Relocating the Users folder in Catalina

New Contributor III

In the past when we wanted to offload the /Users folder from the internal disk we simply created a symbolic link for /Users that pointed to /Volumes/External_Drive_Name/Users. The Mac in question is a server for two computer labs, hosting 60 Macs with a few terabytes of data spread out across 200~ user accounts. Hosting the Users folder on the internal drive is simply not a good option for us.

Symbolic links are no longer supported (for the root directory folders) in Catalina / 10.15, so this no longer works using the tried and true method. During the upgrade the symbolic link was simply removed and replaced with the standard Users folder.

I've read up on firm links by way of creating a synthetic.conf file via man synthetic.conf, but this method isn't working for the Users folder. I AM able to build a synthetic.conf file that creates a link for foo in the root directory that points to another volume, but attempting to redirect Users in the same manner breaks nearly all functionality.

I'm using the following syntax and placing synthetic.conf in /etc/synthetic.conf:

Users (tab character) /Volumes/External_Drive_Name/Users

With that I'm able to fully boot (albeit slowly) and log in but Finder and Spotlight repeatedly crash, signaling to me that the system is unable to find/create a user folder for the current logged in user.

Has anyone found a way to do this yet?

Anyone know of any other tricks for redirecting MacOS to look for the Users folder on a different volume?


New Contributor

13th September 20 Update

External accounts no longer work with 10.15 Catalina, if you run the following from the terminal:


You will get the following in under the Notes section:

External accounts are no longer supported as of 10.15.

Hi there, I don't have a solution, but I have been doing this with out Macs in Education for a few years now, however only on the internal HD, but Catalina has stopped working with this method I'll describe below:

All our users sign in with AD credentials, and I have a very basic Mobility profile setup for all the Macs, the profile is set to use a custom path for the Home Folder Location. So, the Macs have been partitioned on the internal HD with a Macintosh HD, and another partition called Users. Then the Mobility profile is set to create the accounts at /Volumes/Users, this has allowed us to wipe the Macs 'Macintosh HD' partition with all the macOS and applications, re-install, and have the Mac back up and running with all the User accounts still in tact.

Catalina has stopped this from working. Whatever I've tried when it comes to APFS and how the roles of the drives are managed, etc, or the location the accounts should be created via the Mobility profile, it goes to the usual Macintosh HD - Data partition Catalina creates.

I was thinking the Mobility profile might have been depreciated in some way when it comes to Catalina?

I know this hasn't helped with your issues, but I think we are trying to achieve the same thing, have you had any success?

Or hopefully someone else sees this and it helps flame some new ideas.

New Contributor II

I am in the EXACT same boat for the EXACT same reasons as stuartInSTCG

Ive just been reading this article:

I'm wondering if I can write a script using "sudo dscl . create /Users/yourUser NFSHomeDirectory /new/path/yourUser" to achieve what I need. My plan is to clone the partition using CCC. I'd like the script to 'read' the names of the user folders that are freshly cloned and run the dscl command accordingly with those read user names.

Is anyone who is handy with scripting able to jot this up for me? Pretty please?

Valued Contributor

Hi guys,

have any of you tried the synthetic.conf method mentioned by Rich T?