Moving the home folder off the boot drive


I recently had the opportunity to configure a new iMac running Lion that contained both a solid state drive (SSD) and a conventional 1 TB hard drive. My client was told by an Apple Store representative that he could reconfigure his new iMac in such a way that his applications and operating system could reside on the SSD while he could move his home folder to the hard drive. Not being the technical type, he hired me to do the job.

I first had to figure out how to change the home folder setting. In Lion that it is configured using the Users & Groups pane in System Preferences.

If the System Preferences lock is in the closed position, unlock it by clicking it once and enter the administrator’s name and password. Then, Control-click on the user account to bring up the Advanced Options popup window.

It is here in the Advanced Options window where you change the home directory location. Choose the new home folder location on the secondary hard drive, then click OK.

Don’t ignore the red warning message in the Advanced Options window! Performing this step and trashing the home folder on the boot drive caused all sorts of headaches for me and my client!

First, Safari could not find its plist file in the usual location on the boot drive, so when I tried to save the user’s desired home page, the computer would not save the setting. It always reverted to the original URL (Apple’s start page).

Then, Firefox stopped working entirely. I kept getting screen messages that the Firefox profile could not be loaded and that it may be missing or inaccessible.

Finally, after restarting the iMac, I could no longer access the user account at all! After speaking with Apple support, I could nothing else except wipe the SSD drive clean and reinstall Lion using the Recovery Disk Assistant (accessed by holding the Option key during boot).

Conclusion
Don’t move your home folder to another location! Too many programs are designed to look for configuration files in the user’s Library folder (which is hidden by default in Lion). You can safely move and store iTunes and iMovie libraries onto a secondary or external drive. As a precaution, set up a secondary adminstrator’s account on a Lion-powered Mac, in case you get locked out of your main account.

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1 Comment

Filed under Apple Hardware, Apple Software, Troubleshooting

One response to “Moving the home folder off the boot drive

  1. Pingback: Using old home files - Hardware Canucks

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