How to Split a User Account Into Two Separate Accounts in macOS

Having multiple users accounts on a single macOS system is very common these days. While this is mainly done for separate and private user accounts, you may also choose to have a separate account for your work and personal life. In the case that you're starting with a single account, you'll need to split it into two accounts to do this.

You might need to split a family account into separate user logins for greater privacy, or you might need to split your own macOS user account into separate accounts. Apple doesn't offer an option to “split” a macOS account into two, but there are some workarounds to achieve this on your Mac.

There Are Two Ways to Split Up Your macOS Account

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

The first method involves creating a new account and copying over 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 involves duplicating the entire account using Time Machine and then deleting the unwanted data. This is more suited if there is a lot of data you want to transfer to the new account; it is a bit more complicated, but it works 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 your data is primarily stored in iCloud, this method should suit you better.

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 & Groups in System Preferences

  3. Authenticate yourself by clicking on the lock icon in the lower-left corner and entering your password. Once done, you should see the lock icon getting “unlocked.”
  4. Click on the plus icon (+) at the bottom of the list.

    Add a New Account From System Preferences

  5. From the New Account list, select Standard or Administrator, depending on the level of permission that you want to give 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

Now we'll move the data across from your previous account to your new account. This involves using the Shared public folder. The Shared folder is accessible to all users in macOS and allows you to easily transfer data across.

Here's how to transfer data to the Shared folder:

  1. Log in to your original account.
  2. In Finder, navigate 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 into the new folder you just created in Shared.
  5. Once copied, control-click on all the files and select File > Get Info.

    Get Info from Finder window

  6. Under the Sharing & Permissions section, click on the lock and authenticate yourself. Click on the plus icon (+) in the bottom-left corner and select the new user account you just created. Click Select.

    Authenticate User in Sharing & Permissions in Finder

  7. Set the account's access to Read & Write in the Privilege column.

    Read & Write Permission for the New Account

  8. Click on the more button () at the bottom of the info window and select Apply to Select Items. Click OK 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 above instructions. Copy or move over the data to your new account's Documents folder. Once done, test that you can access and edit the data.

You can now choose to delete the data from the original account to avoid duplicates and save space on your Mac hard disk.

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

Using a Time Machine Backup to Duplicate Your Account

The second method involves using a Time Machine backup with Migration Assistant to create a duplicate copy of your current macOS account. You can then delete the 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 drive. If you already have one, perform an 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. Navigate to Applications > Utilities in Finder and launch Migration Assistant.

    Migration Assistant in macOS

  4. You'll receive a warning that Migration Assistant will log out of all current programs. Click Continue.
  5. Choose From an Existing Backup (Time Machine) and click 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 list. Uncheck everything except the user account you want to split up. Click Continue.
  7. Because the original account name in the backup is identical to the new account, Migration Assistant will ask how to continue. Choose to rename the account you're 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 that should only appear in the new account. You can also change iCloud logins or log out of services if you intend to modify those for the existing account.

Now, log in to your new account. You'll find it to be an exact duplicate of your original account. You can perform the same actions here in reverse: choose to delete data that you don't want to appear in your new account but only your original account. Log in to your iCloud services and other accounts if they're different from the accounts in the original account.

You can also choose to keep one account with all the original data, for backup purposes. However, this will lead to an increase in the storage amount used on your Mac and may lead to confusion between duplicate files later.

Make Use of 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 work files and accounts from your personal ones, and it can make your life easier. Using the methods described above will allow you to easily split an existing single macOS user account into two.

Author: Shujaa Imran

Source: Shujaa Imran.” How to Split a User Account Into Two Separate Accounts in macOS”. Retrieved From

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