.

I will happily admit that I am just starting my exploration of this issue, and I expect to learn a lot more about it in the future as discussions evolve. Especially from developers. Feedback is always welcome.

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Jeeves Tobbs
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Jeeves Tobbs

I’ve been investigating how Carbon Copy Cloner integrates snapshots. I’m impressed. Carbon Copy Cloner has an interface for viewing its own, as well as Time Machine, snapshots. CCC displays time stamps and much more in its log, which has a GUI interface. Beyond merely being able to select snapshots and revert to them, CCC users can access a Finder interface to browse, and perform operations on, the files that snapshots represent. CCC allows snapshots to be taken in the sense that initiating a backup can cause a snapshot to be taken if the user desires. For non-automated, on-demand, single-task snapshot… Read more »