How do I set up Snow Leopard so that my user's folder resides in a separate partition?

I want to do this so that when I format my main partition i don't have to backup and restore the user directory.


Copy your home directory to the new location/partition. The go in the System Preferences -> Accounts, right-click on your user icon and select Advanced Options. There you can set the Home Directory to the new path.

  • Is that safe in 10.6? I have noticed the options in Leopard, but did never tried them. But they say it's unsafe and whatnot... Sep 1 '09 at 22:56
  • Why don't you try it? You can always go back. Personally, I've just updated to SL today and did not try it myself on 10.6 yet. But I would not expect problems because on Unix-based systems a non-standard home directory path is nothing unusual. If an app breaks it really is broken...
    – knweiss
    Sep 1 '09 at 23:06
  • I will thanks. I don't try it because my SL order didn't came in yet, and i was doing my research in advance. Sep 1 '09 at 23:07
  1. Log into a different account from the one you want to move.
  2. Use the Finder to copy the home directory to the new location (Finder preserves all metadata)
  3. Go to System Preferences -> Accounts, right click on account, and select Advanced Options.
  4. Set the Home directory to the new location
  5. Remove or archive the original account's folder

Steps 1 and 5 are the additions that prompted my posting of a separate answer from knweiss's largely correct, but incomplete, answer. They are important in that it can be darned confusing if the change doesn't stick or your account is reverted for some reason (re-install and migration has done it to me).

This works just fine under Snow Leopard; I have been running with this configuration throughout the development of Snow Leopard. It even works with FileVault.

  • But is there a way to make the "Users" folder, where all users folders are, a partition by itself? Sep 2 '09 at 21:26
  • Sure; initialize a volume and name it Users and stick all user directories on it.
    – bbum
    Sep 3 '09 at 1:45
  • It didn't let me delete the original /Users folder. Is there a way? Sep 3 '09 at 23:07
  • Don't delete the original /Users/ folder, just the user in it.
    – bbum
    Sep 6 '09 at 3:04

To permanently move the entire Users folder you will have to get your hands dirty in the terminal!

Assuming your first partition is called HD1 second partition is called HD2:

sudo bash [enter password]
mv /Users /Volumes/HD2/Users
ln -s /Volumes/HD2/Users /Users

We simply move the contents of the Users folder to the second partition and create a soft symbolic link to the location. The advantage here is that you only have to do it the once for as many accounts as you need.

Once you have reinstalled and reformatted just do:

sudo bash
rm -rf /Users
ln -s /Volumes/HD2/Users /Users

OS X may not like having the users folder moved so you may have to do it in target disk mode from another Mac.


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