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I have just upgraded my Mac Mini (Mac Mini 2.6Ghz i7 16Gb RAM) to use a 256GB SSD for the boot drive. I have successfully installed Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite as my OS, with a clean installation.

I intend to use this for music production. This is my first Mac for the purpose. I don’t want to clog up the SSD with other stuff, so would like programs such as iPhoto to use my external USB3 hard drive. Is there a way to make all programs use the external drive as their default storage location?

I don’t want it to start auto-importing the photos from my iPhone to the SSD when I connect it for example. My external drive has 2TB of storage space which I’d rather use. I would also like my audio programs to record the audio to the external drive, keeping the main program on the SSD. I intend to use Ableton Live Suite 9.

  • I'm finding it hard to understand what your question is. Please edit your question, especially the title, to more clearly describe what the problem to be solved is. – bwDraco Jan 27 '15 at 3:17
  • What is your question? The title is just specs and the text is just a huge pile of text. – JakeGould Jan 31 '15 at 3:25
  • Comment to indicate I edited the question to clarify it. – JakeGould Jan 31 '15 at 3:38
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When I’ve done this sort of setup in the past, I’ve generally located my user’s home directory on non-SSD storage. This is a bad idea in your case since that could more or less cripple your user account when you login and your SSD is missing.

I suggest you first make yourself an admin account called “backup” or something, in case you seriously screw up your main account - and from which you can tweak the main account.

Then I’d login as the backup user and move your ~/Desktop, ~/Downloads, ~/Photos, ~/Music, etc directories on to your preferred storage. Finally, symlink the new locations to your home directory..

For example:

  1. mkdir -p /Volumes/USB-Drive/Users/doc/
  2. mv /Users/doc/Desktop /Volumes/USB-Drive/Users/doc/Desktop
  3. mv ....
  4. ln -s /Volumes/USB-Drive/Users/doc/Desktop /Users/doc/Desktop
  5. ln -s ....

Similarly, you could do the same for your /Applications directory, though that’s dangerous because some applications your System Preferences, Terminal, etc could be missing when you break your USB drive. Thus, I recommend you leave /Applications on the SSD and create an Applications dir on the USB drive, then move in apps on an individual basis after install and either just leave them there entirely or additionally sym link them in to /Applications as well.

I highly recommend you keep time machine backups of your entire setup somewhere safe. Storing your user data on an external drive is kind of a sketchy proposition, unless you're quite careful. If your machine has an optical drive, you should consider getting a kit to replace it with an adapter that lets you install a secondary hard drive, then you could use that for your user data.

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I don’t want to clog up the SSD with other stuff, so would like programs such as iPhoto to use my external USB3 hard drive. Is there a way to make all programs use the external drive as their default storage location?

Not easily by default and if you go the route of symbolic links to essentially relocate your user’s home directory, you run the risk of creating a “Frankensystem” that might break if either drive dies; I don’t recommend that.

But you can set this on a per application basis. For example, in iPhoto you can launch it while holding down the Alt/Option to choose where the iPhoto library should be stored; see pic below. I do this myself not for SSD reasons but because I don’t like my system drive to “bloat up” which makes backups more time consuming.

enter image description here

I don’t want it to start auto-importing the photos from my iPhone to the SSD when I connect it for example.

Well, this again is another iPhoto specific option. Launch it, go to the “iPhoto > Preferences…” settings and adjust the setting called, “Connecting camera options:” as shown in this screenshot:

enter image description here

My external drive has 2TB of storage space which I’d rather use. I would also like my audio programs to record the audio to the external drive, keeping the main program on the SSD. I intend to use Ableton Live Suite 9.

I am not familiar with the setup specifics of these programs, but pretty much every professional program in the world has some option as to where default/scratch files are saved. For example, you can set where iTunes stores media in the “iTunes > Preferences… > Advanced” settings right under “iTunes Media folder location” as shown below:

enter image description here

But Apple has made things a bit more “fun” with the integration of iBooks into iTunes; now iBooks related stored has nothing to do with core iTunes storage and it stores your data right in a ~/Library/ path in your user directory like this:

~/Library/Containers/com.apple.BKAgentService/Data/Documents/iBooks/Books

Of course if this is for music production, the chances of iBook storage being an issue is quite slim. But still, Apple is not making it easier to place media storage away from the core system setup.

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