How to Move the Home Folder in OS X – and Why

Someone, who can be identified as Darwin9 in the chat room, sent me a “How to Move the Home Folder in OS X Leopard.” I hadn’t done it yet, but it’s something that I was hoping to do for my next installation.

  1. Click on ‘Macintosh HD’ in the Finder and open the ‘Users’ folder. In here you will find a folder named after your shortname. This is your home folder. As it is currently your active home folder it will have a ‘house’ icon assigned to it. Copy this folder to the 2nd hardrive by simply dragging it (moving files / folders to a 2nd volume in OS X only copies the content, it doesn’t remove it from its original location). Note: The copied folder will not have the ‘house’ icon as it is not yet recognized as you active home folder. We will change this in the following steps.
  2. Open the ‘System Preferences’ application from either the Dock, the Applications folder or from the Apple menu.
  3. Click on the ‘Accounts’ icon in the ‘System’ section.
  4. After entering your password to unlock the padlock, CTL-Click (or right click if you have this enabled for your mouse) on the active admin account (from the list of user accounts in the left pane) to reveal an ‘Advanced Options’ contextual menu. Select this item.
  5. You will be presented with a pane full of advanced settings (and also a warning about how you should only change these settings if you know what you are doing!). Ignore all of these settings except for the ‘Home Directory’ option. This is the path that OS X uses to locate your home folder when you login. It should say: /Users/shortname
  6. Click on the ‘Choose’ button, and browse to the home folder in the new location (this will be the folder you moved in Step 1 which will be named after your shortname). After you select the new location, the ‘Home directory’ path should change to something like: /Volumes/shortname.
  7. OS X will continue to use the original home folder until you restart. So restart the computer and login as normal. To confirm that the new home folder is now active, browse to the folder you copied to the 2nd hardrive and check it has the ‘house’ icon assigned to it. Now that your home folder is successfully located on your 2nd drive, you can delete the original home folder in the Users folder. It should now have a generic folder icon as it is no longer the active home folder.

Why would you bother to move your ‘Home’ folder at all? For the same reason why I recommend you keep your ‘My Documents’ folder on a completely separate hard drive. It’s just easier to manage should something happen to your OS or primary drive. Scott added, in a follow-up email:

Everything will work just the same as normal, it’s all transparent to the user. The only difference will be that all of the stuff inside your home folder (Desktop, Documents, Downloads Pictures, Music, Movies, etc.) will actually be kept on the 2nd drive instead of on the 1st (boot drive).

This is great if you ever have to reinstall OS X, you can erase the 1st boot drive, reinstall OS X, and perform steps 2 – 7 again and you’ll be back up and running with all of your stuff in the home folder untouched! You don’t need to perform step 1 because the home folder is already on the 2nd drive at this point. You will have to install Applications and set Global and System Preferences again though as i will explain below.

All you have to understand is that OS X uses 4 distinct folders: Applications, Library, System and Users. The first 3 all have to remain on the 1st boot drive – Applications and its contents all have their permissions set to allow the System to read and write to them, so this is where you should keep ALL applications.

The Library is where all Admin level files are kept. These are files that effect every user globally like system preferences, and there permissions are set to only allow Admin users access to change things in here.

And the System folder is just that… it’s for the System only and you should very rarely have to change anything in this folder. Even if you try to mess with this folder as an Admin account holder, you will most likely be denied or asked to authenticate, because the System owns most of the files in here.

The 4th folder Users, includes a dedicated folder for each user (named after the shortname) that has been setup in OS X (This is the folder we located to the 2nd drive). All of your user files and folders and kept in here. Everything in this folder has the permissions set to allow only that individual user access to it. So the (User) Library folder in here is very similar to the (Admin) Library mentioned above, except that its contents are specific to only the user in question.

This means preferences that are specific to your personal stuff are kept in here. So things like custom application preferences, email accounts, user installed screen-savers, fonts, plug-ins and codecs, and your Desktop picture, Finder and Dock settings etc.

You could get away with changing the location of your home folder whenever you want probably, not just after the initial install. I warn against it because if something goes wrong it is effortless to start again in the beginning.

But OS X will handle moving your home folder just fine if you follow the steps I gave each time. If your wondering why it doesn’t break links between applications and preferences etc, its because OS X uses Directory Services to keep a central database of all users and the locations of their home folders etc in one place. When applications and preferences try to perform user specific actions, it all flows through Directory Services – So if you keep the database up to date by following the steps I provided, OS X will always know where everything is! 😉

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  2. Thanks man, these tips are helping me out alot. I just got my macbook pro and my plan is to be a mac guru within a week:D

    Also that top 100 apps list was aweome as well:)

  3. Do you think it could be possible to put your Home folder on a Time capsule drive and boot from that? If so how about having your MacBookPro boot from that same home folder. Just a wild dream maybe but it would save syncing two machines.

  4. Thank you for nice informative article : )

    I am just curious what happens when you boot up with the disk, containing the user folder, disconnected?

  5. very interesting…. but you didn’t specify how this would work on the different hardware configs… i have a Mac Pro at work, and could easily install another hard drive to do this, but what about my iMac at home? or Mac Books, all our files would be on peripheral harddrives? does that slow down everything?

  6. Yeow!! Great tip!!! Just what I needed as I am using my boot drive for apps only and have all my files on another 1TB internal drive. Having the home folder on the boot drive has been a PITA….

  7. Ok…living dangerously…

    I have a 320GB boot drive and 2 x 1TB drives on my Mac Pro, 1 for files and one for Time Machine.

    Instead of having the home folder inside the drive for files, I made the actual physical volume be the home folder. Seems to be working. Is there any reason why making the home folder a physical volume instead of a nested folder is a bad idea?

    I do notice that some apps are not finding the things they should now that I have moved the home folder. For example I had to tell VMWare Fusion where the disk image of the Virtual machine was. Time will tell what else may be a bit screwy, since I did this to an existing install….

    Wish I had known about this a week ago when I got the new computer!!!

  8. Uh, no.
    If you use Leopard, use that “other drive” for Time Machine, which is brilliant. If you’re using Tiger, use SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner and do incremental. Keeping track of “where things are” will be easier. Relocating your home folder is a recipe for disaster.

  9. “… OS X uses 4 … folders.”

    Really? I’ve got more than four directories [at the top level] on my installation, namely:


    Of course, some of those are hidden directories. But they’re there.

  10. Moving the home folder to a 2nd drive is not just for backup and recovery purposes. The main reason for doing this on a machine with multiple internal hardrives is for performance. All hardrives in a Mac Pro have a dedicated connection to the Logic Board, so having the OS and data on different drives is a lot more efficient as both can be accessed separately without slowing each other down.

    This tip was primarily a Mac Pro tip for Chris as he is going to be using multiple hardrives in his setup, although it can be done on any mac machine with a single drive split into multiple partitions.

    Bluejade / Jack: I have not tried moving the home folder to an external drive, but i suspect it would cause problems if it ever became disconnected. So i would advise against it.

    L. Kern: I can assure you i have been using this tip since the days of Panther on a production machine running Office, Adobe CS and Apple Pro Apps, and it has never resulted in a disaster of any kind. Time Machine still works just fine with this setup on Leopard, as do all other apps i have used in OS X. Apple would not have added this option if there was not a valid reason for doing so.



  11. Steve: The invisible files/folders you mention in the root directory are Unix and System files/folders, and as such should remain on the boot drive. I did not mention these folders as it would only have added complexity to the tip.

    Most users have no reason to worry about these files, thats why they are invisible.



  12. My question is this: is it a good idea to do the following on my MacBook Pro:

    1. Copy my Home folder to an external drive
    2. Create a new user
    3. Delete my original folder on my laptop and log in as the new user?

    Reasons for doing this would be to free up space as my current Home folder uses almost 70GB of my drive and I need more to run XP for the two apps I need to run in XP via parallels. Also, I would be able to logon as my original user when at home and connected to my external drive.

    Does this make any sense to anyone?

  13. I’ve had problems since I moved my home folder to a 2nd hard drive (G5 tower 10.4)
    -System preferences refuse to remember Mouse/Keyboard shortcut settings after loggin back in. Also screen saver preferences are ignored and I’m forever stuck with bloddy “flurry” screensaver.

    Tried all suggested tips (reinstallin System Prefs via pacifist) deleting .plist etc, but no joy.

    In addition, keychain login is always locked (even after I unlock it in the so I need to enter my login everytime I launch

    I wonder if anybody else has had the same problem and knows how to fixit …

  14. Thanks for this great tip Chris.

    I just upgraded to Leopard and made the leap of having a separate drive for user data. The only problem I had was with separate accounts for my kids, I had to fix permissions for their user areas. I made them owners or their user areas but still gave myself (administrator account) read and write. Seems to be working fine so far.

    Now I want to investigate stripping my day to day user account of administrative privileges and creating a dedicated admin account. I am thinking I might keep it’s user data on boot drive. What do you think Chris?

  15. Hey,

    this was excatly what I have been looking for, however, I am not able to log back in anymore. I am pretty sure it did everything just as you suggested, but regardless, I will have to get back in somehow. Since I can’t log on (tells me an error occured), is there a way to roll back from the commandline ( i get into a shell by reboot pressing ctrl+s)? Hope you won’t have me reinstall the whole system…

    Thanks for your assistance…

  16. Hey, I have just had the same problem as the guy above!

    I can’t log back in, it just says an error occurred. Do you know how to fix this? I can get in via my MacBook via target disk mode, but nothing seems to be working.

    Please, having followed your suggestions precisely, I really need your help.

  17. Chris.
    I followed the instructions in your article on How to move the Home Folder and you stated that you had not tried it.
    I followed the instructions and it seems to work perfectly.

  18. You may not be able to login because your permissions did not get copied correctly, and you may not have “Ignore ownership permissions” checked on the Get Info of the FireWire drive.

    Just moving the folder with the GUI is probably not the best way to do this.

    I would recommend using the terminal and something more along the lines of:

    ditto -V -rsrcFork /Volumes/Macintosh HD/Users/user /Volumes/Firewire HD/Users/user


    sudo chown -R user:staff /Volumes/Firewire HD/melvin/

  19. hi…
    i moved my home folder to my backup drive like the post says…and everything is working fine. BUT i’m having other (unrelated) tech issues with my mac mini and took it in to the apple store to have it checked out/fixed, and they won’t touch my computer because having your home folder on a backup drive is not supported by apple, even thought i bought their extended warranty.
    can you please please please tell me how to move it back?
    i tried on my own, but my home folder still points to the backup drive.

    thanks. i can be emailed at [email protected] if anyone can help. i need my computer checked out/fixed ASAP for school. =(

  20. Is it possible to create a bootable clone from the above setup that contains the OS + Apps + Home folder?

  21. I have been searching for an answer to a related question:

    I want to create a ‘Media’ folder in my home folder, and move the Music, Movies, and Pictures folders into it.

    I need to know how to change the location of the ‘system’ folders so that OS X knows where to find them.

    I know it can be done in Windows and Linux, so I’m sure it can be done in X, I just can’t find out how to go about it.

    Thanks all,


  22. I had this configuration for a while on my previous setup (a G5 tower with two HDs) and I liked the performance and security. However, I did have some issues with Acrobat Pro/Distiller that were solved by reverting back to the standard setup. I have yet to try this with my Mac Pro/Leopard system but I may at some point when I have some extra time. I do a lot of work with Photoshop and Final Cut (huge applications working on huge files), so spreading the joy across a couple of disks always beneficial for me. However, I’d caution folks who do this to double-check and make sure that files/data are going to the correct version of the user’s home folder. Also, using ditto and chown from the terminal is, IMHO, a safer way to go.

    Nice writeup!

  23. Is it possible to host some mailboxes in Mail on one disk and others on another. I have a work laptop, I like to keep my work emails on the laptop, but I would like to keep my personal emails on a USB memory stick. With Eudora it was easy, I just moved the preferences and all the personal mailboxes to the USB stick. I haven’t been able to find a way to do with Mail. Also, I would like the attachments from both accounts to go to different folders

    Any ideas?


  24. Hi Chris and thanks for this fantastic tip. It really helped me to get my mac more secured and more at my convenience.

  25. Hey guys,

    I just got a 500Gb Firewire external HD and I’m researching on the best way to use it. At the beginning I wanted to move everything but the System Folder to the external so Tiger could run from the internal (40Gb). Upon reading posts and articles here and there, seems like that would not be advisable.
    I’m guessing the best way to go is to move all my Pics (including the iPhoto library), Music (same case for iTunes), Movies and Docs.
    Should move the entire folders to the external and then place aliases of each folder back in the Home in the internal?
    Thanks in advance for the suggestions!

  26. Hi, i can’t right click or ctrl+click on my admin user. nothing comes up!

    I varified that my right click and ctrl click works on other files.

    any ideas.

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  29. @Ahriman: I did that with my iTunes folder some years ago and have never had a problem with it. On the internal drive, it’s just an alias inside the Music folder, pointing to a partitioned FireWire drive with the actual iTunes files on it.

  30. Hi, I hit the same problem as OLE, “logging in to the account failed because an error occurred”.

    I guess this is because the permission for home directory didn’t get copied correctly. I got to step 6, changed the location of the home directory and now can’t log in. I didn’t delete the original so if someone could tell be how to return the location of the home directory back to the original location without needing to log in as a user that’d be fantastic.


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  32. Thanks for the article. However, I’ve made something of an error…

    I moved the library folder to a server – of course the server is not mounted at the time the machine starts up so I can’t, now log in to the machine itself. I get the same error others have talked about above.

    Is there a way I can restore the home folder location in the user account to the original, local folder?

    I know you gave fair warning and this is a clear case of PEBCAK but, if you have any suggestions, I’d be glad to hear ’em!


  33. I followed this procedure so my home folder is now on my 2nd drive. Here’s what confuses me: My Home user folder (with the house icon) is on HD2 but my Users folder (with the user icon) is still on HD1, and in that Users folder is (an old copy?) of my Home folder (which I already copied to HD 2). Does the Users folder have to stay on the 1st drive? If not, how would I reassign it to my 2nd drive?


  34. I think Ahriman and William have the better approach for your average user (me). Keep it simple and have it make sense in your head. Less room for trouble and user error that way and you keep all your documents (save for the space hogs (photos, tunes, movies) in one place so you can make clones and offsite clones with ease. You can back up your your disk space hogs on the separate drive(s) as you choose separately, since those BUs will take much longer to execute.

    I don’t know about any performance enhancements from moving the home folder but I have pretty old G4 running Tiger and it seems plenty fast.

  35. The concept use to work, however the Apple OS no longer supports it according to the Apple Tech Support line. After relocating my /user director and applying the 10.5 upgrade, my users began experiencing no end of problems from failed patches to the /user home directories being set to “Read Only”. Upon contacting Apple I was informed directly by their tech support line that OSX 10.5 DOES NOT support relocation of the /user directory path and that it must be on the boot drive. Their recommendation is that all the user data can be redirected to other drives by either application preferences pointing to the application location or through logical links. When I attempted, as a UNIX professional, to explain why this flies in the face of the precepts of the UNIX operating system – their technical support was – well – unconcerned.

  36. I just completed doing this yesterday with OS 10.5.5. Most things went smoothly. The only odd occurrence was that dragging and dropping the home folder did not result in its contents being copied. I dragged and dropped each of the items in the home folder to the new home folder and they were successfully copied.

    After changing the path to the new home folder/drive and restarting things have behaved normally. I have not yet updated to OS 10.5.6. I have made a backup of the new home folder/drive and will update the OS after I have a chance to back up the new boot drive as well.

  37. Hi Chris,

    In brief, the tip sounds great but from my experiences I’d strongly recommend against it. I did exactly as you suggested three months ago and all was fine yet this morning I’ve had endless trouble because my Mac ‘lost’ the home directory and went back to a default user set up and then, when I re-directed it using the account preferences panel, it completely lost any users’ home directory and I was locked out of my Mac. It’s taken a morning and a long phone call with one of Apple Care’s senior engineers to sort it out.

    The bottom line from Apple is the solution you’re suggesting is intended for large networks of Macs (such as in colleges) where for security you may wish to store user details on an X-serve elsewhere. The Apple Care guy said don’t do it on your home mac with external drives as it’s not stable enough and that he didn’t think it was covered under Apple Care support if you did.

    My issue was not having space for large amounts of MP3 and photo data on the local HD, in which case there are ways of pointing iTunes, iPhoto etc. to external drives. I understand your reasoning for keeping valuable data separate to the OS, but I’m trusting to Time Machine (on a second external HD) to look after that for me.

    Thanks for posting anyway. It’s always good to share the knowledge, even if we later discover there might be loopholes to plug.

    Best regards from the North of England,

  38. Would this work if you moved it to a partition that was FAT32-formatted? I’d like to set up a FAT32 partition that I could get to from both Bootcamp and Mac OS.

  39. Simon above mentions having a problem doing this with an EXTERNAL drive, but Darwin9 had recommended against that earlier, anyway.

    We moved the Home Folder on one of our Mac Pro’s to a second *internal* HD — actually a RAID 0 — about a year ago, and have had no problems that we know of thus far. Snow Leopard updated just fine.

    Thanks for the tip.

  40. I’ve been using this method for quite some time. It’s great!

    The individuals that are no longer able to log back into their account should try this: Boot the computer and log into a “guest”, then use the fast user switching to log into your account located on the separate drive. it works for me. I think it is due to the external/alternate drive not being fully mounted? Not really sure.

    I do know I get the same error unless I log into an account located on the drive containing the OS first. Sure would like to avoid the extra step, but do not know another work-around at this time.

  41. Hi I can’t complete steps 4 or 5, ctrl clicking on the account admin icon thing wont work for me! Any ideas why?

  42. Do not do this!!!
    I am on snow leo, simply copy-pasting using finder is not enough, you must also be aware of permissions, they are not copied correctly, the new user’s home dir must chown to the user.

    I repeat, read all the comments in this post before doing it!
    Pirillo, please try your tutorial, you will see what i mean.

    • its just an allias to the home folder, the only thing that goes wrong is if the use is not aware of the file path aka file located @ / hd drive / in etc

      its not the same because the home folder is not located in the same drive, i would rename the drive the home folder will be on ‘Macintosh hd’ or whatever name you want BEFORE you copy it, BEFORE not after

  43. I’m having the same problem as Thomas and Aine, I cannot ctrl-click on my user account and get the advanced options menu. Is it something to do with being a 10.4.11 laggard, or is there some security option I am missing? It’s super-annoying…

  44. “Applications and its contents all have their permissions set to allow the System to read and write to them, so this is where you should keep ALL applications.”

    I was hoping to set up my mac with Home folders on other drives, but with certain apps specific to certain users – e.g. a ‘Pro’ user which holds CS4 and FCS and very little else, and a ‘Home’ user that has games, odds-and-ends and standard stuff on. The idea being that the two are completely separate. Is this possible? Are you advising against installing any apps in ~/Applications?


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  46. I got better results this way:

    *Create an alternate login that can administrate the system.
    *Logout of my account and login to the alternate admin
    *run terminal and do the comands which require alt admin password:
    *sudo rsync -at /Users/me/ /Newvol/Users/me
    *sudo mv /Users/me /Users/

    *Run system settings and change my account home to the new folder
    *logout of alt admin and login to my normal account.
    When I feel comfortable that everything is working right I can remove the /Users/ or if things go badly, reverse the process.

    • (assuming Mac OS X 10.4 or newer)Including –extended-attributes (or -E) with rsynch is probably a good idea. (the -t is redundant with -a)sudo rsynch -aE /Users/me/ /Newvol/Users/meRecommended reading is the ‘man’ page for rsync. In the terminal type ‘man rsynch’This is an interesting article on using rsync

  47. Hey Chris,

    I order the new 6 core and will be putting an SSD in for the boot drive (not sure how to do that, yet but…) and wondering if I do a “migration” of my old computer while the 1TB it comes with is in there, and then do the SSD and THEN do this moving of the Home?

    I’m super confused, and I haven’t even gotten it yet.

  48. Easy solution which I think might be safer. Copy the main large folders inside your user ‘Home’ folder (Documents, Downloads, Pictures, Movies etc) to the second drive (I didn’t copy the users Library one – it’s not that big and is more likely to cause problems). Use the ‘Symbolic Linker’ plugin/service (Google it) to create symbolic links to those new folder locations back in the original spots in the Home folder on the boot drive (you may need to rename the originals – i.e. oldDocuments, etc to enable naming the symbolic link correctly).

    Step by step:
    Copy Username – ‘Documents’ folder to second drive.
    Create symbolic link to the ‘Documents’ folder on second drive.
    Copy that symbolic link ‘Documents symlink’ to the original location of ‘Documents’.
    Rename original ‘Documents’ ‘oldDocuments’.
    Rename ‘Documents symlink’ to ‘Documents’.

    • This sounds like a workable idea, but you might want to log-in to a different administrative account while doing it so you’re not changing an active account while you perform the multi-step process.


    After moving your user folder, did you rename the disk that you put this folder in?

    If you did, it will NOT update in the advanced user settings…

    YOU WILL HAVE TO MANUALLY UPDATE THIS PATH, the same way as described in the article.

    Hopefully you will have at least one user on the system drive, so you are able to log in at all.

    Leave the Admin user on the system drive!
    Don’t change the name of your (new) users drive!

    This solved my problem with “unknown error” on login.

    • I had this same error Bard, but I’m not sure from your description how to fix it. I’m not clear on what yo u meant by “YOU WILL HAVE TO MANUALLY UPDATE THIS PATH”. Which path and how do your update it?  

      Background: I bought a 40GB SSD drive for my Mac Pro which currently has 10.6.8 installed on a 1TB drive. I installed 10.6 on the new 40GB SSD to use as a boot disk, migrated my apps and user data to the new drive using Migration Assistant + Time Machine, then created a new user account on the new OS install.  All of my apps were there on the new OS and new SSD drive, so I then followed the instruction in this article to re-map my original home folder (still on the original 1TB HDD) to store all of my home folder date etc.  This seemed to work fine and I rebooted into the 40GB SSD with no issues.  Then I changed the older Macintosh HD name to “Macintosh HDD” and renamed my new 40GB boot drive to “Macintosh SSD” so as to avoid a bit of confusion in the Finder.  After rebooting I got the same error you mentioned in your post.   I am going to try reverting back to the old names to see if that will work. Do you think renaming the Maciontsh HD drive names is what did it?  Any other thoughts how to fix it? 

    • I had this same error Bard, but I’m not sure from your description how to fix it. I’m not clear on what yo u meant by “YOU WILL HAVE TO MANUALLY UPDATE THIS PATH”. Which path and how do your update it?  

      Background: I bought a 40GB SSD drive for my Mac Pro which currently has 10.6.8 installed on a 1TB drive. I installed 10.6 on the new 40GB SSD to use as a boot disk, migrated my apps and user data to the new drive using Migration Assistant + Time Machine, then created a new user account on the new OS install.  All of my apps were there on the new OS and new SSD drive, so I then followed the instruction in this article to re-map my original home folder (still on the original 1TB HDD) to store all of my home folder date etc.  This seemed to work fine and I rebooted into the 40GB SSD with no issues.  Then I changed the older Macintosh HD name to “Macintosh HDD” and renamed my new 40GB boot drive to “Macintosh SSD” so as to avoid a bit of confusion in the Finder.  After rebooting I got the same error you mentioned in your post.   I am going to try reverting back to the old names to see if that will work. Do you think renaming the Maciontsh HD drive names is what did it?  Any other thoughts how to fix it? 

      • Ian, since the volume names are part of the path you choose (/Volumes/shortname) when you moved the Home Directory in Advanced Options, it seems like that this will have to be updated when you rename it. So, in summary, I think that changing the SSD volume name it what caused your problem.

        • You’re right Martin. That was the issue and looking back, the first comment answered this but I couldn’t follow his wording at the time. If you do change the name of either drive it needs to be done before re-pointing the Account in System prefs. If you do it afterwards, you need to go back into System Prefs to re-point to the new name.

          I’ve also learned that if the two drive names are infact the same (both Macintosh HD for example), Time Machine gets confused and won’t back up either. If you leave the two drive names the same, the best bet is to use the “exclude folder/drive” option in Time Machine Options and add or “exclude” the SDD. Although renaming one or more of the drives before re-pouting seem like a better option.

          Thanks for your input Martin.

  50. I’m totally new to this site having been directed via Mac Forums. And very glad I was because Chris’ article and the ensuing comments are very relevant to my situation.

    I have recently bought an iMac 27″ quad i7 with a SSD and a 1TB HD. (Apple calls the latter HD2)

    My Time Machine from a previous iMac put everything on the SSD.

    Since then I have manually moved my Documents to the HD2 and, using Apple’s Support Centre instructions, moved my iPhoto, iTunes & Aperture 3 Libraries to HD2.

    All of these moves are reversible. I have not relocated my Home Folder because I didn’t know you could and anyway I scared stiff of doing things like that!

    So that what remains on SSD are my Applications, Library, Systems and Users — my Home Folder still resides there minus the libraries mentioned above and my Documents.

    Everything works great. Everything connects up, everything is recognised.

    I use Time Machine (TM) as back up.

    My question is this: what does Time Machine actually back up? Is it SSD and HD2 or only HD2? If I had to do a total restore from TM, what would be restored and to where?

    Can anyone advise please?

    With sincere thanks.


  51. This worked great with no problems at all, my only concern is reversing the procedure. It will not simply let you copy the home folder back to the original.. you have to authenticate but still creates a new user and has little red ‘no entry’ symbols on your home folders.. downloads, desktop etc etc

    Any ideas people?

  52. I moved my home folder to an external drive last summer. I clicked on HD, then Users, then dragged the house with my name on it to the external drive. This is what the folks at the Apple store told me to do. I just tried to do it again, but it wouldn’t allow me. It looks like I never did the second step of renaming it. However, if I do move it again by first fixing what I did the first time and following your process, can I still use my computer without the external drive plugged in? Isn’t the new Home folder now on the external hard drive? If so, does this mean I can’t use my computer or add my songs to iTunes or more documents, etc. with out it plugged in?

    Let me know when you can before I do something stupid :)!!!!

    Thanks a million!!!!

  53. Leopard 10.8 Most things work OK but Firefox, Opera and even Preview dialog boxes can’t find the folders on the external drive. Is there a solution?

  54. I moved my folder successfully. Thanks. However, my Documents and Downloads icons in the Dock are still pointing too the old location. Do you know how to fix this and why this has happened to me but not others it seems?

  55. I moved my folder successfully. Thanks. However, my Documents and Downloads icons in the Dock are still pointing too the old location. Do you know how to fix this and why this has happened to me but not others it seems?

  56. For the people that needed to reverse the process.
    In my case it was taking the Admin home folder in the separate HD to the System/Boot HD. I tried simple copy command but the folder in the destination drive (System/Boot HD) would have to be fussed with permissions, additionally and for a reason that I didn’t understand, I had issues copying the library folder in particular.  What I did was running a back up client and backed up the home folder in interest (Admin folder in my case) to the destination drive (in my case to the Boot/System drive). I used Intego Personal Back up, enabling the ‘copy all files and permissions’ as well as enabling authenticating before backing up. At the end, it copied the folder to where I wanted to, changed the home folder location (per Chris’ explanation above), restarted the computer and it worked as expected.  I see now the house icon for Admin in my Boot/System drive, all preferences kept as I had them before.
    It was a mistake from my part moving the administrator home folder out of the boot/system drive. I’m running an eSata external drive from a Mac Mini, at some point the eSata cable did not make good connection to the external drive, and that caused me log in problems. Ensuring the cable made good connection to the external drive solved the problem but I wanted to make sure this did not happen again, at least when logging in as Administrator. Moving the folder back to the System/Boot drive will certainly take care of this.
    Hope this helps.

    PS: Other users home folders that I needed to move to a different drive, I
    was able to do fine using Chris’ instructions above. -Thanks for the
    detailed instructions Chris.

  57. does not work on lion … when you log in with the new user, with the home at the new partition, ” System Preferences ” wont open

    • How to fix this?? I followed another guide saying this was Lion-compatible.. but no.. anyway to restore without reinstalling?

    • I’ve searched all over the net for a solution to this issue, however nothing seems to remedy it. I’m currently stuck with my home folder on one drive because OSX simply resets my settings and disengages me from key applications on restart.

        • If you drag-and-drop the home folder itself (from /Users), rather than selecting all the contents of the home folder and drag-and-dropping those, it should include any and all hidden files and folders contained therein. There are plenty of hidden files and folders other than the main Library folder that would probably cause things to break if they went missing.

  58. Unfortunately this is an incorrect method of doing this. Here’s the real way of doing it (without breaking your system)

    OSX default copy tool does not preserve the permissions of the user directory that you are moving, so even if you change the user directory to the newly copied home you can log in but your user is pretty much hosed. Applications wont run etc etc. In fact using the CP command or Rsync won’t do it either. You have to utilize an OSX only command line tool ditto!

    So logged in as yourself open a terminal window and type 

    sudo -i

  59. I moved the whole users folder over, changed the address and it worked like a dream. I know it’s a bit scary messing around with User / Group section, but it really was so simple. Great sfuff Chris. This was on Mac OS 10.7.4

  60. chris.

    i am trying to take advantage of your great post to relocate my Home Folder to my new Data Drive (Raid 1 in bay 3 and 4) upon migrating from Snow Leopard (in bay 2). I now have Lion and a boot camp install of Windows 7 on my new drive in bay 1. I migrate to mac 2 years ago and i am a little desperate to get out of the weeds over here.

    UNFORTUNATELY my IT guy who just left for california on a road trip had me migrate Applications, Applications (parallels), Desktop and Dropbox but nothing else when i moved from Snow Leopard to Lion.

    so now I have the FULL CONTENTS of my original Snow Leopard Home Folder on my data drive (as you explain) but i am hesitant to RE-POINT the path because i have this “extra data” in the Lion OS even though it is also now also in the Home Folder on the Data Drive.

    I am wondering if you would advise that I 1. re-install the Lion OS (and if you know if this would require re-installing windows 7 as well…), or 2. just re-point Lion to the new Home Folder or 3. re-point to the new Home Folder and delete the files on Lion (or even delete the whole Home Folder on Lion) or 4. delete the files on Lion and re-point…

    I have multiple backups of the Snow Leopard OS and I plan on archiving at least one of these off site.




  61. This is great too, if you have an SSD drive as your primary drive and the second disk is used for data. SSD’s are not meant to store huge amounts of data.

  62. This worked perfectly for me running OS X Mavericks – the only weird part was after restarting, it brought me to the ‘setup’ screen again, as if I had accidentally wiped my entire drive & was starting all over! I hurried through the setup again & when it took me to the desktop, all my files were there & my home folder was right where I copied it to, and it had house icon as well, showing it was the official home folder. Great tip, thank you!

  63. hi Chris, its so nice you share this geek aka nerdy info, i dont think its that geeky or nerdy but logical to store your documents (files, music and photos etc) on a external drive because the only other things you will needs if anything goes wrong are prefs files, the apps re easy to re install if you have to do a fresh restart and its rare anything does go wrong unless one is abusive these days and uses kracks

  64. Just tried this today to move my “home” folder to a WD Raptor and the Mac OS (10.8.5-Mtn Lion) System to an SSD. Worked great… almost no problems… However, did NOT use Finder to copy, I used Carbon Copy Cloner, since that copies hidden files and checks for permissions and such. Also, the “Accounts” System Preference has been replaced by “Users and Groups”. But you can follow the same steps by right-clicking your Admin Username and choosing Advanced Options. Also-Also, your preference files will probably be corrupted or tossed out. I had to CMD/CTRL/SHFT-click launch my Adobe apps to set everything to default…AND…had to reactivate my MS products…so you might want to keep your Act/Ser No codes handy. But other than those 2 points, pretty much flawless.

    Thanks, Chris! You definitely did me a solid.