Mac Supported File Systems (APFS, HFS+, exFAT, FAT32, etc.)

Cassie Xie
Last updated: Jan 3, 2024
Summary: This post mainly introduces Mac supported file systems. Mac supports APFS, Mac OS Extended (HFS+), exFAT, FAT32, etc.

macOS supports several file systems including APFS, Mac OS Extended (HFS+), exFAT, FAT32, etc. Each file system format has its own characteristics and use cases. Check the detailed explanation of the most commonly used file systems on Mac.

Mac file system

Mac Supported File Systems

APFS (Apple File System)

  • APFS (Apple File System), developed by Microsoft, is the default file system for macOS High Sierra and later.
  • APFS aims to fix problems of HFS+ (also called Mac OS Extended), APFS’s predecessor.
  • APFS is optimized for solid-state drives (SSDs).
  • It supports encryption, snapshots, and features improved data integrity.
  • APFS is not compatible with older versions of macOS.

HFS+ (Mac OS Extended)

  • Another native Mac OS file system is Mac OS Extended (HFS+). It was also developed by Apple and was used as the primary macOS file system before APFS.
  • HFS+ is compatible with new and old macOS versions.
  • APFS vs Mac OS Extended, HFS+ is not optimized for SSDs and lacks some of the advanced features of APFS.


  • Aside from the native Mac file systems APFS and HFS+, macOS also supports several other popular file system formats. One is exFAT (Extensible File Allocation Table). exFAT is introduced by Microsoft in 2006.
  • exFAT is optimized for USB flash drives, SD cards, and other removable storage devices.
  • exFAT vs NTFS, exFAT can be used where NTFS is not a good option due to its overhead data structure.
  • exFAT is used as the default file system for SDXC cards larger than 32 GB.
  • exFAT is a file system for cross-platform compatibility. If you need to use a drive on both Mac and Windows systems, formatting the drive to exFAT is the best choice.


  • FAT32 is the predecessor of exFAT, also developed by Microsoft. macOS also supports this file system.
  • FAT32 is an older file system that is compatible with various devices and operating systems including macOS, Windows, and some gaming consoles. Many portable devices still use the FAT format due to its good compatibility.
  • FAT32 has some limitations, e.g., a maximum file size of 4 GB, and a maximum volume size of 2TB. Due to these limitations, FAT32 is not a good choice for larger drives or files.

NTFS (Read-Only)

  • NTFS (New Technology File System) is a file system developed by Microsoft. NTFS replaced FAT as the default file system on Windows systems, starting from Windows XP.
  • Mac has limited support for the NTFS file system. macOS can read NTFS drives but cannot write to them.
  • To also write to NTFS drives on Mac, you need to use some third-party NTFS for Mac software applications.

BuhoNTFS is a professional NTFS for Mac software program that lets you easily read and write to NTFS drives on your Mac. Mount the NTFS drive to read and write status with one click.

For macOS 10.13 and above

What Is the Best Mac File System?

When choosing a file system for a hard drive or storage device, you should consider factors like compatibility with your devices, file size requirements, and the features of each file system. APFS file system is generally recommended for Mac internal drives, while the exFAT format is a good choice for external drives when you need to use the drive across different platforms.


This post mainly introduces Mac supported file systems. Mac supports APFS, HFS+, exFAT, FAT32, and offers limited support for NTFS. Hope the explanation in this post helps you better understand these file system formats and know how to choose the file system for Mac.

To clean and speed up your Mac computer, you can use BuhoCleaner – a professional Mac cleaner program.

Cassie has been writing about technology for her entire career life - over 5 years. She enjoys diving into how Apple products work and then breaking it down in a way anyone can understand.