Shifting large media libraries

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Reader Remo seeks a way to store media files in a location other than a user’s Home folder. He writes:

My brother’s family 24-inch iMac has a hard drive of 500GB and it’s filling up pretty fast with pictures, movies, music, etc. Usually I would just replace the hard drive in a computer with a larger one, but we would be voiding the warranty on his computer, which isn’t something we want to do.

I want to have their home directory or certain folders on their iMac to serve as a representation to where these files are actually being saved to, which is an external hard drive. I have been a long time Mac user, but I don’t see an easy way of doing this. Is there a way within MacOS X (10.6) to accomplish this?

I see several ways to approach this one.

If all you’re after is a larger startup drive for storing files, just use an external hard drive as your boot drive. Find a fast FireWire drive, clone the contents of the internal drive to it using a tool such as Bombich Software’s donation-ware Carbon Copy Cloner (making the external drive bootable in the process), and designate that external drive as the startup drive. Done.

Or, if you simply want to store media files on the external drive, this can be easily done as well. For pictures, copy the iPhoto Library file from your brother’s Pictures folder (found inside his user folder) to the external hard drive. Hold down the Option key and launch iPhoto. A dialog box will appear that asks “What Photo Library Do You Want iPhoto to Use?” Choose the copy of the iPhoto Library file you just copied and click the Choose button. iPhoto will now read and write to this iPhoto Library rather than the one on the internal drive.

For the music and movies that iTunes uses, dig down into your brother’s Music folder (also inside his user folder), open the iTunes folder, and copy the iTunes Music folder to the external drive. Launch iTunes, choose Preferences, click the Advanced tab, and click the Change button in the iTunes Media Folder Location area. Also enable the Copy Files to iTunes Media Folder When Adding to Library option. iTunes will now use this folder as well as add new media to it.

Or, you can place your brother’s user folder on the external drive. My colleague, Dan Frakes, explains how to do that in this tip from Mac OS X Hints. (Note that you no longer need to use -rsrc to do this.)

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