I tried using symbolic links but they make me lose the default's Downloads icon which I don't want.
Is there a way I can just made files saved or downloaded to the system's Downloads folder be automatically moved and stored to an external drive?
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You could do it with a Automator Folder Action workflow:
Save the Automator Folder Action workflow, e.g.; Move to External Downloads
To stop and or remove a Folder Action: In Finder, you can select the target folder and right-click on it and select Folder Action Setup... from the Services menu section of the Context menu.