Move Your Mac's Home Folder to a New Location

Your Home folder doesn't have to be on your startup drive

Woman handing co-worker a folder
JGI / Jamie Grill / Getty Images

By default, your home folder resides on the startup drive—the same one that houses the operating system. This might not be ideal, however. Storing the home folder on another drive might be a much better choice, especially if you want to increase the performance of your Mac by installing an SSD (solid state drive) to serve as your startup drive.

For example, say you want to swap out your startup drive for a much faster SSD with a 512 MB capacity—enough to hold all your current data and allow for future growth. The easy solution is to move your home folder to a different drive.

This article applies to devices running Mac OS X 10.5 or later.

How to Move Your Home Folder to a New Location

Before you begin, make sure you have a current backup, using whatever method is your favorite. For example, you might clone your current startup drive, which still contains your home folder, to an external bootable drive. That way, you can restore everything to how it was before you began this process, if necessary.

Once your backup is complete, follow these steps:

  1. Using the Finder, navigate to your startup drive's /Users folder.

    For most people, the path is /Macintosh HD/Users.

    macOS Finder with the Users folder highlighted
  2. Select the Home folder and drag it to its new destination on another drive.

    Because you're using a different drive for the destination, the operating system will copy the data rather than move it, which means the original data still will remain in its current location. You'll delete the original home folder later after you have verified that everything is working.

    Users folder in Finder on a Mac with the Home folder highlighted
  3. Launch System Preferences by clicking the System Preferences icon on the Dock or selecting System Preferences from the Apple menu.

    Mac desktop with the System Preferences option highlighted
  4. Click Users & Groups.

    This heading is called Accounts in Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) and earlier.

    System Preferences on a Mac with the Users & Groups section highlighted
  5. Click the Lock icon and enter your administrator password.

    Users & Groups settings on a Mac with the Lock icon highlighted
  6. From the list of user accounts, right-click on the account whose home folder you moved, and select Advanced Options from the pop-up menu. 

    Do not make any changes to Advanced Options except for those noted here. Doing so can cause quite a few unforeseen problems that could lead to data loss or the need to reinstall the operating system.

    Users & Groups menu on a Mac with the Advanced Options command highlighted
  7. In the Advanced Options sheet, click Choose, located to the right of the Home directory field.

    Advanced Options for Users & Groups on a Mac with the Choose button highlighted
  8. Navigate to the location you moved your home folder to, select the new home folder, and click Open.

    Navigation window in macOS with the Open button highlighted
  9. Click OK to dismiss the Advanced Options sheet, and then close System Preferences.

    Advanced Options menu in Users & Groups with the OK button highlighted
  10. Restart your Mac. It should use the home folder in the new location.

Verify That Your New Home Folder Location Is Functioning

At this point, you should make sure everything is working as it should.

One way to do this is by creating a test file in TextEdit and saving it to your new Home folder. Check to see if the file appears in the new location.

You can also look at the old Home location. If its icon is no longer a house, it isn't the active Home folder anymore. Try out a few applications use and your Mac for a few days. If all is well, you can delete the original home folder.

Although there's no specific requirement for the startup drive to have an administrator account, it’s a good idea for general troubleshooting purposes. Imagine that you've moved all your user accounts to another drive, either internal or external and then something happens to make the drive that is holding your user accounts fail. You can use the Recovery HD partition to access troubleshooting and repair utilities, but it's easier to have a spare administrator account on your startup drive that you simply log into when an emergency occurs.