Move SteamApps Folder on a Mac

On a Windows machine, the Steam application allows you to relocate the “SteamApps” folder to a different drive. This allows you to effectively shift your content around anywhere you like. When you install a new game, it’ll even ask you where you want to install it.

For some bizarre reason they did not afford the same convenience to Mac users. Initially when Steam was released for the Mac they even forced you to keep the SteamApps folder in your Documents folder. This made it really painful to use a portable home directory. Valve relented after a huge user outcry and relocated the folder to ~/Library/Application Support/Steam, which is probably where it belonged anyway.

Now what if you want to move it out of there to an external drive? I have roughly 40gb of games wrapped up in that directory and frankly, there’s no reason for it to exist in my home directory. I studied around on the forums and Steam support site and discovered they did not have any ability to shift this content around natively. That won’t defeat me, however.

I moved the SteamApps folder to a location on an external drive and first tried to make an alias of the new location to ~/Library/Application Support/Steam/SteamApps. This didn’t work. When I launched Steam, it told me that it had to exist on a case-insensitive volume. That’s rather odd. My external drive is formatted with HFS+ case-insensitive. No matter. I deleted the alias and tried a UNIX-style link:

ln -sf /Volumes/DS4600/Storage/SteamApps ~/Library/Application Support/Steam/SteamApps

I then started Steam back up and I heard the DS4600 RAID-5 volume (which is where the SteamApps now reside) spin. I looked in the library and voila, all of my games were present.

That wasn’t so hard. Wonder why Valve won’t let you do this? I’ll keep it running this way for a while and see if it blows up.

6 thoughts on “Move SteamApps Folder on a Mac”

  1. Hi!

    How is that working for you, so far?

    It’s not working well with me: since I moved the files from my MacBook on the external HD (Time Capsule), most of the games (not all of them!) stopped working. It seems that they don’t recognize to be running on Steam anymore.

    Any suggestions? They would be very welcome, I don’t know what else to try. What puzzles me is that two of them work perfectly fine… What they have in common is that I didn’t pay for them: one of them is Portal (which I downloaded while it was free for a limited time), and the other is a gift from a friend.

    I’ve been on the Steam forum, but apparently the symlink thing is working perfectly with everybody and with every game.

    Even copying the files back on the MacBook HD doesn’t work…

    Thanks for your attention, any tip would be appreciated.


    1. It’s actually working okie for me. I’ve run Left 4 Dead 2 a number of times and played for hours and also Torchlight. I haven’t tried any of the other games, but since they show up in the library okie I doubt there would be a problem. Do the games show up in the Steam library as installed?

  2. I definitely do not have that problem. I can say that it may be a permissions or ownership problem. The volume that I moved my steamapps folder to has “ignore ownership” turned on. You don’t want to turn that on with your Time Machine volume. Do you have another drive you can move the steamapps folder onto to test that?

  3. No, I don’t. But, if it’s an ownership problem, then why two of my old games still work?

    Anyway, thanks for your help.

    As soon as I get broadband access, I’m going to download them again, this time directly on the Time Capsule. :-/

  4. @GMC

    For some reason I didn’t catch that you said “Time Capsule” instead of “Time Machine.” Are you trying to do this over the network to a Time Capsule or did you mean to say Time Machine?

    There is a difference. Time Capsule connects to the drive over the network. Time Machine is usually a drive connected via firewire, USB or SATA/eSATA. I would definitely not recommend using a Time Capsule to perform this maneuver. I wouldn’t expect it to work at all. I would only use this method on an external drive that is directly connected to your machine with Firewire, USB or SATA/eSATA.

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