Want to Experiment With an APFS drive? Here’s How You Can Do That

An APFS volume on macOS Sierra

You may have heard that Cupertino is developing a new file system known as the Apple File System (APFS). This particular file system became the default for iOS as of 10.3. By the end of 2017, APFS is expected to become the default on macOS, watchOS, as well as tvOS. If you want to experiment with an APFS drive now, you can do that as long as you have macOS Sierra 10.12.4 or later installed.

An APFS drive on macOS Sierra
If you have the latest version of macOS Sierra, you can format APFS and begin experimenting

Proceed With Caution

Remember, APFS is still in development. Right now, you can’t use it for your startup disk, for Time Machine, for FileVault, or with a Fusion Drive. You also won’t find an option in Disk Utility just yet for formatting a partition as APFS. When APFS launches as a final product, we can expect those limitations to change. There will likely also be a method to convert your HFS+ drive to APFS without deleting any data.

If you really want to experiment with APFS and are comfortable with the command line, here’s what you need to do.

Format APFS Drive in macOS Sierra

The first thing you need to do to format APFS drives is launch Terminal. Then, run the following command to find the device identifier of the disk you want to format as APFS.

diskutil list

I decided to blow away my Boot Camp partition on my external hard drive, so I was looking for a listing called BOOTCAMP.

Output of diskutil list in preparation for creating an APFS drive
Running diskutil list shows you all of your drive volumes

In my case, the device identifier was disk2s2. Yours is liable to be different, so be very careful with the next step. Entering the wrong one in this command could result in formatting the wrong drive and losing important files. Take a deep breath, count to five, and type this command into your Terminal window.

diskutil apfs createContainer /dev/disk2s2

Again, make sure you type in your own disk identifier, not necessarily mine. macOS will unmount the drive, delete the partition, and then create an APFS container.

Creating the APFS Container for my APFS Drive
Entering the proper disk identifier, run this command to create an APFS Container

You’ll see the progress, and notice that the command tells you the name of the APFS Container.

Created new APFS Container disk3

Your own output will probably be different, so pay careful attention. Next, you’ll add the APFS volume. To do so, go back into Terminal and enter the following command.

diskutil apfs addVolume disk3 APFS newAPFS

Replace disk3 with the name of the APFS Container. You can also replace newAPFS with whatever you want to name your newly created APFS drive.

Adding the APFS drive to your system
Adding the APFS drive to your system

Once done, you’ll have a new volume in Finder for the APFS drive. Now you can start experimenting with it.

An APFS drive in Finder on macOS Sierra 10.12.4
An APFS drive in Finder on macOS Sierra 10.12.4

When you’re done playing around and want to reclaim the drive for HFS+ or something else, Disk Utility will happily do that for you. For further reading, check out how to format a drive With GUID for macOS Ventura.

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