HFS Plus - Design


HFS Plus volumes are divided into sectors (called logical blocks in HFS), that are usually 512 bytes in size. These sectors are then grouped together into allocation blocks which can contain one or more sectors; the number of allocation blocks depends on the total size of the volume. HFS Plus uses a larger value to address allocation blocks than HFS, 32 bits rather than 16 bits; this means it can access 4,294,967,296 (= 232) allocation blocks rather than the 65,536 (= 216) allocation blocks available to HFS.

Formerly, HFS Plus volumes were embedded inside an HFS standard filesystem. This was phased out by the Tiger transition to Intel Macs, where the HFS Plus filesystem was not embedded inside a wrapper. The wrapper was designed for two purposes; it allowed Macintosh computers without HFS Plus support in their ROM to boot HFS Plus volumes and it also was designed to help users transition to HFS Plus by including a minimal HFS volume with a read-only file called Where_have_all_my_files_gone?, explaining to users with versions of Mac OS 8.0 and earlier without HFS Plus, that the volume requires a system with HFS Plus support. The original HFS volume contains a signature and an offset to the embedded HFS Plus volume within its volume header. All allocation blocks in the HFS volume which contain the embedded volume are mapped out of the HFS allocation file as bad blocks.

There are nine structures that make up a typical HFS Plus volume:

  1. Sectors 0 and 1 of the volume are HFS boot blocks. These are identical to the boot blocks in an HFS volume. They are part of the HFS wrapper.
  2. Sector 2 contains the Volume Header equivalent to the Master Directory Block in an HFS volume. The Volume Header stores a wide variety of data about the volume itself, for example the size of allocation blocks, a timestamp that indicates when the volume was created or the location of other volume structures such as the Catalog File or Extent Overflow File. The Volume Header is always located in the same place.
  3. The Allocation File which keeps track of which allocation blocks are free and which are in use. It is similar to the Volume Bitmap in HFS, in which each allocation block is represented by one bit. A zero means the block is free and a one means the block is in use. The main difference with the HFS Volume Bitmap, is that the Allocation File is stored as a regular file, it does not occupy a special reserved space near the beginning of the volume. The Allocation File can also change size and does not have to be stored contiguously within a volume.
  4. The Catalog File is a B-tree that contains records for all the files and directories stored in the volume. The HFS Plus Catalog File is very similar to the HFS Catalog File, the main differences being records are larger to allow more fields and to allow for those fields to be larger (for example to allow the longer 255-character unicode file names in HFS Plus). A record in the HFS Catalog File is 512 bytes in size, a record in the HFS Plus Catalog File is 4 KB in Mac OS and 8 KB in OS X. Fields in HFS are of fixed size, in HFS Plus the size can vary depending on the actual size of the data they store.
  5. The Extents Overflow File is another B-tree that records the allocation blocks that are allocated to each file as extents. Each file record in the Catalog File is capable of recording eight extents for each fork of a file; once those are used additional extents are recorded in the Extents Overflow File. Bad blocks are also recorded as extents in the Extents Overflow File. The default size of an extent record in Mac OS is 1 KB and 4 KB in OS X.
  6. The Attributes File is a new B-tree in HFS Plus that does not have a corresponding structure in HFS. The Attributes File can store three different types of 4 KB records: Inline Data Attribute records, Fork Data Attribute records and Extension Attribute records. Inline Data Attribute records store small attributes that can fit within the record itself. Fork Data Attribute records contain references to a maximum of eight extents that can hold larger attributes. Extension Attributes are used to extend a Fork Data Attribute record when its eight extent records are already used.
  7. The Startup File is designed for non-Mac OS systems that don't have HFS or HFS Plus support. It is similar to the Boot Blocks of an HFS volume.
  8. The second to last sector contains the Alternate Volume Header equivalent to the Alternate Master Directory Block of HFS.
  9. The last sector in the volume is reserved for use by Apple. It is used during the computer manufacturing process.

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