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I have a macbook pro...running snow leopard. Just installed a new hard drive, and designated 2 partitions: one for system and applications, and the other is intended for all data. Because the first partition is the startup disk, I left the "users" folder there as well. But of course within the "users" is all of that data I want to have saved to the other partition (documents, desktop, etc).

I'm not a "superuser", so apologize if this question has an obvious answer: Should I just move those folders (documents, desktop, etc) to the other partition?

What is the best method of organization here?

Thanks for your answers.

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Can someone rename this post to "Splitting OS X system and user data across two partitions" or something? – fideli Jan 22 '10 at 21:02

1. Opinion
I'm going to go out on a limb here and offer an opinion first. While you will likely get multiple elegant methods from here to achieve this goal, I'd like to first ask what your reason is? I know a few Windows users do this to prevent any OS corruption on the C: drive not affect their data on the D: drive, and allow them to reformat the C: drive periodically to reinstall Windows. While this may or may not be necessary in Windows is up for discussion, but this practice is certainly not very common in OS X, and I find that splitting up your main OS X installation into two partitions very restrictive.

What I would suggest is keeping a regular backup of at least the /Users folder. That way, if you do need to reinstall OS X, you can migrate your /Users folder back on to the fresh installation, either manually or using the Migration Assistant.

2. Solution
Having said that, if you would like to keep your data on the other partition, I would keep the /Users folder on the main partition for sure, and even keep the canonical folders in there (i.e. Documents, Pictures, Library, Downloads, Movies, Music, Public, and Sites). Then, within these folders, you can move specific things to your other partition.

For example, libraries used by Apple programs can be individually moved to a folder on your other partition following instructions on the Internet (e.g. iTunes, iPhoto, Aperture). You can create another Downloads folder and then set the download preference in each browser you use. And then, of course, you can store documents that are not directly managed by an application on the other partition without any trouble.

The key thing to understand is that any application that has a default location for managed files (e.g. Journler, VMware Fusion) will need to be dealt with individually to move your data onto your other partition.

To present another option, I'm thinking someone with more of a UNIX or Linux background will be able to suggest a method of modifying /etc/fstab in OS X 10.6 to make it such that the entire /Users folder is mounted from the other partition.

3. Much Better Solution
As cOle2's link suggests, you can move a specific user's folder to another location by using the Accounts Preference pane.

Accounts Preference Pane

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+1 for the opinion. If you're not a "super user" you probably don't want to do this. That being said it's fairly trivial to move your home folder to a different drive/partition with snow leopard: – cOle2 Jan 22 '10 at 18:42
Thanks for the opinion and solution. I only thought about keeping data/documents separate from the OS and applications because of the many other opinions I've read that suggest this--as a way to protect data. And I use the second partition as a scratch disk for video work, etc. I will not move the users folder, as you suggest, but will direct documents to save to the other partition. Am I understanding your solution correctly? If there is no reason for partitioning, I can still reformat easily at this point and use the 500GB as one vol. There's a lot of conflicting information out there. – user25781 Jan 22 '10 at 18:53

/Users/... is just a directory (OS X/UNIX version of a folder) just like /Users/username/Desktop/ is, so why not just store all of the data on the second partition and use a soft-link to the username/... directory

In the terminal...for each dir in your home directory...

$ mv old_location/dir new_location/dir
$ ln -s new_location/dir dir

Then the data is located on the 2nd partition but is accessed and looks like it is on the original partition. Of course you know that if the disk goes bad that 2nd partition does not help much, and unlike windows this is kind of unnecessary. Maybe there is a way to do this without the terminal, but I don't know.

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