Centralized/shared Home Directories?

New Contributor

Our department came from the Unix workstation world, where user home directories shared from a central NFS file server was common. We moved that architecture to MacOS: our users could login to any of our desktop Macs, personal office or lab, and be right in their home directory, with their desktop, customization, files all accessible in exactly the same way on any of our systems. If our user's system died and needed to be replaced or a user moved from public lab machine to another public lab machine they simply got the very same environment they were used to. This worked fine though 10.11, but only half worked with 10.12 and doesn't work at all with 10.13 and going forward. Many applications are essentially non-functional (unless they came from the Unix world).

Does anyone have any suggestions on how to come anywhere close to replicating this type of functionality? A user could login to a public lab machine and get an environment already pre-customized, with desktop, dock, files etc where they'd expect them, just as if it's their own personal laptop, accessed from a central file server.

I realize this is something of a pipe dream now, but has anyone arranged an environment that's anywhere close to what we've had or have any ideas for how to somewhat partially create that sort of environment?


New Contributor III

Hey Arthur!

I've heard of someone using this, which seems to be kinda close: https://support.datajar.co.uk/hc/en-us/articles/115002330893-Network-Connector-Hybrid-Home-Folders-

It was only for a lab environment though. I would be curious to see what others have done on this!

Valued Contributor

This white paper is an excellent read. You could investigate using rsync to replicate/backup user folders.

We use a slightly modified version of the script in this thread.

Valued Contributor

I script a version of this in 10.13.3. But that is getting harder to do, and there are a few problems with it.

Basically in the script, I rename the folders - Desktop, Documents etc - and then I create a sym link to the network version. This does not work for the Library, that has to remain local, probably because of all of the non unix based Apps we have.
Apple's security system is also getting in the way, and the renaming of these folders has to be done by root, as the user does not have the rights to change the folders. In later versions of the OS even root does not have the rights to change the folders. This whole system relies on you being able to mount drives at point of login, another bone of contention with Apple here. The methods of authentication I have available, Apple has made the mounting of drives impossible.
And none of the above works in 10.14 for me. So we will no longer be working in this way here.