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?

    • 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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