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Slim down your SSD with symbolic links

Christopher Breen | April 29, 2014
Why junk up your SSD's limited storage capacity with files that can easily be packed onto another hard drive? Chris Breen shows you how.

Reader Josh Gillam loves the speed of his SSD but not its capacity. He writes:

Late last year you wrote about speeding up an old Mac with an SSD. I followed your advice by replacing the media drive in my MacBook Pro with an SSD, leaving the original hard drive for other things. The problem I face now is that my SSD fills up quickly. Is there a way I can better manage its storage so files are stored by default on the old hard drive rather than the SSD?

Absolutely. There are a couple of ways you can go about this. If you find that a lot of the storage is being used by iPhoto and iTunes, you can simply shift their files over to the old hard drive and then point the apps to look there for their resources.

For iPhoto, copy the iPhoto Library archive from youruserfolder/Pictures to the old hard drive (where you copy it isn't important). Then launch iPhoto while holding down the Option key. An iPhoto window will appear that lists any iPhoto Library archives you have as well as the path to the currently selected archive. Select the archive you moved and click Choose. (If you don't see it in the list, click Other Library, navigate to it, and click Open.) You can now delete the original iPhoto Library archive. Whenever you work with iPhoto it will load and save images using this iPhoto Library archive.

Working with iTunes is less straightforward as you have to additionally adjust some settings within its preferences. I'll let Apple show you the way.

The other thing you might consider is moving some folders within your user folder to the old hard drive and creating symbolic links to them. The idea is that any app that wants access to folders such as Documents, Movies, Pictures, and Downloads will be directed to copies you've created on the old hard drive. This can't happen until you create links that tell the operating system "Look over there for the folders you want." Doing so requires some folder copying and the tiniest bit of Terminal work. Like so:

First, consider which folders you want to place on the old hard drive. The advantage of an SSD is that it accesses files very quickly and so you want to keep those files most often accessed on the faster drive. For this reason I'd suggest moving folders that contain large files that aren't used all that often--in my case the Pictures, Music, and Downloads folders. I would very definitely keep the hidden Library folder on the SSD as it contains lots of little files that the OS touches constantly.

 

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