Most New iMacs Can’t Benefit From macOS High Sierra’s Best Update – Forbes

Buy an iMac recently? You might not get everything you thought you were getting. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Apple’s macOS High Sierra is now available. Usually this would be a happy day for just about every Mac-head out there (at least those with hardware from late-2009 forward). But the new operating system comes with a few caveats. It’s a good thing you just upgraded to a new iMac, so that you can take advantage of the brand new Apple File System (APFS) – Apple’s new way of storing your files that does the impossible by making things faster and safer at the same time. Yeah. About that…

Not So Fast

Most iMacs come standard with slower, less-expensive hard disk drive (HDD) storage. Even the most expensive 27-inch iMac only comes with a Fusion Drive (an HDD paired with a small solid-state drive, or SSD), Unless you paid extra to upgrade your new iMac to have a faster, SSD-only system ($200 for a an anemic 256GB drive, up to $1,400 for 2TB), you can’t convert your drive to APFS.

apfs 21-inch imacApple

The 21.5-inch, $1,099 model only offers a 512GB SSD option.

Initially in the macOS public beta for High Sierra, APFS was compatible with all types of storage Apple offers: HDD, HDD/SSD Fusion Drive, and SSD. In fact, Apple’s official APFS Developer FAQ page says that non-SSD drives are compatible with the new technology. But about halfway through the beta, automatic conversion to APFS was pulled for anything other than systems that used only SSD for storage (with the only fix for those, now-unsupported, HDD and Fusion Drives being to reformat, losing all data…this is why you don’t beta test your main system).

So Why Should You Care?

APFS is built for SSD storage, ditching the 19-year-old HFS+ file system that was built for old spinning-disk tech like that found in HDD and floppy drives. It encrypts your data and uses less memory and resources when retrieving and saving files.

In short – it keeps your files safe, helps save storage space, and keeps you from seeing beachball icons in macOS.

How To Get APFS

27-inch iMac StorageApple

A 27-inch iMac can be configured with up to a 2TB SSD drive, but it will cost you.

For older systems, the only option is to upgrade to SSD-only storage yourself or via a third-party vendor (such as OWC, who did the upgrade for my 2011 iMac). If you just purchased your iMac, you can take it back if you’re still in the 14 day return window and pay extra for a new system upgraded with SSD storage.

iMac Pro StorageApple

The only iMac with SSD standard isn’t out until December 2017

Or you can wait a couple of months, when the iMac Pro is released in December, customers won’t have to worry about whether or not their new computer is using old tech. The iMac Pro ships with a 1TB SSD standard.

But both of these are expensive options.

I understand why SSD storage isn’t included standard in less-expensive systems, that’s why they’re less expensive. The result, however, is baked-in customer dissatisfaction. It’s like shipping a computer with the minimum amount of RAM. You can technically do it, but it will ultimately disenfranchise your customer as small frustrations collect and grow. For a company that’s made a name for itself by lionizing customer experience, that’s a dangerous gamble.

Those of you with traditional spinning drives can actually upgrade now, but only for very specific circumstances. The HDD you want to convert can’t be the drive you boot your system from and you have to convert it manually from the Disk Utility – Apple won’t automatically do it for you when it installs High Sierra.

Apple is planning a future macOS update that will allow customers to convert Fusion Drives to APFS, but right now the timeline is unknown (as of publication, Apple has not responded to my request for comment).  It’s a frustrating situation for customers who have recently pulled the trigger on a new stock system, expecting that a new purchase would guarantee them the best of what Apple has to offer.

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