Storing Home Folders on a Separate Partition - Part Two
A companion article to Part 1
By M. Christopher Stevens

OS X is a funny thing, if there's one way of doing something, there's probably another way of doing it, as well. Last time, we discussed using Aliases to move some of the larger key folders from your Home folder to another volume. This was especially useful for Macs that have the 8GB hard drive limit in OS X - the Beige G3's, the original iMacs and the Wallstreet PowerBooks.

Well, there is another way of doing this, as many readers had suggested, that is a lot more compatible and is probably a better way of doing it overall. I have been testing this for the better part of two months now, and have not had any sort of hiccups in the system. The best part about it is that whether you have used the previous method or are just starting it now, it is equally as simple to do.

Unlike the last time, where we used Aliases to show the System where to look for the various folders inside our Home folder, we'll be telling the System where the new location of the Home folder for an account is by using NetInfo Manager.


This allows us to get around one of the major shortcomings of the first method - we can now copy over the Desktop and Library folders as well and still retain functionality. This is extra-handy when you want to save software updates to your desktop - something that doesn't quite work right with the previous "Alias" method.

So without any further ado, let's get started!

Step 1. Copy the home folder to your desired new location.

There's a lot of ways to do this. Some people prefer to log in as root and drag the folder over in OSX. Others prefer to do the copying in the Terminal. As for myself, I generally prefer just booting back into 9 to do this, as it avoids a lot of permissions issues.


Copying is pretty simple. Simply drag the home folder you wish to relocate to the new place you want it to reside. In the example above, I'm moving the folder named "bunbun" to its new spot on a different partition. Since a folder moving from one volume to the next just makes a copy, you should be able to just drag it over. If you want to be sure, though, hold down the Option key while you do it.

Special Note: If you have already used the process I originally outlined, the only things you would need to move are the Library, Desktop folders and a file called .CFUserTextEncoding, and put them in the same folder as the folders you originally moved.


At this point, I usually like to create a new folder inside the Desktop folder called "It Works!", so that when I'm finished, and I log into the new account, I'll know if I did it right.

Step 2. In OS X,while logged in as an Administrator, Open the NetInfo Manager utility.


The NetInfo Manager can be found in the "Utilities" folder that resides in your Applications folder. Administrator privileges are required to change some NetInfo options, including the location of Home folders of Users.

Step 3. Authenticate the changes.

Because we're adjusting the information of key elements of the OS, you need to verify you have administrator privileges. Go to the Security menu and select Authenticate. Enter in your Administrator User Name and Password, then click "OK"

Authenticate menu


Step 4. Locate the account you wish to relocate


Select "users" from the center column in the NetInfo window, then select the user name for the account being moved in the right column. Information on the account will appear in the box at the bottom. It should then look something like this.

Step 5. Change the location of the Home folder for your desired account.

This is the real meat-and-potatoes of the process. its a couple of steps, so let's make sure that we have it all down and ready to go.

find home

First, in the account info in the lower window, locate "home" under the "Properties" column. Its near the bottom. The Value column should have the path to the current user folder, which is usually located in the Users folder of the startup drive. In the example above, the location is currently "/Users/bunbun"

We will need to change this setting to reflect the path to the new location. If you've moved your new location to a different volume (which I'd guess most of you have, since that's what the article is about - moving your home folder to a different volume/drive) the fist part of the path will be /Volumes/volume name". ("volume name" refers to the name ofthe volume you are moving the home folder to.)

change Location

At this point, its rather like setting up a Web address. Follow the path to the user folder, marking each new folder with a slash before it. In the example above, since I put the folder "bunbun" on the root level (the window you see when you double-click the icon) of the hard drive named "PB Storage", my location would be "/Volumes/PB Storage/bunbun". If I had first put it inside a folder called Users (if, for example, I had dragged my entire Users folder over), it would appear as "/Volumes/PB Storage/Users/bunbun". To change this address, simply double-click the current location, delete it, type in the new location, then single-click on another item next to it.

NOTE: The slash before "Volumes" is incredibly important. Otherwise, some functions will not work properly. (I found this out the hard way...) You should also keep in mind that these path names are case-sensitive, so "Volumes" is not the same as "volumes".

Step 6. Save your changes.

This is fairly simple. Just close the NetInfo Manager window. A dialog box will pop up asking if you want to save the changes. Tell it yes. It'll ask if you want to update the changes. Update the changes. Quit NetInfo Manager.



Step 7. Log out and sign in to your newly changed account.

Here's the point where we find out if we did everything right.

Log out of the administrator account and log into the account you just relocated. If you followed my tip from Step 1 and put a folder called "It works!" in the relocated account's Desktop folder, then that folder should be shown there on the desktop. If it isn't, then go back to Step 2 and double-check your settings.

Have Fun!