For the release of Microsoft’s next operating system, Windows 8, the Redmond engineers have developed a new filesystem that incorporates many features to reduce file corruption and make working with terabytes of data much safer. The aptly named Resilient File System, or ReFS, will be backwards compatible with a number of NTFS features to make the transition smooth, and includes checksumming to ensure data integrity by comparing the before-and-after sums of data after it has been manipulated. For example, if you copy a document from one folder to another, checksumming will ensure that no bits are lost in the data writing process. When you handle gigabytes-upon-gigabytes of data every day, bit-rot can be a huge problem, so an advanced filesystem like ReFS can go a long way to protecting data.
Apple currently uses the HFS+ filesystem on Macs, but it’s beginning to show its age. HFS+ provides no checksumming or advanced scrubbing tools to preserve data, and while it’s good enough for most end users, it’s in desperate need of an overhaul. A few years back, Apple planned to use ZFS, but the project was abandoned use to licensing concerns. ZFS is the inspiration behind Microsofts ReFS, and is far more advanced than any current filesystem. It uses snapshots to save old files in a way similar to Apple’s Time Machine, checksums to compare data bit-for-bit, and even has an option for data deduplication to avoid storing identical files more than once.
Now that Microsoft has stepped up their game, we hope that Apple will take another look at ZFS, or create a future-proof filesystem of their own.