Challenges Migrating a Home Directory


Here is the situation: I am sending in my Powerbook G4 (running 10.4.2) for repair, but I use the machine for my livelihood something like 14 hours a day or more. I have access to a desktop machine (running 10.4.2 Server). My goal is to copy my home directory to the desktop machine, use it there as I normally would, and then copy it back when my Powerbook returns. But there are challenges.

I thought the obvious tool would be the Migration Assistant. But the desktop machine has all its User directories on a second hard drive, the first one being barely large enough for the OS and basic apps. Migration Assistant doesn't appear to have any mechanism for targeting that second drive as the destination.

The other tool I've considered is the Mobile Computing feature of Tiger Server, but I can't tell how to get that set up with a client machine (the Powerbook) that already has a lot of data on it. Getting this solution to work is ideal, because this is what I was hoping to use in the long run to aid with backup.

I have poked around at various backup utilities, but none of them seem quite right for this task of having my home dorectory live somewhere else for a week and be actively used, then restored to its original location.

Any advice?


-- Michael

P.S. I have already spoken to Apple Support about this. The fellow who tried to help me was sincere, but clueless. He suggested just copying the directory using the finder, but was oblivious to permission issues that have always arisen when I've done that.


You could use one of the included unix based CLI tools such as "rsync". This will copy data and preserve all file permissions and timestamps.

As an example, say you have a user "justincase" and you want to migrate his home directory to a firewire drive you have jacked into your powerbook, you would do the following:

sudo rysnc -avne /Users/justincase/ /Volumes/FireWireDrive/justincase/

..the command above will show you exactly what will be copied to the firewire drive without actually copying the data. Run the command without the -n included and it will actually copy the entire directory to the new filespace.

NOTE: "sudo" implies that you want to run the command with superuser (i.e. "root") priveleges, without actually having to become the root user. It will prompt you for the administrative password (which is likely your password since you would have administrator priveleges on your own machine).

Rsync your data to a firewire drive, jack it in to your desktop machine and then rysnc from the firewire drive to where you want the home directory to live (essentially reversing the paths noted above). Give it a try and get familiar with these CLI tools. Take care.