Older Apple laptops and desktops used a file system called Mac OS Standard Format, which was also called HFS for short. The HFS stands for “Hierarchical File System”, and it was available for all Apple computers with Mac OS 8.0 and the previous versions which came before that. Then Apple created an upgrade called HFS+, which is short for Mac OS Extended Volume Hard Drive Format.
The Apple File System, also called APFS, was created for the iOS operating system and the Mac OS operating system. It is the operating system used in Apple mobile devices and all Apple computers running Mac OS 10.13 (High Sierra). APFS optimizes the file systems of the newest storage technologies, such as flash storage drives and solid-state drives. If you own an Apple Watch, Apple TV or MacBook, then it probably has APFS in it.
APFS is what most Apple users will want. This file system provides better security, safety, crash protection, and encryption than the outdated HFS+. All-solid-state drives and flash storage drives use APFS as their default file system now. HFS+ is no longer the default file system because it doesn’t offer the level of security and protection that is needed.
If your Mac computer contains an older version of Mac OS than version 10.3, then it probably uses the HFS+ file system. The HFS+ was certainly revolutionary while it lasted. It was the first file system to really offer superb disk encryption, compression, and journaling support. But since so many modern storage drives use flash technology, the HFS+ file system was phased out.
If you use a Mac OS 10.3 computer in conjunction with a hybrid drive or hard disk drive, then it will likely still use the HFS+ file system. Although it is possible to use APFS on a Mac OS 10.3 computer with a hybrid drive or hard disk drive, it is unknown whether it offers the same benefits offered on solid-state drives and portable flash drives. But if you had a computer with an older Mac OS version, then APFS would not be compatible with it at all.
Therefore, it should be obvious which file system is better. Just check to see which version of Mac OS you are running on your computer. If it is Mac OS version 10.3 or later and you have a solid-state drive, then you will need the APFS. But if you’re using a hard disk drive or hybrid disk drive, then the HFS+ file system is more compatible with it. And, of course, if you use a Mac computer that is older than Mac OS version 10.3, then always go with HFS+.
In terms of which file system is “better,” there is no question that APFS is better in terms of performance. It allows the Mac OS operating system to read and write data at lightning speed compared to HFS+. However, you shouldn’t automatically choose APFS because the real question here is about compatibility rather than performance. APFS may perform better with flash storage, but that offers a lot of limitations on compatibility with hard disk drives. So, take this into consideration.