Symbolic Links And App Store



I've searched all over Google with no luck to try and find a solution to this problem. I work for a school and we want to partition our teacher's computer hard drives and place the /Users folder on the 2nd partition. This is to make it easier for us to reload computers without having to backup the users' data to a flash drive and restore it (for some clients this process can take over 5 hours....).

I was able to script deleting the /Users folder, recreating it on the 2nd partition (named /Volumes/USERDATA) and then setting a symbolic link from /Users to /Volumes/USERDATA/Users. Everything seemed to work fantastic until I tried to log into the App Store.

It appears with the Symbolic Link to the /Users folder I can no longer access the App Store. I get a message that states "An error occurred" when trying to log in. When I reload the computer back to our normal build (that doesn't use a symbolic link for the /Users folder) then I can access the App Store just fine.

As a work around I researched trying to set up Symbolic Links only for the folders with user data (downloads, desktop, documents, etc.) and leave the system folders like Library alone. I can't do this manually for every teacher that logs in as we have over 200 staff and will have more staff each year. I need a solution that will do this for every user that logs in without my intervention for every computer.

My specific Question is: Does anyone know how I can troubleshoot or resolve the issue with the App Store login when I use a Symbolic Link for the /Users folder. If it is not possible to solve then is there a way to set up a template so that every user that logs onto our computers has their home drive folders moved to another location and a Symbolic Link created in place?

Thanks in Advance
The system needs the User folder on the same drive as the System Folder. What you need is a procedure that backs up the users folders in case you need to reinstall the OS. The rule is always have a back up - at least once a week.
The easiest is to have an external drive and set up Time Machine. Then - in case you do need to reinstall, you have a back up already.

Why the concern for ‘reloading’ the computer? Doing a update or even an upgrade does not normally interfere with the user folder.
Thank you for the quick response. When I say reload I mean we actually wipe and reinstall the OS. This is done for any number of reasons if there are problems with the client's device. We don't have the resources and time available to fully troubleshoot and resolve problems and since we can reinstall the OS and give it back to the client in under 20 minutes that's the preferred method to resolve most problems.

Also separating the OS and the User data ensures we don't make any mistakes and forget to back up a client's data. There are those days where you have to setup for a school assembly, a teacher's projector is broken, one of the printer's is reporting a fault and someone is walking in with a laptop that's reporting system errors on boot. Being able to plug that laptop in and hitting reload without worrying about manually backing up the data would save us a lot of hassles.

Essentially the issue I'm trying to resolve is how do I configure a computer so that I can reload the OS without losing any data in the commonly used folders like desktop, documents, downloads, pictures, music, and movies without any manually backing up required.

EDIT: One thing I forgot to mention is while this is handy during the school year for one off issues at the end of the year in July we go through and reload every device to ensure they are all up to date and have our latest software versions for the next school year. This means we have to back up and restore the majority of the 200 devices. It's very time consuming to manually back up 200 computers if you can imagine.
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Have you considered the use of drop box or iCloud for the user (aka teacher) to save all their documents, music, movies, etc there?

My school district is pushing us to use Google Drive but we have a contract with them to be our email server. Of course this wouldn’t help if they are installing apps on their machines unless you are not allowing them to do installs (My district has set up their computers to not allow staff to install. We have to get our IT person to do it for us)
Cloud based syncing software can be a partial solution and the school is slowly moving towards Google Drive however people will continue to use the Documents and Desktop folders because those are the default locations and the easiest to save to directly from applications. Not all of our files can be created and maintained in Google drive like movie creating software and Smart Notebook (the files would have to be saved locally and then moved up to Google drive, something I doubt most teachers would do if they don't need to share the files with others).

Dropbox may be the best option but we'd have to pay for the amount of storage we would require and some of the video files are gigabytes in size. Uploading those over our wifi connection would most certainly cause headaches of its own.

This was a much simpler problem to solve at my last company since they used Windows. Networked shares with folder redirection meant employees couldn't save any files locally but always had easy access to save and use their files off the network.