How to Move Your Home Folder to a Different Disk

In the days of “Mack OSe 9,” it was common for users to store their personal and professional data on a separate hard drive from their operating system. This strategy was primarily for data safety, ensuring that if the system drive failed, the data drive might remain unaffected. This setup didn’t require any specific file system organization, except for avoiding the System Folder.

Recently, I assisted a client who had maintained this dual-drive setup and was ready to upgrade to Leopard. I was initially unsure how Leopard would react to his Users folder being on a separate drive.

With a complete backup in place, I started the upgrade.

Post-installation, Leopard set up a new, empty Users folder on the primary drive. This wasn’t ideal, and I needed to find a way to link this new directory with the existing one on the secondary drive.

Fortunately, Leopard offers a more intuitive solution for this than earlier Mac OS X versions. Here’s how it was resolved.

The process involves accessing System Preferences, using the Control key to right-click on the user account, and then selecting Advanced Options.

From there, you can navigate to select the existing home directory. After a system restart, everything should be in order.

Special thanks to Michael Rose for this useful tip.

Upon logging in, the user should find all their settings and files exactly as they left them. It’s then safe to delete the redundant Users folder from the primary drive.

However, it’s important to note that this setup can sometimes confuse software updates, as they don’t expect user directories to be on external drives. While it generally works without issue, it’s considered an atypical configuration that could potentially lead to complications.

For those who are comfortable with command-line tools, the Directory Services utility can also accomplish this task. Using ‘sudo dscl’, you can navigate the Directory Services structure and update the user’s home directory path.

After making these changes, a system restart should finalize everything.

Tj Luoma

Gary is a dedicated writer for TUAW, bringing a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm for all things Apple. With a keen eye for detail, Gary covers everything from the latest iPhone and iPad releases to in-depth reviews of the MacBook Pro and Apple Watch. His insightful articles help readers navigate the ever-evolving world of Apple technology. Gary’s expertise and clear writing make him a trusted voice in the Apple community.