Move User Folder to External Drive on Monterey?

I’m trying to move my user data folder to a newly installed external drive in my new to me 2015 iMac.

I was following the instructions here: Move Mac User folder

First problem was that the copy on the HD never finished copying. So I rebooted into a different admin account. Ran into permission issues. Logged out and back into my main user account, set everything so that the admin group could access it, logged back into the other account, moved my main account user folder across, verified they were the same size, changed the user folder location in user preferences to point to the new folder, rebooted and tried to log in as my now moved folder.

All my preferences were messed up and doing ANYTHING was glacially slow. My apps on the bottom bar were not there, my preferences for mouse handling and scrolling had been reset to defaults. The windows and apps I normally have open all the time wer enot open and had to be redone. Simple navigation was slow. I could notmove around in the new folder fast even though when I created a simple folder there and put data into it that was fine.

So I decided to revert back and aske here. I reset my user folder in users and groups advanced to be the copy on the boot drive and rebooted. Everything was back as I expected it to be.

So I figured there is somehting else I am missing that this guide did not include.

My goal is that apps, and system stay on the smaller internal SSD and my user folder with all my data lives on the much larger internal hard drive we added. On my current mac my user folder is at about 1.5 TB.

The new mac boot drive is only 500GB while its internal hard drive is 6 TB split into 2 partitions, one for Time Machine and one for me to use as my user file space.

Can nayone tell me what I did wrong in the move of my user folder to the internal hard drive and how to get it to work properly?

Not a note to your core problem, but I would highly recommend, to place the TimeMachine on a separate Drive. If your Datadrive fails for some reason, you are most likely also going to loose the TimeMachine.


Eventually the time machine drive will be replaced by an external drive I can grab and go in case of an evacuation but right now it’s in the internal system just as a placeholder.

However, thinking about it it may be better to try to find a drive for that now and implement it now so I can keep my entire 6TB drive for my own files. Now’s the time to do it, before I migrate my data from old mac to new one.

Thanks for making me rethink my process.

Regarding your original problem.

Do you had any App, beside Finder, open at that time? If I do something like that, I made sure that really any additional App (incl. “Helper”) is closed via the Activity App. If there are Apps, that I could not close, or where the “Helper” is starting right back, I revert to the Safe Mode,

to finish the copy of my Folder.

The instruction you linked above otherwise looked, on the first glance, complete to me.
I don´t know at this time, what else could have gone wrong.

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I agree with @Ulli the linked instructions should work. A few years ago I was running out of room on a Mac mini and moved my account to an external SSD. I had no problems and noticed no difference in performance.

After testing everything I created a backup admin account on the internal drive then deleted my user account.

As Ulli says; Start up in Safe Mode and redo the process.
Also as Ulli says; TM on a separate drive if you have the possibility.

Other thoughts I’d have is to have only my Documents on a separate drive, and the Library and Home folder on the internal.


I’m not a fan of using Finder to copy large directory structures. Maybe try using rsync or something like Carbon Copy Cloner (which uses rsync to do its stuff)?

Why? Other than slowness?

A couple of reasons: The first is that I’ve seen it hang more than once when attempting to copy a large directory tree. The second is old-timey-Unix-caution against using the default file copy method when wanting to do things like preserving things like file attributes and “weird” things like symlinks.

@OogieM did you resolve this?

Not yet, had to abandon the attempt, will try again when I return, I’m out of town for the next few days away from my main computers.

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I ran a setup like this for a while on a 2017 iMac. Fair warning, it does require ongoing tinkering as many apps get confused by having your home folder somewhere unexpected and would try to put things on the system drive by default. I often had to use symlinks or manually reconfigure apps to use the right drive. It was a hassle and would break things, often at inconvenient times. In retrospect, I somewhat regretted this approach and would have just left the user/home folder in it’s default location and just offloaded data in “dumb” folders.

Do you have used exact the way described above, to move the folders?

I agree. This might be a good opportunity to move everything to a mounted volume.
E.g. Photos and Music can use non-standard locations.

Absolute paths can be a pain, but once converted to /Volumes/Work (or whatever), that entire volume can be moved or replaced with another volume named Work without another conversion.

That makes sense. Current tentative plan, move my documents, AndroidStudio and PyCharm folders off onto the hard drive and leave the rest on the system drive and add an external HD for the time machine backup.