How to Move a Home Directory to Another Location on a Mac

Feb 16, 2010 - 6 Comments

Moving a users home directory to another location in Mac OS X

Changing the location of your home directory is pretty easy in Mac OS X, and it can be desired for a variety of situations to store a home folder elsewhere on a Mac, or even on another drive. This is valid and works the same in all versions of OS X.

Though it’s not particularly difficult, moving a home folder is somewhat advanced and therefore should not be attempted by users who are not sure what or why they’re doing it.

Always be sure to back up your Mac before making any modifications like this.

Moving a Users Home Directory to a New Location in OS X

  1. Make a backup with Time Machine of the Mac before attempting any of this, then be sure you’re logged into an admin account
  2. Launch System Preferences from the  Apple menu of OS X
  3. Click on ‘Accounts’ then click the unlock icon to be able to make changes to user accounts
  4. Right-click or control-click your main user account and select ‘Advanced Options’
    ( Important Note: if you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t mess around in this screen! )
  5. Navigate down to ‘Home directory’ and see your default path as /user/David or whatever
  6. Click ‘Choose’ and navigate to the location you want to set as the new home directory path
  7. Click ‘OK’ and you’re all done, the account will have been moved

This is where you’d want to make the change in OS X Yosemite:

Change a hom directory location of a user in Mac OS X

In prior versions of OS X it may look slightly differently but the function is identical:

change home directory location

Now as I mentioned before, if you don’t have a compelling reason to change the location of your home directory to somewhere else, don’t do it! You can really mess things up.

In a similar manner, you can also move iTunes libraries (even to another different hard drive), move iPhoto libraries, and just about anything else, though this method is all inclusive because anything in the user library also moves with it (iTunes, iPhoto, etc)

So why would you want to do this then? Well, there are various reasons why you’d want to move your home directory to somewhere else, here’s a few:

* OS X Daily reader Kemmon offers his reasons and great advice in the comments:

” Moving home folders is a great way to establish disk quotas on a shared machine. I have four kids who share a Mac, so the drive has 5 partitions: One for the OS, and one for each kid. Their home folders are on their own partition, which sets a hard limit on how much disk space they can hog, and the OS partition is frozen with ARDs Deep Freeze. Permissions keeps each partition private form the others. 4 Kids sharing a Mac and NO maintenance issues for over 3 years! And if I ever want to do a clean install of the OS, I can re-format the OS partition without touching any home folders.”

* You have a smaller Solid State boot drive and you want to conserve disk space, so you move your home directory to another drive source (obviously this isn’t practical on a Mac with only one internal hard disk). If you’re thinking of doing this, there are some additional steps to take to be sure everything is flawless when changing your home directory location.

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Posted by: David Mendez in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

6 Comments

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  1. Kemmon says:

    Moving home folders is a great way to establish disk quotas on a shared machine. I have four kids who share a Mac, so the drive has 5 partitions: One for the OS, and one for each kid. Their home folders are on their own partition, which sets a hard limit on how much disk space they can hog, and the OS partition is frozen with ARDs Deep Freeze. Permissions keeps each partition private form the others. 4 Kids sharing a Mac and NO maintenance issues for over 3 years! And if I ever want to do a clean install of the OS, I can re-format the OS partition without touching any home folders.

  2. Ulrich says:

    It’s not really a good idea to move your entire home folder to another drive if you want to gain significant speedups from an SSD since lots of small config etc. files are stored inside your home/Library/… folders.

    Instead just move the big stuff (Pictures, Movies, Music) to another drive and symlink them back to your home folder.

  3. Greg says:

    Yeah, but it can be a really good idea if you want to use File Vault, and you’re already over 50% of your boot drive capacity, and the reason has nothing to do with Music/Movies/Pictures.

  4. Laurent says:

    Yes but the control click on the user doesn’t work under OSX lion anymore. How to get around it?

  5. Dan says:

    I confirmed that it advanced user options works in OS LION, be sure to unlock the padlock prior.

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