After updating to macOS Catalina, all the folders I had saved in the root directory, "/", were missing.

I read that the system is now read-only, but didn't see a notice on where previous files have gone.

Are they on the system or do I need to restore them from backup?


2 Answers 2


This took me a long time to figure out, but any file that was formerly at, e.g., /my-cool-directory was moved to /Users/Shared/Relocated Items/Security/my-cool-directory.

I ended up moving the directories by running this command from the terminal:

cd "/Users/Shared/Relocated Items/Security"
sudo mv my-cool-directory ~/
# enter your system password when it asks you

After doing that, my file is then located in my home directory, e.g. ~/my-cool-directory

After a subsequent Mac OS X update, the files may be in /Users/Shared/Previously Relocated Items.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – bmike
    Commented Nov 30, 2019 at 5:00
  • As an alternative to the home ~ directory, my-cool-directory can also be moved to /private. It will sit there more prominently than in the home directory.
    – oliolioli
    Commented Oct 13, 2020 at 9:50

You can use the file /etc/synthetic.conf to map your old folder to a new virtual folder on the root directory. If the file doesn't exists, just create it with sudo :

sudo nano /etc/synthetic.conf

Add the folder you want to use in the root directory, and the directory you want to mount on.


my-cool-directory  /Users/Shared/Relocated Items/Security/my-cool-directory

Finish by rebooting your mac.

PS: Be careful with your synthetic.conf file. A colleague emailed the content of his file and it had a space between the virtual name and the path. Your system will simply power-off about 15 seconds into the boot process.

You must have only one tab character only between my-cool-directory and /Users/Shared/Relocated Items/Security/my-cool-directory.

You can find more infos with man synthetic.conf

  • 2
    This worked great, the tab between was definitely key!
    – james-see
    Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 18:55
  • I cannot find /etc/synthetic.conf on Catalina (10.15.4), though there is still a man page for it. Any idea where it went? Commented Apr 20, 2020 at 23:53
  • 1
    @ScottSmith The file doesn't exist by default - if you want to use the firmlink functionality described you'll need to create the file from scratch.
    – mjturner
    Commented May 5, 2020 at 14:17

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .