Questions about moving home folder to external drive

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by smurray, Jan 19, 2012.

  1. smurray macrumors regular

    May 12, 2008
    I have a new Mac mini that I'm using as an HTPC. I have an external drive that I want to use to store all of my media, and it seems like the best option would be to move my home folder to this drive so that I don't end up with two Movies folder, two Pictures folder, etc... Anyway, I followed some directions I found online about going into System Preferences and the Accounts options to change my home folder location. After doing so, and restarting, all of my system and application preferences were lost. After doing some digging it looks like this is because not only were the media folders moved, so was all the hidden folders such as the Library folder that resides in the home folder. I'm wondering now if this is going to cause more trouble than it's worth. Ideally I just wanted to store my media on the external drive and have the main Movies, Pictures, Music, Downloads folders point to this external drive. I feel like storing all this other stuff on the external drive could possibly hurt the overall system performance. I'm also wondering if I'll run into issues if I ever reformat and reinstall Lion since, once I change the home folder location again, there will already be a Library folder with all the settings from my previous install there. Does this make sense?

    Sorry for the long rant of a post, just trying to figure out what my best option is. Thanks in advance to anyone who is able to provide some input.
  2. btbrossard macrumors 6502a

    Oct 25, 2008
    I've always just created a "Remote Movies" folder (or remote pictures, music, ect...) on the external drive and put my media in that.
  3. Dhelsdon macrumors 65816


    Feb 5, 2010
    Canadian Eh!
    I don't believe there is a correct way to do this, from what I've tried you can't really has OS X default to a home folder on an external drive, without having EVERYTHING on it as you have already tried.
  4. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

    Aug 24, 2011
    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 5_0_1 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/534.46 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.1 Mobile/9A406 Safari/7534.48.3)

    Macworld had an article on line (RSS feed) explaining how to do this today.
  5. dolphin842 macrumors 65816

    Jul 14, 2004
    You should see a speed improvement by moving the user folder to an external firewire drive, especially during boot (having two drives instead of one accessing data should reduce head contention during reads).

    The big disadvantage is that you have to make sure the external drive is fully powered on and spinning before you boot the Mac. When I had my home folder on an external drive, I occasionally ran into issues where it wouldn't log in because the external drive hadn't fully spun up and mounted by the time the login process started. For this reason, it's good to have a backup admin account located on the internal drive.
  6. Daniel97 macrumors 6502a

    Mar 6, 2011
    I've just done this in the same method as Macworld details ..

    I'm about to install an SSD

    my home folder is on an external drive and my system is on the OEM drive.

    What I can't understand is why my apps never copied along to the home directory. I mean I don't care or want them to but I thought they were part of it?

    Luckily I want them on my OEM drive I was just curious.
  7. jared_kipe macrumors 68030


    Dec 8, 2003
    While this is certainly possible, it is usually a better idea to just make a folder to external assets.

    If you want to make your home folder on a different drive.\
    Create a folder on the external drive (as the user who will have that folder, so that it gets the right owner)

    Make and log in as a new admin user.
    SystemPref->Users&Groups authenticate with the little Lock icon.

    Right click the original user and get into Advanced Options.
    By Home director-> Choose ... and direct it to the new folder. Ok.

    Log out and back in as the original user. MacOS will create the new base folders like Desktop and Library for you.
  8. calderone macrumors 68040


    Aug 28, 2009
    Well of course, if you already have a home directory you would need to move it. The OS doesn't handle that for you. The value the OP changed is just that, a key/value (NFSHomeDirectory : pathtohome) in the user record which tells loginwindow where the home lives.

    If the OP followed a guide, he/she probably skipped over the important step which is to move your existing homedir.

    I suggest the OP go back and actually read the guide.
  9. theSeb macrumors 604


    Aug 10, 2010
    Poole, England
    You can do this by using symbolic links and keep your library on your internal drive.
  10. JAT macrumors 603

    Dec 31, 2001
    Mpls, MN
    For many reasons, this is excellent advice. I have my main account on an external for various reasons, and have discovered the hard way to always have one on the main drive.
  11. ojobson macrumors newbie


    Nov 18, 2009
    How do you do this using symbolic links?
    I only want to move my Dropbox, documents, pictures, music and movies folders - I want to keep everything else on my SSD...

    I'm using Lion.
  12. dolphin842 macrumors 65816

    Jul 14, 2004
    You can use the symlink command in the Terminal, or use a Finder plugin.
  13. theSeb macrumors 604


    Aug 10, 2010
    Poole, England
    Backup your computer before starting
    Use finder to copy your Dropbox, documents, pictures etc folders to the other drive (let's say it's called Data and you copied it to the root of the drive)
    Delete the dropbox, documents etc folders in your home directory and clear the trash can
    Open (it's in Applications --> Utilities)
    in terminal type the following
    ln -s "/Volumes/Data/Dropbox Dropbox
    Now you need to repeat that for each directory that you copied, for e.g.
    ln -s "/Volumes/Data/Documents" Documents
    This assumes that you named your second hard drive "Data"
  14. thatgreenvw macrumors newbie

    Nov 29, 2011
    what about system preferences-> users & groups -> right click your account-> advanced options and then change the home directory from there?
  15. theSeb, Apr 15, 2012
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2012

    theSeb macrumors 604


    Aug 10, 2010
    Poole, England
    You could do that but it's not the same thing and I would actually recommend against it. When you move the entire home directory to an external drive you're also moving the hidden Library folder, which includes frequently accessed files like your cache. This will make the experience a lot worse, if you're moving to an external drive that is slower than your internal drive.

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