Mac OS X: Using Your Home Directory

As a multi-user operating system, Mac OS X requires users to save documents to locations within their individual Home directories.

This article has been archived and is no longer updated by Apple.

What is a Home directory?

The Home directory is the area of the file system to which a particular user has read-write access.

Mac OS X is a multi-user operating system designed to keep the documents and preferences of a computer's users separated and properly arranged. Each time a user is added to the computer, Mac OS X creates a new folder named after that user. This folder is called a "Home directory." The Users folder in the Mac OS X disk stores the Home directories for all of the computer's users.

Click the Home icon in the Finder toolbar to quickly reach your Home directory (Figure 1).

Figure 1 The Home directory

Why are Home directories important?

Having Home directories allows a computer's administrator to maintain security and prevent unwanted changes to the computer's software. Only special types of administrative users have access to areas outside the Home directory. Each user's Home directory includes folders for privately storing documents, movies, music, and pictures. A Home directory also contains four folders with special purposes:

Desktop folder

  • Contains items that a user has placed on his desktop. Each user only sees the contents of his or her desktop.

Library folder

Stores a variety of data and system-related information for each user, such as:

  • Addresses and Mail
  • Favorites
  • Preferences

Public folder

  • Stores items you want to share, either locally or with File Sharing.
  • Other users can look inside your Public folder.


  • Stores web pages and related files for Web Sharing.
  • Other users can look inside your Sites folder.

How does this affect opening and saving documents?

Dialogs in Mac OS X default to a user's Documents folder for opening and saving files. It is a good idea to keep your files in the Documents folder so the correct access privileges are enforced. This also prevents other users from having the ability to read your files or make changes to them without your knowledge.

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