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HFS+, or Hierarchical File System Plus, is the file system designed by Apple Computer[1] to supersede HFS. First introduced with Mac OS 8.1, one of the biggest differences was the lower allocation block size of 4kb, thereby increasing performance and lowering fragmentation [2].

There are structurally many differences between HFS and HFS+, which are listed below[3]:



HFS Plus


User visible name

Mac OS Standard

Mac OS Extended

Number of allocation blocks

16 bits worth

32 bits worth

Radical decrease in disk space used on large volumes, and a larger number of files per volume.

Long file names

31 characters

255 characters

Obvious user benefit; also improves cross-platform compatibility

File name encoding



Allows for international-friendly file names, including mixed script names

File/folder attributes

Support for fixed size attributes (FileInfo and ExtendedFileInfo)

Allows for future meta-data extensions

Future systems may use metadata for a richer Finder experience

OS startup support

System Folder ID

Also supports a dedicated startup file

May help non-Mac OS systems to boot from HFS Plus volumes

catalog node size

512 bytes

4 KB

Maintains efficiency in the face of the other changes. (This larger catalog node size is due to the much longer file names [512 bytes as opposed to 32 bytes], and larger catalog records (because of more/larger fields)).

Maximum file size

231 bytes

263 bytes

Obvious user benefit, especially for multimedia content creators.

An HFS+ volume contains five special files that are necessary to the file system: <nl>

  • Catalog file
  • Extents overflow file
  • Allocation file
  • Attributes file
  • Startup file
  • </nl>