When you open finder, there is a download folder with a unique icon. I'd like to move that folder to an external one and force the system to recognise that new location.

  • There's no global setting for the Downloads folder. Each app that saves to it does so because the app's preferences are set to it and can be changed to any location within the app's preferences. Oct 6, 2017 at 2:38
  • @user3439894 But any normal folder would not have the down arrow icon.
    – Render
    Oct 6, 2017 at 7:54
  • I have a downloads folder on most of my external drives and they have the same icon as the Downloads folder in my Home folder because I assigned that same icon to them. You can do the same, this has been covered on the Internet enough you shouldn't have any problems finding directions. Then put an alias to the external Downloads folder into the Downloads Folder in your Home folder. Set the download location in your Browser(s) to the external location if you want. Personally I don't because my external drives are not always connected. Oct 6, 2017 at 11:33
  • As to the icons in the Sidebar of Finder, even if you changed a generic to a custom one, the info will be short-lived because, it's overwritten when Finder updates is settings, which is done often. IIRC it was with Mac OS X Lion that Apple essentially said the User is no longer allowed to mess with Finders appearance beyond what we program it to be. I'd talk to Apple about it, but I do not believe Apple is going to change from the direction they gone! They don't want Users messing around with the core elements of the UI, beyond how they define them to be Oct 6, 2017 at 11:34
  • @user3439894 Can I link the current downloads folder to the one in external? In this way i can retain the icon as well as functionality.
    – Render
    Oct 6, 2017 at 11:59

2 Answers 2


Your question doesn't specify whether you're just interested in changing the default Downloads folder location for your web browsers, but since web browsers are the most common way that users download files from the internet, below are instructions on changing this location within Safari, Firefox and Chrome.


For Safari:

  1. Go to Safari > Preferences (or just press command,)
  2. Make sure you have the General icon (top left) selected
  3. Find the File download location drop-down menu and select Other... from your list of choices
  4. Navigate to and select your preferred Downloads folder location
  5. Exit Preferences


Very similar to Safari, in Firefox:

  1. Go to Firefox > Preferences (or just press command,)
  2. Make sure you have the General icon (top left) selected
  3. Under the Downloads heading you'll see a radio button labelled as Save files to with a field next to it. Click on the Choose... button
  4. Navigate to and select your preferred Downloads folder location
  5. Exit Preferences


Finally to Chrome:

  1. Go to Chrome > Preferences (or just press command,)
  2. Scroll to the bottom of the window and click on Advanced
  3. Now scroll down further until you see the Downloads heading
  4. Click on Change
  5. Navigate to and select your preferred Downloads folder location
  6. Exit Preferences


Similarly, others browsers and 3rd party downloaders also provide a setting in their preferences from which you can choose your Downloads folder location.

  • How can I change the icon in Finder to the down arrow as well?
    – Render
    Oct 6, 2017 at 7:54
  • Within the Finder follow these 4 steps: (1) Select the macOS default Download folder and go to File > Get Info. (2) At top left of the Info window, click the icon and then go to Edit > Copy. (3) Select the other folder you've set up to be your Downloads folder and then go to File > Get Info. (4) Click the icon at top left and then go to Edit > Paste.
    – Monomeeth
    Oct 6, 2017 at 9:50

This is possible via symbolic link.

  1. Move your existing data in ~/Downloads to the location you want, let's say /ExternalDrive/Downloads

  2. Open Terminal and run:

    This will remove the Dowloads folder and you'll need to type in your password to do that (you won't see *** when entering, just hit enter after you finish).

    sudo rm -rf ~/Downloads
  3. Create a symbolic link to your desired location:

    ln -s "/ExternalDrive/Downloads" ~/Downloads

And voila! Dowloads folder moved.

A more detailed version of this process and be found here.

It's also possible to create a link to the iCloud Download folder. Using this command:

ln -s /Users/yourusernamehere/Library/Mobile\ Documents/com\~apple\~CloudDocs/Downloads  ~/Downloads

The main caveat of this solution is that MacOS will not recognize the symbolic link as the official MacOS Downloads folder, so the icon used in the favorites sidebar will not be the usual download icon (download icon) but rather the normal folder icon (enter image description here).

  • 2
    should add a chmod -h 700 ~/Downloads to make the symlink's permissions equal to the old Downloads folder (fixes issues with shortcuts, system services, airdrop) Jul 8, 2021 at 13:41

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