case insensitive filenames on Macs

What clown decided to make a Unix with case insensitive filenames? Oh, Apple, that’s who. I mean seriously? It’s tripped me up twice in the last day. To be fair there is an option to make a case-sensitive filesystem on Macs, but so much application software breaks if you do that it’s not a viable option.

I happen to think case-insensitive systems are generally better for humans to use than case sensitive. But Unix file systems have been case sensitive for over 40 years. Grawr.

3 thoughts on “case insensitive filenames on Macs

  1. They chose it as the default to ease migration from Classic Mac OS which only had case-insensitive file systems like Windows. FWIW, I have been using case-sensitive HFS+ for my filesystems since OS X 10.5, so daily for more than 5 years. Early on, I ran into a few cases of old-school Mac apps that had bugs with case-sensitive fs’s. While it’s possible that other bugs have gone undetected by me, I can’t recall the last time I’ve found one and there really were only a few. I may just be lucky, too. But I’d be totally dead in the water if case-sensitive didn’t work. The main drawback of moving to case-sensitive is that you need to dump, reinitialize, and reload the file system. I wish Apple would draw a line in the sand and say that, as of 10.9 or something, all new Macs will be shipped initialized with c-s file systems. It’s just not a big deal. Also, keep in mind it’s easy to create disk images or extenal drives with c-s file systems.

  2. Thanks for the comment Ned! Glad case sensitive is working for you, but maybe you’re just lucky. Photoshop doesn’t install correctly, reportedly neither does a bunch of other Adobe software. Neither does Steam, nor presumably many of the games it distributes. These are hardly obscure apps.

    I agree that a flag day would greatly improve the situation. I wonder if case sensitive compatibility is a requirement for being on the App Store?

    1. OK, two examples both with workarounds, albeit complex ones. Time for more people to put pressure on vendors who ship apps with broken installation processes. A requirement for App Store testing would be a sensible step although it wouldn’t help legacy apps with DRM-encumbered installers, like Photoshop, that are not distributed through the App Store. This Apple developer tech note ( does point out the iOS file systems are always case-sensitive so the growing base of apps common to both iOS and OS X should also help weed out the few remaining clunkers.

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