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I want to move my OS X home folder to another location. Can I do this?

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Somewhat related, about moving folders inside the home folder: superuser.com/questions/25083/moving-mac-user-folders –  Jonik Aug 18 '09 at 23:05
    
Yes my answer below was in response to that question. The OP clarified his question, so I deleted my answer and asked this question. –  Richard Hoskins Aug 18 '09 at 23:08
    
May I ask WHY??? –  codingbear Aug 19 '09 at 0:12
    
It is a legitimate question. People want to do this, and should be warned off, but told the proper way to do this if they can't be deterred. Asking and answering your own questions is encouraged on Super User, Stack Overflow and Server Fault. See the FAQ. –  Richard Hoskins Aug 19 '09 at 0:18

5 Answers 5

up vote 4 down vote accepted

First you should ask yourself, "Do I really want to do this?"

You can easily move large media files and documents to another folder without moving your home folder. If your home folder is unavailable for any reason when you try to log on to OSX, you will not be able to do it.

If you decide to move your home folder anyway, make sure you have another account with admin privileges that you can log on to if things go pear-shaped.

Other than that, all you have to do is copy the folder to the new location, and control-click on your user in the "Accounts" section of "System Preferences" and select "Advanced Options." You'll see a setting for home directory there. Set it to the new location and restart your Mac.

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Yes you can, and quite easily as well.

System Preferences » Accounts » Unlock Preference Pane » Ctrl Click your account and select Advanced Options:

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You can change it to any directory you like from here although I recommend keeping it somewhere sane - not /System or /Library, obviously. If you intend to make it a second partition, you'll need to create that first of course it won't take effect until after you logout and log back in.

A caveat: any app preferences that reference a folder inside your home directory might need to be changed after, so for example the download folder for your browser. It's a small thing but quite easy to forget and I think it goes without saying to make a backup first.

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Moving a home folder is an accident waiting to happen, unless you're using WGM in OS X Server to mount them from a network share, but it doesn't sound like this is the case or it would probably be on SF. :) I'm curious as to what problem this is going to solve for you because there is probably a better workaround.

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I don't want to do this. A lot of people do, though. Especially people coming from Microsoft Windows. See this Chris Pirillo blog entry, in which he states, "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." chris.pirillo.com/how-to-move-the-home-folder-in-os-x-and-why Again, not my opinion. –  Richard Hoskins Aug 19 '09 at 0:31
    
I'd agree with this article if we were talking about a Linux/Vanilla Unix machine, but not OS X. Time Machine is just so easy to use, and if something goes wrong, the user won't be able to log in and most likely won't have the expertise to fix it from target disk mode or single-user mode. I realize you aren't recommending this, I'm just pointing this out to anyone contemplating doing this. –  MDMarra Aug 19 '09 at 1:15

I tried this when I upgraded from Jaguar to Panther -- in fact I partitioned my hard drive and installed my home directory on a separate partition, the thinking being that if it ever became necessary to do a clean re-install of the system, it would be easier and involve less fuss with the home directory separated from the system itself.

Long story short: this turned out to be a big mistake, and I've never done it again. I have all sorts of files (media files, mostly) on separate partitions, external drives, NAS, etc., but my home directory stays right where OS X put it.

So without knowing why you're interested, I'll repeat what everyone else has asked: are you sure about this?

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You can use aliases to make certain folders available from your desktop or wherever and store movies and large files in other places (external HD) to save space if that is your concern.

In OS X moving the home folder is not an option.

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