APFS VS APFS Encrypted Title Image

You know there’s a difference between APFS and APFS encrypted.

But you’re not sure what the difference is.

Well then, today is your day.

Read on and find out about these two options. And just what sets them apart.

APFS VS APFS Encrypted

The APFS file system format is not encrypted by default. Lose your drive and someone could view your files.

Versus APFS Encrypted, it secures access to your drive with a password.

Without that password casual users or malicious users are unable to view your data. APFS encryption makes the drive unreadable without the right password.

APFS Encrypted is an optional version of the APFS file system.

At A Glance APFS Vs APFS (Encrypted)

Drive Secured By PasswordNoYes
Optimized For SSD’sYesYes
Older Mac SupportNoNo


Why Would You Pick APFS Instead of APFS Encrypted?

It depends on what level of file security you need as a Mac user. If the security of your files is important to you, because you take your external drive with you.

And you dare not risk having some thief looking at your files. Or a random person sneaking a peak at your sensitive data.

Then encryption is a way of protecting your files. Encryption secures your files with a password of your choice. And access to your files is only though using that password.

If you only use your Mac and its drives at your home. Or in your office. So, largely your Mac is physically secure. Or your Mac files aren’t particularly sensitive.

Then the standard version of APFS (Apple File System) would be fine for you to use.

The encryption password is an extra password. You’d input it each and every time you connect an external APFS encrypted drive onto a Mac.

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An External Hard Drive Or SSD As APFS Or Encrypted

APFS was made and is optimized for an SSD (Solid State Drive). APFS runs pretty well on an external hard drive but isn’t as optimized for it.

And this can lead to longer disk access times. And more wear and tear on an external hard drive because of the way the data is laid out on an APFS volume. [1]

New Macs – Macs with T1, T2 chips in them. An M1 Mac with Apple Silicon inside. Is designed to decrypt an APFS formatted drive on the fly using its inbuilt hardware. This means an encrypted volume runs as fast as standard APFS.

In contrast. APFS format on an external hard drive won’t run as fast as a non encrypted hard drive.

Click Here To Learn How To Format Your External Hard Drive With Disk Utility For Mac

APFS Or APFS Encrypted For Time Machine

When you’re concerned about securing your Time Machine backup.

Then you’ll be glad to find that since Mac OS Ventura your drive is formatted as APFS as part of the Time Machine set up. You can then choose to have your backup encrypted as part of the Time Machine set up.

In earlier Mac OS releases like Monterey or Big Sur you would use Disk Utility to format your external drive as APFS.

Note if your drive is shipped in an NTFS or ExFAT format, you’ll need to format as Mac OS Extended first. Then format as an APFS drive.

Then simply check mark the box to encrypt your backup. Do that when setting up your external drive in Time Machine. Your external storage volume is then changed to an encrypted APFS volume. And you’re asked to set up a password for your encrypted drive.

You’ll then need to enter that password to access the external drive. And this means you’ll need the password each time you backup up to. Or restore from the drive.

Encrypt and your backup is secured from prying eyes.

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A Bit Of Background On APFS And APFS Encrypted

Both APFS (Apple File System) and APFS encrypted are at their core the same file system. 

Brought to the market by Apple Inc. and released in in 2017. APFS was designed for the faster speed of an SSD (Solid State Drive) and a flash drive.

Introduced with Mac OS x High Sierra, now APFS is the default file system on a Mac’s internal drives. And you can use either the APFS format. Or the previous file system Mac OS Extended Journaled on external drives.

As Mac file systems you can format an external drive in either file system format with Disk Utility.

Apple Inc. has had. And improved on its encryption over many years from the original file system format. – Mac OS Extended Journaled (HFS+). And has improved security further with the APFS (Apple File System).

Modern Macs running Mac OS Mojave, Catalina, Big Sur and Monterey have internal SSD drives installed. And those drives run APFS and are not encrypted by default.

What If You Want APFS Encryption Rather Than APFS On Your Mac Internal Drive

There’s no need to boot to your Mac OS Recovery mode in an attempt to reformat your boot drive as APFS encrypted. The APFS system has the ability to switch on APFS encryption. You can do that on a APFS container without the need to reformat your drive.

How do you do this?

As a Mac user with administration access, you can turn on FileVault encryption.

In Mac OS Ventura you go to your System Settings. Scroll down to Privacy & Security on the left hand side of the window. Then scroll down to FileVault on the right hand side.

In previous releases of Mac OS, you’d do this in the Security and Privacy settings inside System Preferences.

This turns on encryption for your Mac’s internal drives.

A procedure that essentially uses the same security pathways as APFS encrypted.

Securing your Mac’s internal drives without the need to format your Macintosh HD as APFS encrypted.

And there is no extra password to remember. As your Mac’s administration password allows you access to your Filevault protected Mac drive.

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Using APFS Encrypted Vs APFS On A Mac Running Sierra Or Earlier

Neither APFS or APFS Encrypted file system is supported on a Mac running Mac OS Sierra (10.12). Or earlier.

This is because an older Mac running these earlier releases of Mac OS are not compatible with APFS. For those Macs you’ll need an external drive formatted to Mac OS Extended Journaled.

And for Macs running a Mac OS earlier than Big Sur. An APFS drive is not supported as a Time Machine backup drive. And that includes an APFS encrypted drive.

When you’re wanting encryption on those earlier releases of Mac OS. Mac OS Extended has an encrypted version you can use.

APFS Versus APFS Encrypted When Things Go Wrong

When you have an issue with your Mac drive. It’s normal to use Disk Utility First Aid to repair your drive and do data recovery. If Disk Utility fails. Then you’d seek out the services of a 3rd party data recovery service or software to recover data.

But as APFS is still a relatively new file format. There are less 3rd party data recovery tools out there on the market for you to use. And that is especially true of APFS encrypted.

It’s something to bear in mind.

Mac APFS Encrypted VS APFS FAQ

What Is The Difference Between APFS And APFS Encrypted

APFS is not an encrypted file system. Lose your external drive and someone else could plug that drive into their Mac and view your files.

APFS Encrypted uses a password to secure your files. It’s a version of APFS that ensures your files are not readable on the drive if plugged into another Mac. Or other software is used. APFS encrypted asks for and needs the right password entered before the files on the drive can be viewed.

Both APFS and APFS encrypted are Mac only file system formats.

Should I Use APFS Or APFS Encrypted?

This is a user choice. If you need to secure your files because they are sensitive. Commercially sensitive or contain private data then APFS encrypted gives you that security. If you’ve a need to secure your data, you should then pick the encrypted version of APFS.

Is APFS Encrypted

No, as standard Mac APFS is not encrypted. There is no extra password set to secure your files. And if your external drive is plugged into another Mac. Your files can be freely viewed on that Mac with normal APFS.

You can format a drive as APFS encrypted using the software utility Disk Utility on a Mac.

In Closing

We hope this blog post helped you understand the differences between APFS and APFS encrypted.

And now you know more about APFS compared to APFS encrypted. You can decide which to pick when you format your external drive.

While you’re here please feel free to check out our other articles on the site. You’ll find some around the format options you can pick for your Mac drive.

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APFS VS APFS Case Sensitive (Which One Or The Other)

ExFAT vs APFS (When To Use One Over The Other)

ExFAT Vs Mac Os Extended (When One Is Better Than The Other)

Time Machine APFS VS Mac OS Extended (Which and Why)

APFS VS Mac OS Extended (Compared) One 2 The Other

Mac OS Extended Journaled VS Case-Sensitive: Any Difference?

Mac OS Extended Journaled VS Encrypted (Choosing)