How to move Applications folder on a non-booting volume?

Discussion in 'macOS' started by maddin4j, Mar 28, 2010.

  1. maddin4j macrumors member

    Jul 28, 2009
    hello guys!

    I was wondering how I can move the Applications folder of my boot volume to another drive? The 'other' drive is an ExpressCard SSD as I want to take advantage of its speed. I used to run SL from it but I keep having this stupid problem.

    So the next best thing is to run frequently used files from the SSD in hope that it works fine. Btw, unfortunately I cannot simply create a symlink to my boot volume as I cannot remove the Applications folder from it.
  2. J the Ninja macrumors 68000

    Jul 14, 2008
    Why not just move the apps to the SSD? There is nothing special about the Applications folder, it's just a convenient place to collect all your apps.
  3. Mal macrumors 603


    Jan 6, 2002
    That's not quite true. For Apple apps especially, Software Updates rely on them being in the system Application folder. Many third-party apps would be fine placed somewhere else, but I wouldn't recommend moving the main Application folder without creating a symlink.

    OP: you should be able to move the Applications folder via the Terminal.

    To start, copy the folder to the SSD (you should be able to do that with the Finder). If, for some reason, copying via the Finder doesn't work, from the Terminal:

    cp -R /Applications /Volumes/[SSD drive name]/Applications
    You may have to add sudo to the beginning of that command, but I don't expect that'll be necessary.

    Then, rename the original (you'll end up deleting it, but it's best to not do that first to help avoid issues).

    sudo mv /Applications /Apps
    You can name it anything you want by just changing the last word of that command, but just make sure it's something different than Applications, of course. I chose Apps just because it's simple.

    Now, you have to create the symlink.

    sudo ls -s /Volumes/[SSD drive name]/Applications /Applications
    Make sure it appears in your root directory, and that you can open it and browse as normal. Then try running Software Update, make sure it doesn't give you errors (even if there's no updates, it has to check everything, so if it seems to run normally, you're probably good).

    Now you can delete the original Applications folder (renamed Apps earlier). Just type the following code:

    sudo rm -R /Apps
    Make sure you don't mistype that last one!!! I cannot stress this enough. I'd recommend copy and paste instead of trying to type it in directly. If, for instance, you went to hit Shift to type the A in Apps, but instead hit Enter, you would wipe your entire hard drive. I have done this myself, so I know exactly how bad it can be.

    That should complete it all!

  4. maddin4j thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 28, 2009

    Thanks a lot for the instructions :D! I just needed the renaming part of OS X's Application folder since I had already created a symlink with SymbolicLinker (very easy to use).

    Everything seems to work fine :D Thanks again! I will probably leave the "Apps" folder in case my SSD goes belly again....
  5. maddin4j thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 28, 2009
    Hmm. I am starting to face a problem. Now some applications require the admin password such as Dropbox or smcFanControl everytime I try to use them. It is quite annoying and apps do not even do what they are supposed to do even when I type in my password... any ideas?
  6. Hal Itosis macrumors 6502a

    Hal Itosis

    Feb 20, 2010
    Most likely because many apps are supposed to be owned by root... and that reality was lost when you executed this step without sudo:

    cp -R /Applications /Volumes/[SSD drive name]/Applications

    Also, are ownerships even enabled on the SSD? [bottom of the get info window: is there a checkmark next to "Ignore ownership on this volume"?]

    Either start over or just skip the whole idea (is it really faster that way?).
  7. maddin4j thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 28, 2009
    @Hal Itosis Thanks for you help. I started all over but this time with "sudo" in front of the "cp -R" part and then I read you last sentence with the checkbox. Well, th box was checked off....anyways. I unchecked it and I hope it is fine now. I will test it later on. Thanks again!

    Yes it is much faster! I had Snow Leopard installed on it but unfortunately had problems. According to the benchmark on this Macworld review the reading speed is 127 MB per second compared to only 52 MB per second for the internal hard drive. Applications launch instantly, it is really amazing. The ExpressCard SSD is not as fast as a "real" SSD but the ExpressCard is still very fast!

    Now that I cannot rely on the ExpressCard SSD anymore I am thinking about getting a second internal hard drive for my MacBook Pro with a cheap (i.e. less space) SSD...
  8. gleake macrumors newbie

    Jun 10, 2012
    Line in instructions giving me an error

    Hi Mai

    If I am in the wrong place or replying to the wrong thread my humblest apologies. This is my first time using the forum and I haven't a clue what I am doing! LOL

    I have a problem in that the HD my Applications folder is on is full so I am trying to move the Applications to a second drive. I have followed the instructions you have given and it all works until the symlink 'ls' instruction. I get a message to say /Applications doesn't exist. I know it doesn't because we changed the name to Apps. Is that because I have no room? If so how do I get around this as I don't want to delete Apps before I know everything is working.


  9. Mal macrumors 603


    Jan 6, 2002
    Are you sure you entered the command correctly? It shouldn't be looking for /Applications to exist because it creates it in that step, so it sounds like you may not have entered the path to the new location correctly.

  10. AUAnonymous macrumors newbie

    Jul 5, 2012
    I made an account just so I could answer this question... I believe your problem is that while Mal said to use the 'ls' command (short for list, as in list files and directories in current directory), he probably meant the 'ln' command (short for link, as in making a link between files or directories). So the correct full command would be:
    sudo ln -s /Volumes/[SSD drive name]/Applications /Applications
    For more info about any terminal command, just type 'man [command]' (man is short for manual), so if for example you suspect that 'ls' is the wrong command, type 'man ls' and you would see the following:
    LS(1)                     BSD General Commands Manual                    LS(1)
         ls -- list directory contents
         ls [-ABCFGHLOPRSTUW@abcdefghiklmnopqrstuwx1] [file ...]
         For each operand that names a file of a type other than directory, ls
         displays its name as well as any requested, associated information.  For
         each operand that names a file of type directory, ls displays the names
         of files contained within that directory, as well as any requested, asso-
         ciated information.
    You can use the arrow keys to move around the "man page", and when you are done looking at it, just press 'q' to return to your terminal session.

    Some commands also will show you help if you execute them with the '-h' or '--help' flag, though this is not true for all commands, and how helpful the help actually is varies from command to command. Just type '[command] -h' or [command] --help'.
  11. Mal macrumors 603


    Jan 6, 2002
    Ha. Thanks. Not the first time I've made a mistake like that, need to double check my posts better I suppose.

  12. peterpan0215 macrumors newbie

    Jul 1, 2013
    Is there a way to delete the link? In other word, how can I restore the link back to the original booting volume?
  13. ashand macrumors newbie

    Jun 17, 2012
    peterpan...just keep the original App directory don't delete it, once you wanna go back rename it and perform app merging
  14. subsonix macrumors 68040

    Feb 2, 2008
    Have you tried an alias as opposed to a symlink? I think it should remain even if you remove the ExpressCard, and work again once it appears.
  15. HrSteve macrumors newbie

    Jul 30, 2016
    hi . thank you for great topics . i am trying to do this but when i wanna rename the application folder . terminal says the operation is not permitted . what should i do ?
  16. mariusmbp macrumors newbie

    Mar 18, 2016
    same here, i don't think Apple allow us to rename the Application folder anymore. I am using El Capitan
  17. KALLT macrumors 601

    Sep 23, 2008
  18. Lenny_ macrumors newbie


    Aug 28, 2018
    #18 I didn't find anything more up to date... (regarding this topic)
    I followed this step by step - but it seems this solution is not working anymore?
    My spotlight-search does not find the applications anymore. Is there a different approach for High Sierra?
  19. hamselvdk macrumors newbie


    Mar 16, 2019
    I have the same issue + I have some applications which sees the /Volumes/DriveName/Applications instead of the symbolic link, anything I am missing here?

    Thanks in advance

    Ps. I am now on Mojave

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