How To: Use The Same Home Folder In Lion And Snow Leopard


The Developer Preview of Mac OS X Lion has been released and is functional on its own, you never want to upgrade your current Operating System with a Beta or Developer Preview. Performing a clean install is the best route but how do you migrate your user account to the new OS without hassle? Here’s how.

The biggest pain in using a preview version or Beta of Mac OS X is safely migrating your user information. The worst method to take is installing a Beta OS such as Lion over your existing, retail OS like Snow Leopard. Creating a second partition on your primary Hard Drive or using an external USB/Firewire Drive is the easiest path to upgrade.

Simply open Disk Utility and select your main hard drive in the left hand bar and go to the Partition tab. Click the + button in the lower left hand corner and adjust the size of your new Partition. Make sure the file format is Mac OS X Extended (Journaled)

During the installation phase of Lion, you’ll be asked to create a new user account. The username, shortname and password must match the existing account you’re using in Snow Leopard/Leopard. When logged in, go to System Preferences and select “Users And Groups”. Go to your existing account and right click on your username then choose Advanced Options.

Restart your Mac and log in again. Your user account is now accessible in OS X Lion and any changes made will be reflected when you boot in to another version of OS X.

Tip: To jump between Lion, Snow Leopard and Leopard easily, hold down the Option key during boot up. You’ll be presented with a row of Hard Drives and Partitions that contain an Operating System. From here you can choose to boot in to Lion, Snow Leopard or Windows if you have it installed.


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Tanner Godarzi
Tanner is tech-savvy with an eye for great content who is pursuing his Bachelors of Science in Web Design and Interactive Media from the Art Institute of California—Orange County. Tanner has been a freelance Blogger and Social Media consultant for over 4 years and contributed content for O'Reilly's "Big Book Of Apple Hacks." Tanner has blogged for industry notables such as Hadley Stern for Apple Matters, C.K. for Obsessable and gave insight about Social Media for The Blog Herald. Tanner resides in Huntington Beach and is a cycling enthusiast.

4 Comments

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  1. CAUTION CAUTION…

    I did this and it completely screwed up my Snow Leopard settings…

    Lion was too slow and buggy from the external I had it on…could have been the external device but I decided I was going to go back to what I knew…so that my work flow could stay the same…but NO OH NO…my dock was messed up and still isn’t back to the way I had it…half of my auto start apps were messed up and my System Preferences…FORGET ABOUT IT! they were destroyed

    so do this with caution…and make a fresh new Carbon Copy Clone or your preferred cloning software..so that if it messes anything up you can go directly back to where you were…granted I had backups but they were not like a Carbon Copy Clone back up where I can just put it all back just as it was…so I had to just try to fix it or deal with the changes that Lion made to my Home folder…and something is now wonky with my Applications folder within my Home Folder…very strange…must be how Lion deals with Applications…but it was not cute for use with SL

    You have been warned…this may not happen to you but you were warned by me

    MacBook Pro 2.8Ghz 2009 8GB ram and 1.5 TB internal HDD (2 internals-1TB & 500GB) (home on 1TB with OS)

    have a great day

  2. PS…upon reflection I did not use the same username, short name and password for the Lion User account…so that may have caused some issue but it shouldn’t have

  3. Doing this with previous versions of the OS have jacked home folders to the point where it can prevent a user from logging in among other things. Even if you only change the location of the folder, using two different systems with different features/versions all that jazz can cause some issues.

    Think of opening a word 98 doc in office 2011, saving it as a .docx and trying to open it again in word 98. That’s what is going to happen to your .plist files, not necessarily making them completely unreadable but throwing in/changing strings that the other OS version relies on. Maybe not all at once, but as functions are accessed. Worst case really is that ~/Library has to be trashed in safe-boot and if you don’t have a backup you lose it. Just trying to give some food for thought about something that I’ve had to repair for people over, and over, and over again. 🙂

    *Awesome tip about the advanced prefs for users, it has quite a number of other applicable uses I’m sure your readers will discover as well!

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