How to split a user account into two separate accounts in macOS

Having multiple user accounts on a single macOS system is very common these days. While this is mostly done for separate and private user accounts, you can also choose to have a separate account for your work and personal life. In case you start with just one account, you will need to split it into two accounts to do this.

You may need to divide a family account into separate user credentials for greater privacy, or you may need to divide your own macOS user account into separate accounts. Apple doesn’t offer the option to “split” a macOS account into two, but there are workarounds to achieve this on your Mac.

There are two ways to split your macOS account

There are two different workarounds to “split” a macOS account into two.

The first method is to create a new account and copy the data you want to move using the shared folder in macOS. This is useful for transferring small amounts of data that won’t take long to transfer.

The second method is to duplicate the entire account using Time Machine and then delete the unwanted data. This is more suitable if there is a lot of data that you want to transfer to the new account; it’s a little more complicated, but it turns out to be easier in the end.

We’ve covered both of these options below.

Related: The macOS Guest Account Explained: Reasons To Start Using It

How to split a macOS account using the shared folder

If you have a relatively small amount of data that you want to move to a new macOS account, or if your data is mostly stored in iCloud, this method should be better for you.

Step 1. Create a new user account

We’ll start by creating a new user account in macOS:

  1. Open up System Preferences on your Mac.

  2. Click on Users and groups.

    Users and Groups in System Preferences

  3. Authenticate by clicking on the lock icon in the lower left corner and entering your password. Once done, you should see the padlock icon “unlock”.

  4. Click on the more icon (+) at the bottom of the list.

    Add a new account from system preferences

  5. In the New account list, select Standard Where Administrator, depending on the permission level you want to grant to the new account.

  6. Create a name for the user, an account name, a password and a password reminder.

  7. Click on Create user; macOS will create a new user account on your Mac.

Step 2. Move data using the shared folder

We will now move the data from your old account to your new account. This involves the use of the shared public folder. The shared folder is accessible to all macOS users and allows you to easily transfer data.

Here’s how to transfer data to the shared folder:

  1. Log in to your original account.

  2. In the Finder, go to Computer> Macintosh HD> Users> Shared.

  3. Control-click and create a new folder here.

    Shared folder in macOS

  4. Now move or copy any material you want to transfer to the new account in the new folder you just created in Shared.

  5. Once copied, control-click all files and select File> Get Info.

    Get Info from the Finder Window

  6. Under the Sharing and permissions section, click on the padlock and authenticate. Click on the more icon (+) in the lower left corner and select the new user account you just created. Click on To select.

    Authenticate User in Share and Permissions in Finder

  7. Define account access to Read write in the Privilege column.

    Read and write permission for the new account

  8. Click on the more button () at the bottom of the information window and select Apply to some elements. Click on Okay to save the changes.

Now log in to the new account and access the shared folder using the same method as detailed in step 2 of the instructions above. Copy or move the data to the Documents folder of your new account. Once done, verify that you can access and modify the data.

Now you can choose to delete original account data to avoid duplicates and save space on your Mac hard drive.

If you have additional data saved in the cloud that you want to access, you can do so using the Apple ID Where iCloud in System Preferences or by logging into the appropriate software.

Use a Time Machine backup to duplicate your account

The second method is to use a Time Machine backup with the migration assistant to create a copy of your current macOS account. You can then delete unwanted data from it.

Related: How to Back Up Your Mac Using Time Machine

To use this method, follow these steps:

  1. Make a Time Machine backup of your startup disk. If you already have one, update to make sure all your latest data is backed up.

  2. Make sure all applications on your Mac are closed and all data has been saved.

  3. Move towards Applications> Utilities in Finder and launch Migration assistant.

    MacOS migration assistant

  4. You will receive a warning that the Migration Assistant will disconnect from all current programs. Click on To continue.

  5. To choose From an existing backup (Time Machine) and click To continue.

  6. You will see a list with all the data that can be transferred. This is labeled as the Select the information to transfer listing. Uncheck everything except the user account you want to split. Click on To continue.

  7. Since the original account name in the backup is the same as the new account, the Migration Assistant will ask you how to continue. Choose to rename the account you are importing, which will leave the original account in place, and rename the new account.

  8. Wait for the process to complete.

Once done, your account will have been successfully duplicated. You can now choose to remove media and documents from your original account which should only appear in the new account. You can also change iCloud connections or sign out of services if you intend to change existing account connections.

Now log into your new account. You will find that this is an exact duplicate of your original account. You can perform the same actions here in reverse: choose to delete the data that you do not want to appear in your new account but only in your original account. Sign in to your iCloud services and other accounts if they are different from the accounts of the original account.

You can also choose to keep an account with all the original data, for backup purposes. However, doing so will increase the amount of storage used on your Mac and may cause duplicate files to be confused later on.

Use multiple macOS user accounts

Having different macOS user accounts for different purposes can be a good idea for some people. It’s easier to separate business files and accounts from your personal accounts, and it can make your life easier. Using the methods described above will allow you to easily split a single existing macOS user account into two.

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