12.4. Editing Accounts
If you're an administrator, you can change your own account in any way you like.
If you have any other kind of account, though, you can't change anything but your picture
and password. If you want to make any other changes, you have to ask an admin to log
in, make the changes you want made to your account, and then turn the computer back
over to you.
12.4.1. Deleting Accounts
Hey, it happens: Somebody graduates, somebody gets fired, somebody dumps you.
Sooner or later, you may need to delete an account from your Mac.
When that time comes, click the account name in the Accounts list and then click the
minus-sign button beneath the list. Mac OS X asks what to do with all of the dearly
departed's files and settings (Figure 12-11):
• Save the home folder in a disk image. This option presents the "I'll be back"
approach. Mac OS X preserves the dearly departed's folders on the Mac, in a tidy
digital envelope that won't clutter your hard drive, and can be reopened in case of
In the Users Deleted Users folder, you find a disk image file (.dmg) like the
ones described on Section 5.12. If you double-click it, a new, virtual disk icon
named for the deleted account appears on your desktop. You can open folders and
root through the stuff in this "disk," just as if it were a living, working Home
If fate ever brings that person back into your life, you can use this disk image to
reinstate the deleted person's account. Start by creating a brand-new account. Then
copy the contents of the folders in the mounted disk image (Documents, Pictures,
Desktop, and so on) into the corresponding folders of the new Home folder.
• Do not change the home folder. This time, Mac OS X removes the account, in that
it no longer appears in the Login list or in the Accounts panel of System
Preferences—but it leaves the Home folder right where it is. Use this option if you
don't intend to dispose of the dearly departed's belongings right here and now.
POWER USERS' CLINIC
Moving Your Home Folder Between Computers
Mac OS X proposes putting all of the account holders' Home folders in one
special folder (Users) on the main hard drive. But being able to put your Home
folder on a different disk can have its advantages, too. If you travel back and
forth between home and work, for example, you might find it convenient to
keep your entire life on an iPod or some other portable disk. In corporate
environments, a network administrator may want you to keep your Home folder
elsewhere on the Windows network. (Yes, Mac OS X is that compatible.)
You can do it, but you'll have to exploit the sometimes intimidating power of
NetInfo Manager, a program included with Mac OS X that's designed to let you
perform just such technical tasks.
Begin by copying your Home folder to the iPod (or wherever). To make
absolutely sure that you're getting everything in it, use Terminal—described in
Chapter 16. Open up a Terminal window and type this command:
sudo ditto -rsrc "/Users/casey"
Of course, type your account name instead of "casey," and the folder path
instead of "path-to-new-folder." Use the folder-path notation described on
Now open the Accounts pane of System Preferences. Control-click (or right-
click) your account's name; from the shortcut menu, choose Advanced Options.
In the new Advanced Options dialog box, in the Home Directory box, type the
folder path to your new home folder—or just click Choose and show Mac OS X
where it is.
Now restart the Mac. Log back in, and test the new Home-folder arrangement. If
everything is working perfectly, you can delete the original from the internal
If your intention is to take the external hard drive back and forth to work, repeat
the procedure on the Mac at work.
Just make sure that the external drive is plugged in, powered up, and running
before you try to log in; otherwise, the Mac won't be able to find the Home
folder at all, and will give you an error message.
• Delete the home folder. This button offers the "Hasta la vista, baby" approach. The
account and all of its files and settings are vaporized forever, on the spot.
Note: If you delete a Shared Only account, you're not offered the chance to preserve the
Home folder contents—because a Shared Only account doesn't have a Home folder.