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Make Macintosh HD – Data files available on desktop

By Simon Owen,
Web Designer, Envisage

mac HD-data desktop files
mac HD-data desktop files

Updated your Mac OS and want to put your HD root files back in a desktop folder? Here’s your solution.

With 30 Years of Mac OS daily usage under my belt, I upgraded my desktop iMac from macOS Mojave to macOS Big Sur recently – and reluctantly.

I was very hesitant to do this on my workhorse iMac. Reason being, I did the same OS update on my laptop first with shocking results! Read more below.

Be aware, when updating from Mojave to Catalina (or Big Sur) you’ll find that the root Macintosh HD is unwritable. This is due to new security restrictions as dictated by Apple. What, you may ask, is the point of an unwritable HD on my desktop? Good question.

More to the point, where are my all-important work files that, pre-update, were sitting in my Mac Hard Drive?

Where did my files go?

Updating to Catalina or Big Sur from Mojave will create an invisible partition of your HD called Macintosh HD – Data. The location is Macintosh HD > System > Volumes > Macintosh HD. Here, you’ll find all of your precious work and personal files.

There is no easy way to make this crazy new (Data) Volume mount on your Desktop. As dictated by Apple, it’s invisible. Bummer. How do you make your old-school Mac HD root work files easily accessible again?

I did a sloppy hack on my laptop to get the Macintosh HD – Data files available on desktop via an Alias Folder. Fine for my laptop, but not good enough for my recently OS updated desktop iMac workhorse.

A good solution is simple:

  1. Create a new folder on your desktop. This is where you’ll put your original root Mac HD personal files. The folder can be any name to wish.
  2. Locate your HD – Data files. Go to > System > Volumes > Macintosh HD.
  3. Move your personal/work files into the newly created desktop folder by holding down the Command key () as you grab and drop each item. You may be asked to type in your User Password. DO NOT simply drag and drop, as this will create a copy!
  4. Move ONLY your personal files to the desktop folder. Leave all System files in the Volume > Machintosh HD folder.
  5. Done!

Finishing touches

Find yourself a rock’n Replacement OS Hard Drive Icon. Give your new Desktop Hard Drive folder some personality!

How to assign a custom icon to your desktop folder:

  1. Right-click your new Desktop HD folder > Get Info
  2. Drag and Drop your newly downloaded icon (.icns) onto the folder icon to update it (top left of Info Panel).

Here’s my new Mac HD folder on the desktop in Big Sur:

custom mac-hd-data icon

Keep the ‘Macintosh HD’ Volume permanently on your desktop. It contains all of the OS goodies. However, move it down to the bottom right of your desktop to keep it out of the way.

Remember, hit Command-Shift-A to access all of your third-party Apps. I’ve never bothered with the whole Mac OS Documents, Movies, Documents thing, so the above solution works perfectly for my legacy file management habits.

Conclusion

I am happy with the above solution. After hours searching the web for an elegant solution, I found nothing suitable to match my desktop HD storage habits. Hence, I have created this post to hopefully save you some time.

I think that Apple should be warning users at the start of the update process about how (and why) your HD root files will moved. Don’t you?

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