How do you organize your files on your Mac, external HD, and/or NAS devices?

So I was brainstorming how to organize my files on my computer and the eventual preparation of moving stuff over from my current collection of external drives to a Synology 1019+. As such, I used Mindnode to make the following mind map of the different file categories.

Obviously, this isn’t entirely fleshed out as there would be a further breakdown of my documents, for instance, music, and Dropbox folders. That said it’s a start. Additionally, it shows my thoughts of a Synology organization as well. One of the things is I would like to move most of my videos onto the Synology though I’d imagine I would have to go into iMovie to do so (thoughts?).

How does everyone else organize their files? Do you organize similarly or something entirely different? What about on a NAS or external HD? I find that using the app Forklift 3 has helped a ton in organizing files. There is this older thread that hasn’t been updated in a while from here How do you organize your personal folders and files on your Mac where it discusses similar but I thought expanding and opening up the discussion would be more useful.

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Although this may not help you, I went away from the Synology setup and hang hard drives off my iMac. All my file structure except my photo library are nested in OneDrive so all files are accessible from my iPad & iPhone, as well. Photos are managed through Photo Library but are also backed up through Google Photos just in case.

My iMac is backed up to Time Machine and cloned via CCC. Additionally, the iMac is backed up via Backblaze.

I really recommend your main files being in whatever cloud service you like. It makes life much easier!

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My synology is mainly used for:

  • long term storage of data I rarely need
  • backup storage for my iPhoto library and documents data
  • hyperbackup backs up all iPhoto and document data to Synology C2 exncrypted backup
  • my Plex library is on the synology, it is accessed by my Mac mini (Plex server)

Most other data is in iCloud now, I’ve used Dropbox in the past, but moved everything off it over the last year. The last items I moved last month when the announcement came they were going to a 3 device limit for the free teer. I get why they do it, but as I already pay for iCloud I did not want to pay extra. (only use it for folder sharing now)

My macs store private and work documents in the documents folder (shared via iCloud) and are all in sync. They do not have a lot on them, I think 4-8 Gb is about all. My Mac mini contains the master photo library, my Macbook doesn’t have that enabled.

This way I can access all I need from any device, from anywhere (Synology VPN and iCloud) And that works very well for me.

Hi Jonathan,

interesting thread - thanks for opening it :wink:
I have an older Synology but still good running and I like it dearly, as I am not only using for backup purposes but active photo sharing, vpn, Homebridge (under docker), own cloud, and some other stuff.

Data is being organised as follows:

  • Structure on my iMac is as follows:

    • SvenCloud: this contains all document files except photos, music or movies - this is my private cloud run via the Synology
    • employerCloud: I work for a US based IT company and each employee in our unit has a cloud space to sync across all devices - here everything is available for work
    • Creative Cloud files: this is the Adobe cloud space - see below
    • iCloud: another copy of all documents that reside in the SvenCloud :wink: SvenCloud is based on Owncloud and sometimes has problems,
    • music/movies/photos I save rarely on the iMac but usually on the Synology as soon as I am done with those (editing, etc.)
  • I am applying a couple of Hazel rules to copy immediately specific files over to the NAS such as expenses statement for my company, scanned invoices, etc. - these go under specific directories on the Synology.

  • Additionally I have a full copy of all documents, photos and music files from my iMac to my Synology.

  • same applies to everything I am doing on my MacBook - all files are being copied over to the NAS once I am in any WLAN

  • All my videos are originally on my NAS as I am using Plex and use it via the Apple TVs at my home

  • Documents others than photos, videos, music I have the owncloud app (private cloud) as well as iCloud - just to make sure I can access them from anywhere.

  • Only the photos I take while traveling I have in the Adobe Cloud as I am a full Adobe Suite subscriber. Once I return home I copy them over to the iMac while I continue working on them once done the reside on the Synology.


  • I have a second Synology (prior version) attached to my main unit, which I am using as a backup device - all stuff on my production Synology is being backed up on the old Synologyn(with new drives :wink: ). Both run SHR, by the way.
  • Additionally I have an external drive attached to my iMac which is running an overnight backup of the iMac.
  • Also I run a complete Synology, iMac and MacBook backup to my companies Cloud system with snapshots.
  • last but not least my iMac as well as my MacBook are being backed up once a month (or so) on external drives which I carry to our other house.

I know David Sparks does something rather similar, he hasn’t powered his Drobo on for some time. Having files accessible in OneDrive I’m sure is nice, I’d want to make sure that’s backed up though of course. Unless does that get backed up through CCC or Time Machine?

I agree, my reason for using a Synology would be very much the same use cases as you have. I like that you store most everything in terms of documents and such in iCloud. Aside from documents, what about other files aside from your photo library, does that stuff go into iCloud as well?

I find myself in my work life increasingly using Google Drive and such for various things as well and will then periodically download those items to my personal computer for safe keeping.

Can you access your Photo library from your Mac Mini through your macs or IOS devices?

Not a problem, happy to open this can of worms inquiring about people’s file structures.

Is this through Own Cloud or Synology’s cloud service?

Is this a direct copy of SvenCloud? How do you keep them in sync?

That’s what I’m planning on doing mostly to save storage space on my Mac.

Do you periodically copy these over manually or have a cloning job do this?

This might apply to my above question, how do you do this?

That’s really generous your company allows you to back up to your cloud system!

Do you use Backblaze or B2 etc to back up your stuff as well?

Yah since OneDrive is a folder just like any other and I have everything download, it is exposed to the same backup scheme as everything else on my computer. I believe that means I have 5 copies of everything.

It is based on ownCloud - but I do not rely on it 100% as I am using also iCloud, sometimes ownCloud is kind of buggy :frowning:

Well, all the data is on iCloud, and I have made a little Hazel script to sync all files that change continuously into ownCloud. Seems to be working so far.

Every night I copy via ccc all that has changed …

right, same as a move - but not every night, but immediately when I am in some WLAN (hotel, airport lounge, etc.) Sometimes I have to stop it because of size and/or time - but it picks up where it was.

hehehehehe - it would be of them, if they knew :joy:
We are running large innovation projects and cloud space is not an issue (not yet, who knows). If it becomes limited I will have to look at other options such as Backblaze but as long as they do not have any datacenter in Europe, I will not use them. The total backup contains data, which I would not like to see outside of a descent data privacy legislation. What I have on iCloud is not of that privacy nature.

I have currently four backups two of them remote located - I hope that is sufficient so far.

I actually use iCloud for all files I actively use, once it is no longer in use for 6 months or so I will usually move it out of iCloud and onto the Synology.

When I need to access something on the mini I either map a drive (also in iOS through the filebrowser app) or use the screens app to have direct access to the machine.

So currently I have a OneDrive account through work. I work on files on my work computer and then save it to OneDrive allowing me to work on the same files on my Mac at home. I’m not going to throw all my files into OneDrive but I like the idea that @JKoopmans has of active files in iCloud or whatever other storage service.