Submit Hint Search The Forums LinksStatsPollsHeadlinesRSS
14,000 hints and counting!

Create a Users partition for your Home directory System

After reading a number of confusing methods, here's a simple method of creating a Users volume that works on a fresh install. Start by creating multiple partitions (using Disk Utility) and name one "Users." Install OS X on a different partition, perhaps "Mac OS." Remember that partitioning the drive will wipe any data on that drive!

After all of that is done, type the following into the Terminal (and enter your password when prompted):

sudo ditto -rsrc /Users /Volumes/Users
sudo niutil -createprop / /users/username home /Volumes/Users/username
Substitute your short user name for username. This command tells OS X that the Users directory is the Users Partition, and creates the default folders. Log out and back in. See if your home directory exists on the "Users" partition. Also check to see if the Home button works in the Finder. If everything works, then remove the old Users directory by typing this in the Terminal:
sudo rm -dr /Users

Next open NetInfo Manager, which is in your Utilities folder. Select "users" in the second column and your username in the third. In the bottom pane, the path for "home" should read /Volumes/Users/username. Nothing needs to be changed for your primary user. If you've already created other users, select their username(s) from the third column. Set their 'home' path to:

You will need to click the padlock icon (and enter your admin password) at the bottom in order to make changes. Repeat for all other users. Save your changes with Command-S and then quit. Log out and in as another user to see if everything worked.

Now copy your data into the appropriate folders.

If you want your Users directory to live on another partition or volume (instead of being the Users volume), insert the name of the Volume or Partition into the paths above; i.e.:

[robg adds: I haven't tested this hint myself. If you do, please make sure you have a good backup prior to starting!!]
  • Currently 1.75 / 5
  You rated: 1 / 5 (4 votes cast)

Create a Users partition for your Home directory | 36 comments | Create New Account
Click here to return to the 'Create a Users partition for your Home directory' hint
The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Create a Users partition for your Home directory
Authored by: blech75 on Aug 18, '03 10:27:24AM

This hint is nothing new, but is more complicated than needed. I've been locating users' home folders on a separate volume for a long time and there honestly is no need for the NetInfo step (it also potentially complicates things... see my reasoning below).

Here's what I do:

cd /
sudo ditto -rsrc /Users /Volumes/volume_name/Users
sudo mv /Users /Users.old
sudo ln -s /Volumes/volume_name/Users /Users

Log out, log back in...

Make sure OS X is using your new Users folder on the new volume. Then get rid of your old Users folder:

sudo rm -rf /Users.old

There... no need to touch NetInfo. Simpler, Easier, Faster. And it works for all users!

This could also be done from the >console, before (or in place of) a graphical login.

MY REASONING: If you modify netinfo's home dir setting, then OS X will explicity look for /Volumes/volume_name upon login, if volume_name does not exist for some reason (after a bad crash), then OS X will create a temporary, empty volume and mount the real volume as 'volume_name 1'. This is not too difficult to fix (scary, but not difficult), but with the symbolic link in place instead of the hard-coded setting to home folder a specific volume name, this won't happen. It will also make moving the users home folder to a new, differently-named volume easier in the future (because path names are stored in places you'd never think of, etc.).

[ Reply to This | # ]
Create a Users partition for your Home directory
Authored by: mike3k on Aug 18, '03 11:04:00AM

You should also be able to mount /Volumes/Users with /Users as the mount point.

With traditional unix systems, I'd enter that in /etc/fstab, but I guess in OS X it would have to be entered in netinfo.

[ Reply to This | # ]
Create a Users partition for your Home directory
Authored by: lolopb on Aug 18, '03 11:37:13AM

Nope, since 10.2 you can use fstab, everything is explained here (in french, sorry) :


[ Reply to This | # ]
Create a Users partition for your Home directory
Authored by: gvitale on Aug 19, '03 05:37:37AM

Can someone kindly volunteer for an english translation of the above link (maybe submitting it here as an hint, giving credit to the original site, of course)?
Thanks in advance,

[ Reply to This | # ]
Create a Users partition for your Home directory
Authored by: amacaulay on Aug 19, '03 04:05:59AM

... with the added advantage that creating new users in the prefs pane would now work, I think.

[ Reply to This | # ]
Create a Users partition for your Home directory
Authored by: rjohnson on Nov 04, '03 04:57:29PM

I've tried all three methods (niutil/ln/fstab) and none of them seem compatible with Classic on (Jaguar 10.2.8)
The first sign of trouble is that Classic startup reports creating new "Apple Menu Items, Preferences, etc." folders and offers to populate them from the Classic system folder.
The second sign of trouble is the venerable "Sorry a system error occur occurred" reporting a bus error with Apple Menu Items.

Everything runs fine when /Users is on the system partition, and comparing the two directory trees shows them to be identical. Does anyone have any idea what might be going on here? Especially why Classic can't seem to find the existing ~/Library/Classic... folders when ~ is on a non-root partition?

For reference:
OS: Jaguar (10.2.8)
Root, Classic and Users, and swap all on separate partitions.


[ Reply to This | # ]
Create a Users partition for your Home directory
Authored by: rjohnson on Nov 05, '03 08:42:40AM

I kept digging and...

Aha! It's a conflict between Classic and OS 9 settings.

OS 9 is set up with Multiple Users Accounts _off_.
Turning off Classic's "Advanced/Use preferences from home folder" eliminated the errors.

I haven't tried the converse (OS 9 Accounts ON/Classic preferences from home folder) but I wouldn't be surprised if that solved the problem as well.

The moral of the story is that Classic preferences and OS 9 settings must agree--or, redundant data can only be different.


[ Reply to This | # ]
Create a Users partition - Links cause to fail
Authored by: skydiver on Mar 04, '04 01:45:53PM

I have been using the Symbolic linking of the Users directory on a different volume. However, I just found out that my scheduled task has not been running. It complains that it cannot use aliased User directories.

Blue Skies,

[ Reply to This | # ]
At least one gotcha
Authored by: uurf on Aug 18, '03 12:23:44PM
I also have Users on a separate volume. The only side effect I've seen is that adding and removing Users from the "Accounts" preference pane no longer works, so be ready to use this tip to manage user account creation from the command line.

[ Reply to This | # ]
The glitch parade...
Authored by: ssevenup on Aug 18, '03 12:57:30PM

I was deploying systems with the User home on a dedicated partition for months, but finally had to bag it. All my users need MS Office V.x. There are two glaring bugs in Office that MS refuses to fix. They rear their ugly head when the user preference folder is not on the same partition as Office. There first has to do with a file called "Carbon Registration Database", and the other is with "Office Registration Cache X". There are games you can play with harvesting copies of the files from a user with a "normal" account on the local partition and locking them, but we finally decided it wasn't worth it. The symptoms range from an inability to use macros to problems with Excel Solver. There are other applications that have similar issues and the latest MS upgrade has totally wrecked the Solver, so that's no option either.


Mark Moorcroft
Sys. Admin.

[ Reply to This | # ]
The glitch parade...
Authored by: mjohnson on Aug 18, '03 02:08:45PM

You can overcome this problem if you register the applications that are shared as the root user. This way the key files are actually stored and registered by root and on the same partition. After that, all of the other users work just fine. I've been running this way for a long time.

[ Reply to This | # ]
The glitch parade...
Authored by: evonherb on Aug 19, '03 05:28:03PM

Can you explain what you mean by "registering the apps as root"? I've encountered this glitch and would like to find a workaround for it.

[ Reply to This | # ]
static links?
Authored by: tcurtin on Aug 18, '03 01:50:56PM
Static links can be created from the command line using ln -s [actual file location] [new link location]. They've allowed me to do a few things, including moving and all its data onto a secured disk image. I wouldn't be suprised if you could say ln -s /Volumns/Users /Users and have that do what you want.

Has anyone tried this approach?


"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
- Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pe

[ Reply to This | # ]

static links?
Authored by: CaptCosmic on Aug 18, '03 06:16:01PM

Those would be symbolic links, not static links. UNIX systems have two kinds of links you can create: symbolic and hard.

Symbolic links are simply pointers to the actual location. Hard links actually create entries that have the same physical location on the hard disk.

The catch with hard links is that the file you are hard linking must exist on the same partition. This means hard links would not work for this hint.

Capt Cosmic

[ Reply to This | # ]

static links? Can break Final Cut Pro & others
Authored by: bischofftep on Mar 31, '05 09:09:56AM
Be aware that using a symbolic link to point /Users to /Volumes/Users will cause some applications to fail, most notably and Final Cut Pro. I've struggled with FCP for weeks until I just gave up and switched to using NetInfo to move my user partition and left /Users right where it was.

[ Reply to This | # ]
separate /Users volume
Authored by: sjk on Mar 31, '05 01:33:43PM

I haven't had trouble using Final Cut Express or any other apps with a separate /Users volume attached via the /etc/fstab UUID method referred to by Hes Nikke earlier in this hint. It's the most transparent way I know of to ensure "/Users/username/..." pathnames will work on my other Macs which still have /Users on the startup volume. The NetInfo method would be my second choice, and even preferable in some situations. The symlink method has too much uncertainty for me to trust or recommend it.

[ Reply to This | # ]
static links? Can break Final Cut Pro & others
Authored by: aalegado on Jan 05, '06 06:27:04AM

I have my home directory symbolically linked as opposed to the entire /Users. Before I did this never worked for me. Once I created the symbolic link, it automagically begain working.

To wit:

/Users/oldhome is a symbolic link to /Volume/OtherVolume/Users/newhome

The /Users remains the "official" /Users directory while the /Volume/OtherVolume/Users is just a directory with the same name but no special system status.

[ Reply to This | # ]
Create a Users partition for your Home directory
Authored by: bluehz on Aug 18, '03 07:54:56PM

One thing about using the NetInfo methodology, and I may be comletely wrong on this. I have a seperate /Users and /Applications drives along with my main /Root drive. When using the NetInfo method - the two other drives /Applications and /Users are spliced into the normal root drive as if they were actually existent on the drive itself. I had previously use the /volumes/symlink method and every once in a while (usually while installing software) I would run into a snag with it. The drive wasn't recognized as valid for install, etc. After using the NetInfo method - I have not had a problem since. Whenever I run an installer - I just point it to my main /root drive, it sees the /Applications dir (which is actually a seperate drive) and installs as usual.

Like I said - I could be completely wrong about my thought process here - but I have had much better luck adding that extra NetInfo step, and its not like its a difficult step or anything.

[ Reply to This | # ]
Create a Users partition for your Home directory
Authored by: Durandal on Aug 18, '03 11:45:56PM

All I did was create the partition, move my stuff there and then replace the /Users directory with a symlink to the partition. Works perfectly fine.

Damien Sorresso

[ Reply to This | # ]
Create a Users partition for your Home directory
Authored by: balthisar on Aug 19, '03 06:19:04AM

All of these methods are overly complicated and often have side effects. Like not being able to create new users in the correct space automatically. Or Mac OS X updates not working properly. And so on.

Really, the easiest method is the one linked to above:

I don't speak French, but based on my Spanish knowledge it's roughly:

2) The simple way: the LABEL tag.

Create a file /etc/fstab with your favorite text editor (TextEdit or BBEdit for example). Make sure that if you use TextEdit you save your file in text format and not as RTF.

This file contains the descriptions of the partitions' mount points. There's one description per line:

LABEL=NomVolume PointDeMontage type mode

* The "spaces" above are "tabs" -- not spaces.
* NomVolume is the name of the volume (as it appears in the Finder)
* PointDeMontage is the point where you will mount the partition.
* type ist the type of the partition (hfs or ufs)
* mode is the mount mode of the partition (rw for read/write, ro for read-only)

Wow! I didn't know I could read French. I guess learning Spanish came in kind of handy for me. :-) On this linked-to page are other ways to use fstab, but this is the way that I use. When I get home I'll post my fstab here.

--Jim (me)

[ Reply to This | # ]
Create a Users partition for your Home directory
Authored by: Hes Nikke on Aug 19, '03 10:28:07AM
the problem with the label atrabute is that if you have a name conflict (2 partitions named Users) bad things can happen. instead i use UUID's it works smooth as silk :)

i do have problems with a couple of apps, that are still looking for files on the internal HD even though my paths and everything look right. the 1st is SimCity4, it just flat out refuses to save. and when i quit the game and come back, it shows a big empty square were my city should be (not even any landscaping!) the other program that i have problems with is the KeySpan DMR, it works, but it spits out a bunch of errors, and stores all it's settings in /username/Library/Preferences (my paths clearly say /Users/username/)

oddly, office works fine for me, probably because i installed it before i set up my users partition :)

vacuums do not suck. they merely provide an absence that allows other objects to take the place of what becomes absent.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Create a Users partition for your Home directory
Authored by: mbotta on Aug 31, '03 05:25:52AM

Nice hint, worked as explained.

However, now that I have my Users directory on a separate partition, all folders are visible to anybody using the system.

On a virgin OSX, folders in a home directory get those little red badges on the folder icons to indicate you have no access. When you click on them, you have indeed no visibility (except for the Public folder with Read Only, and the underlying Drop Box with Write Only).

All of this functionality got lost when I moved the Users directory to a separate partition following the original hint.

Any ideas on how to get this back?



[ Reply to This | # ]
Create a Users partition for your Home directory
Authored by: acme.mail.order on Sep 06, '03 10:49:31PM

Chances are you have the 'Ignore ownership on this volume' flag in the Volume:Get info box checked. Uncheck it and your ownership/permissions should return to normal.
I use the symlink method on the office network and everything works as it should.

[ Reply to This | # ]
Create a Users partition for your Home directory
Authored by: otg on Oct 14, '03 07:43:12PM

Reading the hints on how to create a home directory on a volume different from the system's, I started thinking if there's a way to create a home directory for one specific user on one volume, and another home directory (for another user... :)) on another volume? Shouldn't be different from the above, or?

// otg

[ Reply to This | # ]
Create a Users partition for your Home directory
Authored by: restiffbard on Oct 25, '03 02:42:43AM

For anyone wondering this method works just jim dandy in Panther. Just got back from the Short-Pump store and just finished installing. Followed the steps and boom. Everything is fine. Panther. Ah, Panther.

[ Reply to This | # ]
Create a Users partition for your Home directory
Authored by: mzajac on Nov 03, '03 12:05:42AM

And if you're already set up this way, upgrading to Panther works like a charm.

I just upgraded from 10.2.8 to 10.3. I selected the "Archive and Install" option, and "Import User Settings". After the install and reboot, the machine booted as it always does, using my home directory on a second drive. Everything that's supposed to be updated seems to be updated, has all my mail, the keychain works, etc.

[ Reply to This | # ]
Create a Users partition for your Home directory
Authored by: peoe2 on Nov 06, '03 11:24:08PM

I installed the latest Panther security update. Since then I am unable to access the files in my home directory on a separate hard drive (all was working fine before the update). I only see the root folders (movies, music...) but nothing in them. Doing a get info on these folders show me that I really am on the 2nd hard drive (as expected).
Anybody else experiencing the same issue, any solution?
Now I'm back to having my user home on the system hard drive.

[ Reply to This | # ]
Create a Users partition for your Home directory
Authored by: bluehz on Nov 08, '03 12:48:03AM

I have had no probems with my /Users on a seperate partition. Although I found some of the older tips on enabling this were not working. For me the simplest technique worked. Edited /etc/fstab to add in the /Users drive, then simply created an empty dir name /Users on my root and the /Users drive mounts directly to that. To the rest of the system it shows up seamlessly as living on the /root anyway - so no installers balk at it or anything else that can get finicky. Did the same thing with my /applications also on another partition.

[ Reply to This | # ]
Create a Users partition for your Home directory
Authored by: motifone on Nov 08, '03 02:16:41PM

I have Panther installed and used the tip at the start of this thread to move Users to a partition named Users.

Most seemed well BUT

Acrobat Professional 6.0 and Flash MX 2004 are now having launch problems. I reinstalled them, but still problems.

I suspect it is because Users is on another partition from startup

Anyone else having similar issue?

[ Reply to This | # ]
Create a Users partition for your Home directory
Authored by: motifone on Nov 08, '03 03:34:03PM

follow up

i used Cocktail to create a symbolic link of my Users partition and places that symbolic link on my startup partition.

Adobe Acrobat Professional 6 now starts correctly.

Flash still having a launch issue.

[ Reply to This | # ]
Create a Users partition for your Home directory
Authored by: bluehz on Nov 09, '03 08:49:29AM

The symlinks method does not seem to work very well in Panther. This method is working for me just fine with a seperate /Users and /Applications dir. Here's a quick overview - more detailed instructions can be found elsewhere at MacOSXHints...

# Edit /etc/fstab
pico /etc/fstab

# add the following or similar to match your setup in fstab
LABEL=Users /Users hfs rw 1 2
LABEL=Applications /Applications hfs rw 1 2

# Duplicate your current /Applications and /Users to your new partitions
ditto --rsrc /Applications /path/to/new_partition
ditto --rsrc /Users /path/to/new_partition

# move your older /Applications and /Users out of the way and create dirs on the root level for mounting (you will prob have to do this while booted into sungle-user mode)
mv /Applications /Applications-old
mv /Users /Users-old
mkdir /Users /Applications

#then reboot (from single user)
reboot -n

and after startup be sure to repair permissions.

[ Reply to This | # ]
Create a Users partition for your Home directory
Authored by: TigerKR on Dec 27, '03 09:34:15AM
I'm using 10.3.2, and I tried to alter fstab, without altering netinfo, and it didn't work. The finder hangs on log-in and the dock won't remember its placement. I tried tweaking it for a while, but no dice.
LABEL=users /Users hfs rw 1 2
I made sure that the "Ignore permissions on this volume" was unchecked in the finder's get-info box. I tried repairing permissions. Oh well.

[ Reply to This | # ]
Create a Users partition for your Home directory
Authored by: wizwoz on Jan 16, '04 07:21:34PM

I have exactly this setup (10.2.8), but could not get Panther to reboot after Upgrade install, so restored from CCCloned backup. I am able to boot Panther from another partition, but would like to do the "Update" install on my Jaguar partition. So, how can I undo this setup? I understand how to restore the contents of the original directories using ditto, but the fstab and netinfo settings baffle me.

So: How to put Users and Applications back on boot volume?

[ Reply to This | # ]
Redirect Users partition?
Authored by: pascola on Jul 06, '04 07:57:37PM

I created a users partition in terminal with the code above and an additional line to create a symbolic link from the users folder to the boot volume. However I've found that this has slowed down a lot of processes and I'd like to reverse this so the users folder is on the boot volume again. I'm new to unix and not sure what to do to ensure that everything goes smoothly.

[ Reply to This | # ]
This hint breaks iTMS Authorization!
Authored by: Tovarizzle on Jan 05, '06 12:30:46AM
I've done this, and although it's worked wonderfully for me in 10.4.3 Tiger in almost every respect, this hint breaks the iTMS Authorization process, making your purchased music unplayable and unburnable

When you go to authorize your computer to play your music, it will let you input your password and everything, and even add the computer to the authorization count. However, the process will exit with a "Could not save Authorization information due to permissions or missing directory" error, and your purchased music WILL NOT be authorized to play and will remain unplayable (both on your computer and your iPod). You will be unable to burn CD's with the music either. Although a bug report has been submitted to Apple, I doubt that a fix will be forthcoming for a niche problem. So if you've got a large amount of music, you'd be best to use jHymn or CD-Reimporting to de-DRM your files before moving your Users folder, or to avoid this hint outright. I'm unable to test whether this same bug affects jHymn's operation, but it's broken for files purchased with iTunes 6+ at the moment, so it's largely irrelevant but worth a try if you're yet to upgrade to v6.

Also, as an asde MpgTx (installed through DarwinPorts, which works fine) seems to have trouble with the split filesystem, and will return "Empty Chunk" errors during joining with this setup. I'm not sure quite why or how, but it does.

Either way, this hint works very well for most things, and on a computer with a lot of different things going on, these two small issues are the only problems I've had. Hope this works well for you!

[ Reply to This | # ]
This hint breaks iTMS Authorization!
Authored by: Tovarizzle on Jan 08, '06 08:54:59PM

Just as an FYI, the MpgTx issue is fixed if you reinstall DarwinPorts once the new partition structure is in place.

For the iTMS bug, Apple replied that Partitioned Users folders are not supported and thus, this will not be fixed. So, it's jHymn time. w00t!

[ Reply to This | # ]