Update when user folder on external drive

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Hi,

Just an FYI.

I bought a Mac Pro on 3/16/2015 and put my user directory on an external Thunderbolt WD VelociRaptor Duo. It seemed like a good idea. Then I spent the next three days troubleshooting my Komodo IDE, which had publishing issues. It turns out they had a problem with spaces in the path name - "/Volumes/My\ Book\ VelociRaptor\ Duo".

To fix that, I renamed the volume to "External" and all was well. Then today 3/20, a security update comes along. I clicked "Install". When it rebooted, I had no data in my user folders - just folders. I could log in as my admin user and see the files. An hour on the phone with two levels of Apple Support and they decided OS X doesn't really exhibit "expected behavior" when the user directory is on an external drive.

Deleting and rebuilding my user fixed the problem, but I don't want it to happen again. I decided to keep my user directory on the internal SSD and just mount the Thunderbolt drive to a directory in my user directory. I suspect that solves the issue - That's how one of my other Macs is setup.

Thanks,
Dave
 

Slydude

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Thanks for the heads up on that one. A few years ago there were posts all over the net with people trying to move their user folder to either another drive or another partition. As I recall errors similar to this were quite common. You might have saved someone lots of headaches.
 

chscag

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+1 to what Slydude said. We get this a lot when users replace their optical drive with a hard drive and then play "musical chairs" with their user folder, and sometimes even with their Applications folder. Best to keep both on the boot drive (Macintosh HD) so OS X is happy. :)
 
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G'day and welcome to the forums.

Dave, with a Mac Pro why are you doing this when it has four internal hard drive bays, or are you really referring to a MacBook Pro, a different kettle of fish entirely?
 
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Harry,

The Mac Pro I have has no internal drive bays. It is a little round thing. It has a single 256GB PCIe Flash drive. The external drives are Thunderbolt 2TB RAID and as fast as the SSD in one of my Mini's. I have need of the space, but I like the speed.

Dave
 
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chscag,

Please don't take this as critical - think of it as more sarcastic. I clicked the button that said something like "Choose the location for your user directory" and a week later an update blew it up. I clicked something that said "Change your Desktop background", too, and nothing so unusual happened. Apple Support said it should probably work if it is going to be there. I agreed. Best in this case would be if the update process took into account the fact that user variables are variable. Second would be if OS X made them less variable.

I think that is the end of my OS X bashing for now - it is hard to stay mad at this new Mac Pro.

Dave
 

Slydude

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:Cool::Cool::eek: @dcallmon I would personally like to volunteer to come and "protect" that bad boy while you are out and about. Of course I'll have to use it during those times to make sure the poor thing doesn't get bored but I'm willing to make the sacrifice.

In all seriousness it has been quite a while since I looked at this issue. Interest dropped off a bit once hard drives hit the several hundred GB size and dropped in price. I suppose interest might pick up again with SSDs becoming more widespread. Here's a recent article explaining how to get this done. If you're not familiar with Terminal commands have someone look this over first.

There were other methods for getting this done IIRC. Some of them seemed to break the updating process since OS X installers look for that folder in a specific location. Some of them are not expecting it to be anywhere but the boot drive. Theoretically a host of problems could occur any time the drive/partition with the user folders isn't available.

Here's one example of some of the potential problems.

Edit: I see from your post that you seem to have already run into one of the problems
 
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@slydude You can come and baby sit her any time you'd like. Wear gloves. Bring money.

This will come up more often as people buy the new Mac Pro. Support asked me why I chose to do it that way. I reminded them of the cost of a 1TB M.2 PCIe flash drive upgrade at their store.

That is the very tutsplus article I used to set it up.

Although I would like the feature to work as advertised, productivity suffers when I spend my time doing things that should work instead of things that do work. I would much rather do as chscag suggests, and just use it as it was intended.
 

Slydude

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I think you're right. It is going to pop up more often now that almost every Mac in the lineup has some form of flash storage.

There are some things that can be done to curb the size of your user folder without causing problems for OS X. You've probably thought of these ideas but just in case:

1. Libraries for iPhoto, iTunes, and probably GarageBand can be moved to another drive. If the drive isn't available on launch it's more an inconvenience than a deal/OS breaker.
2. I believe virtual machine files for Fusion etc. can be kept on another drive as long as the drive is available when those programs are launched.
3. Documents don't have to be in your user folder. If they're not other users can open them unless other steps are taken.
4. Downloads can be redirected to somewhere outside the user folder as well. Not a big savings unless you are either a digital pack rat or someone who forgets to clear out that folder regularly.
5. The Pictures, Music, and Movies folders may have other media in them not created by iTunes etc.
 
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I stayed off this topic for a while because I tried what dcallmon tried and got a similar result. However, what "fixed" it was to copy the /Users/<user> folder to the external drive, then delete all the clearly user associated files in the /Users/<user> directory but keep anything that looked "installed" there and not messing with any hidden files that may be there as well. Using that approach, the error dcallmon is seeing should go away as the update finds files where it expects to see them. I seem to recall Calibre was a particularly offending app as it puts parts of the app in the user home directory. From dcallmon's description, it seems the OS may have some hidden files in there also (If true, that's not nice, Apple.) Also, even though it freed up a lot of space on the boot drive, this approach is a bit unwieldy as each application needs to be pointed to the external drive, which was also a PITA. But it can be done if you leave the structure, system files and hidden files behind on the boot drive for the updates to find.
 

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I think one of the methods I read about that had the fewest errors used symbolic links to preserve the structure. I'm not sure about that though. As I say it has been years since I looked at this.

Like most people it became moot for me when hard drive prices started to drop. Given the shift to various forms of solid state drives it might be time for a revisit.

Wouldn't surprise me if Van doesn't have a few relevant thoughts on this matter.
 

Slydude

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Harry,

The Mac Pro I have has no internal drive bays. It is a little round thing. It has a single 256GB PCIe Flash drive. The external drives are Thunderbolt 2TB RAID and as fast as the SSD in one of my Mini's. I have need of the space, but I like the speed.

Dave

Don't think so Harry. I think he's got an actual newer Mac Pro. One of those sometimes referred to as the Ikea Trash Can.
 
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Yes, trash can. As an aside, the pictures on the website make it look smaller than it is. I attached a picture of some of the computers. There are also three Mac mini's, two Macbook Pros, and an iMac in the house. Those little cubes are a CentOS server and a Windows 8 box. I use the Windows box to develop Mac and iPhone apps. Go figure.

computers.jpg
 

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