How do I Move a Destop Folder from One User Account to Another Easily?

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by jaybar, Jun 2, 2018.

  1. jaybar macrumors 6502a


    Dec 11, 2008

    We are a two person household, using one iMac (2013). Originally it was setup with one user account, where we shared a single Apple ID across all devices. We are in the process of changing that, and have created a second user with a different Apple ID.

    How do I Easily move a desktop folder from the primary account, to the new user account. I don’t want to share the folder. I just want to move it. We have turned on Family sharing and are now sharing an iCloud Drive, if that would help.

    How can I do this?

  2. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    1) place everything you want to transfer into one folder. this way you only have to do this once.

    2) Have the person who wants the files in their home folder to simply drag the folder to their desktop. How to join d some other user's desktop. Go to any finder window and navigate to yourmacsystemsik/Users/USERNAME/Desktop the look for the folder you want and COPY it to your desktop.

    The new copy will have the ownership of the person who did the copy. After it works and you verify this and have made backups, trash the originals. Of course everything in the folders needs to be readable by the second user. This is the normal default but you can change ig in the "get information" box down near the bottom.
  3. jaybar thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Dec 11, 2008
    I don’t understand. How do get both users up at the same time, so I can just move it from one to the other.
  4. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    All desktop items are kept in a folder called /SystemDisk/Users/UserName/Desktop

    SystemDisk and UserName are place holders for the real names used on your Mac. So if you go to /systemname/Users you see one folder for every user. Just copy from the other user's folder. Try is. Hunt around in Finder until you find the Users folder on the system disk. then look inside. You should see folders with each user's names on them. Inside there you can see "Desktop"

    Drag and drop does not work because that involve deleting the other person's stuff and you only should only have permission to read it.
  5. jaybar thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Dec 11, 2008
    How can the person who wants the folder get to the primary desktop where the folder is? When I log in as the second user, I can’t see the primary users desktop. Can I open both simultaneously?


  6. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    Yes you can't immediacy see it. But you can navigate the finder to any user's Desktop folder. Start at the door level of the System Disk then drill down from there

    This is actually so much easier from the terminal window "cp -r ~username1/Desktop/SomeFolder ~/Desktop" One line and you are done.

    The neat thing about MacOS is that under the graphic desktop is it UNIX. UNIX is 48 years old its birthday was in 1970. Lots of people know how it works. All the files, everything stored n the Mac is in folder that are inside other folders and soon. What shows on your desktop is just whatever is inside the "Desktop" folder. Each user has a all their data inside a folder name with their username.
    If yo wanted to look at items on my desktop you'd look in a folder called Users/chris/Desktop.
  7. mikzn macrumors 6502a


    Sep 2, 2013
    If you are using different apple id's why not just copy to a USB stick and then copy off the usb stick onto the other users desktop folder?

    . . . or (in iCloud Drive) you could create a folder called "transfers" put the files in that folder and share that folder to the other users iCloud drive
  8. Longkeg macrumors regular

    Jul 18, 2014
    S. Florida
    Since the OP asked how to do this “easily,” I would agree with the USB stick approach. ChrisA is correct about accessing home folders within the finder, but for a user not familiar with the finer points of Mac file structures the USB approach would be easier.
  9. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    This user says he has just one Mac.

    If Alice wants to give Bob some files and both users are using the SAME computer, it is best to simply copy files from Users/Alice/Desktop to Users/Bob/Desktop

    iCloud is a very good solution if there are two apple devices and the files need to be accessible on both devices. Sharing an iCloud accord does not work at all if the goal is to let each usr own and control access their own files.
  10. Dave Braine macrumors 68040

    Dave Braine

    Mar 19, 2008
    Warrington, UK
    I'm on Sierra, and unless things have changed with High Sierra, one User cannot access another User's folders, so you cannot just drag stuff to another User's Desktop. What is the point of having separate User Accounts, protected by passwords if you can do that.

    Jaybar, if you go into your Home Folder, you will see a Folder called Public. Whatever you want to transfer to your wife's account drag and drop into here.

    When your wife logs in to her Account she goes to MacHD/Users/your account/Public Folder where she will find what you put in there.
  11. Nigel Goodman macrumors member

    Nigel Goodman

    Jun 29, 2017
    What about using the users Drop Box (NOT the company called Dropbox). Another user's Drop Box can be found at: HD/Users/nameofuser/Public/Drop Box

    Open the Public folder and drop the files/folders in the Drop Box (you are actually making a copy of them).

    The other user can then pick them up from the same folder and then the first user can delete the originals.

    Hope this makes sense - I do it all the time to copy items from one user to another.

    Edit: sorry, just noticed that the previous comment says the same thing but the other way around!
  12. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    My method:

    You will need some kind of external drive, can be a USB flashdrive, that has enough capacity to hold the contents of your current desktop.

    What to do:
    - Connect the flashdrive or external drive
    - Use disk utility to ERASE the flashdrive to Mac OS extended with journaling enabled.
    - Go to your [existing] home folder, and then copy the "Desktop" folder to the external drive.
    - Now, shut down the Mac (yes, shut it all the way off).
    - Next, REBOOT the Mac and log into the second user's account
    - When you get to the finder, the external drive should be mounted
    - Click ONE TIME on the external drive to select it
    - Now type "command-i" (eye) to bring up the "get info" box
    - Click the lock icon at the bottom and enter the second user's password
    - Put a check into "ignore ownership on this volume" and close get info
    - Open the second user's home folder so that the "Desktop" folder is seen
    - On the external drive open the "Desktop" folder so that the contents are visible
    - Now, either type command-a to "select all" the contents of the (old) Desktop folder, or "command-click" on those items you wish to move over.
    - When everything that you want to move has been selected, "drag and drop" them into the icon for the NEW DESKTOP folder in the second account.

    All these items should now appear on the desktop of the second user.
    There won't be any "permissions problems" because we took care of that above with the "ignore ownership" checkmark.
  13. hobowankenobi, Jun 5, 2018
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2018

    hobowankenobi macrumors 6502a

    Aug 27, 2015
    on the land line mr. smith.
    Lots of ideas here....

    But understand what you are up against: Users cannot (easily) see other users accounts. By design. It is the access rights you are fighting.

    And, to make things more complicated, Desktop folders are part of the OS, and not meant to me be moved. So, what you need to do is change the idea from moving a Desktop folder to getting access to data that should be kept in a location meant to be shared.

    Options summary:

    • You can share a single user account, but I am guessing there are reasons not to, like not having to share Mail or Calendars or other things.

    • You can use a cloud sharing tool like iCloud or OneDrive orDropbox or Mega or Box to synchronize a few key docs of folders automatically, but that means pushing the data up to server and back down, each time either user is logged in. Duplicates, and possible versioning problems if you are not always connected.

    • User each user's dropbox to move files back and fourth between accounts. More navigation, and multiple copies of docs can get confusing, but no extra account or third party or internet required.

    • Share a folder via a external drive (USB, TB, whatever) as suggested. Again, takes plugging in, navigating to the shared folder on the external, and not using your own desktop.

    • Use the Shared folder built into the OS. How?
    1. Log in as user 1
    2. Open the /Users folder and select the Shared folder
    3. Make an alias of the Shared folder, and drop it on user 1 desktop
    4. Log in as user 2
    5. Open the /Users folder and select the Shared folder
    6. Make an alias of the Shared folder, and drop it on user 2 desktop
    Once this is done, anything that should be shared and visible between the two users should be moved into the Shared folder and stored there. That way there is only one document, and both users get access to it. No versioning issues, everyone always sees the single, current document.

    Easy and clean, just have to remember to file stuff to be shared...inside Shared.

    Probably other ways too, including tweaking permissions to "see" each others desktops. But that can lead to other problems if you are not comfortable with POSIX and ACLs.

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