A while ago, I moved my Documents folder to my external drive to save space on my mac using this tutorial:

Open Terminal Type in

cd /Users/Your User ID/


ln -s /Volumes/External Drive Name/Documents Documents

And it worked great. Now, I need to move it back to its original location and I am unsure of how to do this. Can someone let me know?

This command:

ls -leOd ~/Documents

Prints this:

 lrwxr-xr-x  1 hannahcosta  staff  - 31 Dec 20  2020 /Users/hannahcosta/Documents -> /Volumes/MEMOREX USB/Documents/

So, I just need to figure out how to get it from the MEMOREX USB back to hannahcosta basically.

  • 1
    It's hard to make safe recommendations without knowing exactly how your Documents folder is set up now (the command you mentioned can do a couple of different things, depending on whether your Desktop folder already exists). What does ls -leOd ~/Desktop print (please add the info to your question as an edit rather than a comment, and use code format so it's readable). Jul 3, 2021 at 19:48
  • 2
    I think @Gordon meant ~/Documents, not Desktop
    – grg
    Jul 3, 2021 at 21:12

2 Answers 2


Since what's currently in your home folder is just a symbolic link (indicated by the "l" at the beginning and "->" near the end of the ls -l listing), you can just drag that to the trash and then drag over the Documents folder from the external drive to your actual home folder. Since it's moving between volumes, the Finder will make a copy rather than moving it. I'd recommend leaving the copy on the external drive until you're sure everything came over ok.

(Note: since a symbolic link can look a lot like the thing it points to, I wanted to make sure it's just a symbolic link rather than an actual folder before throwing it out.)

Just for neatness, I'd also recommend fixing the permissions on the restored Documents folder with these commands:

chmod 300 ~/Documents
chmod +a "group:everyone deny delete" ~/Documents
  1. Delete the symlink

    rm ~/Documents
  2. Move the folder back

    mv "/Volumes/MEMOREX USB/Documents" ~/Documents

    Move and copy files in Terminal on Mac - Apple Support

  • Or do it in the Finder and then you'll keep a copy of Documents in the external drive, as a backup
    – lhf
    Jul 4, 2021 at 11:44

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