Forum Question: Dangerous to Move Home Folder to a different Hard Drive??

I have a Mac Pro with 4 hard drive bays and I am thinking of moving my home (user) folder to another hard drive, so in the end one hard drive will contain my system & app’s (boot drive), a drive with my home folder (data drive) and finally a Time Machine drive. I read it can be done, but that it could potentially cause problems . . . some software updates could get confused as to where the Home folder is located?? MacPerformanceGuide recommends not moving it, and leaving on the boot but moving the data to a separate data drive. The only problem there is Mail insists on storing messages on the boot. MacPerformanceGuide’s solution is to put in the following command that makes a symbolic link (below copied from MacPerformanceGuide):

0. Quit Apple Mail, and make a backup of your mail folder.
1. Copy the Mail folder to the top level of your data drive (or elsewhere, then modify step 3 appropriately).
2. Rename the original mail folder to Mail.old as an additional backup.
3. Start a Terminal window and type:

ln -s /Volumes/Master/Mail Library/Mail

This makes a symbolic link to the folder Mail on the volume Master (type the name of your volume, and use quotes around it if the volume name contains a space character). The resulting file Library/Mail is a tiny file that says “look over there on /Volumes/Master/Mail instead”.

From here on out Apple Mail won’t know the difference! Launch Apple Mail and verify that it worked. If you encounter problems, simply copy your backup back into place.

What do you recommend? Which method is safer? In the future I plan on buying a SSD for my boot drive which will contain the system and app’s, but not sure if I should completely move my Home Folder or just the data as MacPerformanceGuide talks about

— Pierre Highland

Comments: 3 Responses to “Dangerous to Move Home Folder to a different Hard Drive??”

    11/9/09 @ 3:34 pm

    It is indeed very tricky to have your home folder on another drive. I wouldn’t do it. Instead, do what I do:
    System, apps and home folder on one drive. Just like the OS likes it. Then use another drive to store your large collections of media. I have my iTunes library and my iPhoto library on the second drive. Easy to re-locate them. I also have a folder there for all my iMovie projects and iDVD stuff. iMovie looks on all your drives for projects, so it is easy to do as well. I then have a document folder on that second hard drive that I use as well. I don’t really store too much in my home documents folder.
    The rest I leave up to the OS. So I do have a home folder, but besides mail data and lots of preference files, there isn’t too much in it.

    11/10/09 @ 2:28 pm

    ln -s /Volumes/Master/Mail Library/Mail

    Above command is interesting! I could then have Time Machine just back up my data drive since Mail data would be on the data drive.

    How does the command work? Symbolic link?? Would the OS like it or see it as tricky and be un-stable?

    My Mail data can’t be more than 10GB but skipping backing up my sys and app’s would save room on Time Machine. BTW, do you also back up your sys and app’s? Is it worth doing since it is replaceable? I would lose pref settings if I didn’t back up the sys.

      11/10/09 @ 2:45 pm

      Yes, that is a symbolic link. Have you tried making an alias instead? At least that would be somewhat supported by the Finder. Either could be unstable — at the very least it would be “unsupported”.
      I have TM back up everything. That is the only way you can do a restore if your drive fails. Otherwise, you’ll have to rebuild the drive from an OS install, app installs, and TM documents.
      With hard drives being so cheap, I can’t see why I wouldn’t want to just back up the entire drive.

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