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How to transfer files from one Mac user account to another?

transfer files from one Mac user account to another

The files and folders on one Mac computer can be copied between different accounts. This function may come in handy when you, for example, have created a temporary account on a new Mac computer that you have used for a brief period of time and then, through the Migration Assistant, have transferred an account from another Mac computer and now you want to merge the two.

Typically, you can’t successfully “merge” two “normal” user accounts that easily because it’s very challenging or even impractical to combine them by copying their files and folders, especially if both of the accounts have data for the same program.

You may, however, export data from certain programs on one user account and then import it to another. Typically, it is easiest to export to the Shared User Folder (located in your internal HD/Users/Shared), then import that information to the other Mac account from the Shared folder. The only thing is that you should do it program by program.

In case there is some data that is stored only on one account and don’t exist in the other, you can copy it.

Fast User Switching is a function that will allow you to switch between accounts back and forth as much as you need.

Fast User Switching can be enabled from System Preferences>>>Accounts. Go to the bottom and click on the padlock icon if it is locked. You may be asked to type your admin username and password.

Then, choose Login Options and from the options there select the one that says “Show fast user switching”. You can choose what to appear at the menu bar on the right.

When Fast User Switching is enabled, from the menubar on the right, click on the menu item and choose another user account. Enter your password when you get prompted. The first account will be simply suspended and not signed out, so that you can easily switch back and forth whenever you need.

Important! Files and folders that have different names and are located in different directories in the different user accounts can easily be copied.

Files and folders that have the same name and are copied in the same directories from the one account to the other will show a notification dialog on your screen that will look like this:

If you chose Replace, the original folder will be replaced with the one being copied. You’ll get one prompt on each of the duplicates unless you put a checkmark on the “Apply to all” checkbox.  

Proceed with great caution when you copy or replace data from the Library folder of the one account to the other since most of the items there are created automatically for each user account.

When copying large files or folders, make sure you do not fill in your internal HD. Ideally, you should keep it below 85% full.

To have control over the space that has been taken, do the copying process in small chunks, check if everything was copied correctly and then delete the originals from the other account.

Any specific permissions set to the copied items in the one account won’t be applied in the new account. By default, they will have Read & Write rights in the new account, while all other accounts will have Read only rights.

How to transfer files from one Mac user account to another?

Move Files to Shared Folder

Firstly, sign in or switch to the account that you want to copy files FROM.

Now, once you are in that account, prepare for the transfer by closing down all the programs that you want to copy/transfer data from.

Then, in Finder, find the home folder of the account. It will help you if you open second Finder window leading to the Shared folder (which is found in the Users folder at the top level of your internal HD)

Default subfolders such as Desktop, Downloads, Documents, etc. cannot be copied properly, but their content can be copied. Just be very careful of duplicates, as explained above. Our advice is to transfer the content of those folders one at a time to make sure that everything gets copied and placed correctly.

Copy (do not move) the files or folders you want into the Shared folder by using the Cmd and C key combination and then Cmd and V to paste them. When copying some items, you may be required to enter your password for the administrator.

Switch User Accounts on your Mac

Log in or switch to the account that you are copying files TO.

All programs whose data you are copying/transferring should be closed down.

In Finder, navigate to the Shared folder. To make things easier, open a second Finder window to the home folder of the account to which you are transferring things to.

Use the Copy function (do not move!) to copy the files and folders from the Shared folder to the desired directories in the home folder, such as Desktop, Documents, Downloads, etc. If you get prompted to enter your password, do it.

When the copying process is complete, go back to the account that you copied files FROM and delete the content of the Shared folder.

If you are sure that everything you need has been successfully copied to the account you want,  and you don’t want to keep the other account, go to System Preferences >>> Accounts, highlight the unwanted account, and delete it along with its home folder.

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