General background info:

I've been trying to setup two accounts on my mac, one for work, one for home, which essentially both use the same home folder to store data and other such things, so I have one place holding all my data but two seperate layouts for the dock etc. for each user.

Having set this up and tried to access files from one users home folder whilst logged in as the other, I found that I needed to setup the permissions, which I did, with difficulty. I thought I had everything setup, so started using my work user and soon found I still had problems. I was unable to install new programs and having downloaded some podcasts in iTunes, switching back to my home account I found I couldn't download podcasts from that account anymore, despite them residing in my home folder. I tried reseting them manually, but it didn't work.

I'm now resetting my home permissions using the snow leopard disc in the hope that it'll all go back to how it was before I started mucking about.


What I need is two user accounts that can access the same folders and files, so that I can access all my music and add new stuff from both, such as podcasts etc. and access work files from both accounts without having to muck about with permissions.

I've been working from one user account for the past 6+ months so have everything setup inside that users home folder, should I move it out of there so that it's in a shared folder?

What's the best way to do all this?


  • 1
    The real question is how much would be different between the two accounts and is it worth going through the hassle of managing two accounts accessing the same home folder. Maybe instead you might want to look into applications that create profiles. Something along the lines of rooSwitch, but for the Dock, etc, I suppose.
    – fideli
    Feb 23, 2010 at 15:04
  • I agree with fideli, it looks MUCH less complicated to me to just have something that allows you to switch between two docks, than going through the hell of having two accounts who need to access the same data.
    – o0'.
    Feb 24, 2010 at 10:22

3 Answers 3


Here are some of my solutions for sharing data among users on my mac:

  • an external drive with disabled permissions for sharing documents (read/write)
  • activation of sharing in iTunes and iPhoto for sharing music and pictures (read only but this works on LAN as well)
  • use of /Users/Shared folder (read/write)
  • use of ~/Public folder (a part is write only, much like a mailbox)
  • thanks for the info. Once my mac stops resetting permissions, I'll see if this helps.
    – andyface
    Feb 23, 2010 at 15:21

Use the /Users/Shared folder. If you accessed the same home folder, all preferences (including Dock layouts) would be shared too because they are stored in ~/Library/Preferences and such places.

Applications such as iTunes and iPhoto each need to be told individually to put their libraries in a new location. Unfortunately, I can't find a way to do this for Mail.app, but if you use IMAP then the problem won't be more than a few duplicate files. (Any suggestions on this?)


Thought I'd post my current working setup if anyone's at all interested (no?... fair enough)

Firstly I should have done this ages ago, but erasing and reinstalling OSX has helped massively as it got rid of all my issues with permission (which was screwing everything up).

Having two separate accounts means that I can setup login items that start when i login which are different for each user and means that I can have a completely different layout which mostly means I don't feel like I'm working when I'm at home or relaxing when I'm at work.

I then started using the Shared user folder for anything I wanted to have accessible cross accounts. I found that putting links in the Places sidebar in Finder made getting to the Shared folder quicker and easier.

I also have a networked drive at work which holds most of my work related stuff that I don't need to access all the time.

Initially the setup of each account is a bit of a pain as you have to go through the process of setting up mail, iCal etc. twice, though as I have it all running through google it's not a major hastle. Though making sure you've set all the save locations correctly in apps can take time.

I found that you can share an iTunes Library by setting the iTunes folder location to the Shared folder and then putting and alias to the shared iTunes folder in each users Music folder, which then references that single library. You also need to tell iTunes to use the shared music folder rather than the home one. A little complex, but does the job well and means you don't have to update the library constantly or have duplicated music.

  • Is this different from the accepted answer? If so, how?
    – Daniel Beck
    May 5, 2011 at 10:35
  • well it's a more comprehensive explanation of what I did. It varies from the accepted answer in some ways, but thought I'd accept someone elses rather than my own as it was the catalyst to what I ended up doing.
    – andyface
    May 5, 2011 at 17:03

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