If you’re running out of space to play the Sims, here are your options for storing your data externally

This gets asked a lot on Answers HQ, how do you store your Sims 4 folder on an external drive and your game recognise it as the default location? You may want to do this for various reasons:

  • You have a small internal drive on your Mac, typically 128GB or 256GB.
  • You’re running out of disk space on your internal storage and need to move some user data off your Mac.
  • You want to play on more than one Mac so therefore having your Sims 4 folder on an external thumb drive is more appealing to you.

Currently, and ever since it was launched, the game has only ever looked in the user’s Documents > Electronic Arts > The Sims 4 folder for files to load for your game. The Sims 4 folder contains your saves, tray files (your in-game library), all CC/Mods if you use them, screenshots taken in-game using C, recorded videos, your in-game graphics options, plus a few other files and folders that make your game unique to you. If the game cannot locate a Sims 4 folder in that location it will create a new one, resulting in a brand new, clean game when you launch it.

iCloud Drive users:
If you have been using iCloud Drive to store your Documents folder in the cloud but suddenly the game starts creating new games, this is because your internal storage is very full. Up until that point your Mac has been keeping the files locally as well as in the cloud which is why your game is happily loading all your saved games. There is no way round this unless you free up more space on your Mac or store the data externally. Here is a great article explaining how it works in more depth.

To store your Sims 4 folder, or the entire Electronic Arts folder if you wish, externally you need to create a symbolic link (symlink) on your Mac to store the folders and files on an external device.

There are pros and cons to each option –

  • Symlink method:
    • Pro – storing your Sims 4 data on a physical external drive you can take anywhere with you
    • Pro – data automatically stored on the external, no need to manually move files around
    • Pro – Faster read/write speeds if you use a USB-C/Thunderbolt drive and have slow internet
    • Pro – you can install the actual game on the external drive before setting up the symlink, thereby keeping the game and your data all in one place
    • Con – can be a complicated process for less tech. minded users
    • Con – if you lose the drive, you lose your data

If this is something you feel you want to do I have written an extensive guide here:

Symlink method


27 thoughts on “If you’re running out of space to play the Sims, here are your options for storing your data externally

  1. So, there is absolutely no way at all to be able to have Custom Content, Saves, Tray folders, etc. when playing the Sims on an external hard drive?

    My issue is that my custom content takes up the most space because I simply cannot play the Sims without Mods and Custom Content. I’ve seen many accounts of people being able to successfully play the Sims on their external drives, but no one ever mentions if they’re using custom content or not. I have my custom content, saves, tray folder, etc. all backed up on my hard drive just in case something funky happens while I try to figure this out, but it would be pointless if the result is that I still cannot use my cc+mods even if I can play the game on the external drive.

    So, after all this rambling I just have one simple question: Will I or will I not be able to use custom content & mods while playing the Sims on my external hard drive? If so, how?


    1. you’re not alone on this. I’ve looked countless times to see if anyone at all has had success on this and I can only find using and saving games that others have had success on external drives. I’ve brought a 1TB specifically for this and so when I saved and moved everything (well my bf did since he knows he’s stuff electronically,) to my external drive, I went to my mac side thinking my mac sims wouldn’t work it does, but all, literally everything in the sims EA docs folder, from cc mods and other content like saved games have disappeared. I’m thinking and starting to wonder if the cause was somewhere between the transfer last weekend when we did this. Maybe I’ll report this issue to the sims community, the original sims website and origin.


  2. Will a Seagate (STGX2000400) Portable 2TB External Hard Drive Portable HDD – USB 3.0 for PC Laptop and Mac from amazon work for this as well for Mac? Want to know before I buy


  3. I did the symlink and created the alias successfully but mods only show up if placed in the alias folder. I completely removed the mods folder from the “Sims 4” folder on my hard drive and they still showed up. My question is, since I have to place cc in the alias folder, isn’t that going to take up space on my actual laptop-completely defeating the purpose of the symlink?
    What is the expected way to install cc when you do the symlink? Is everyone else putting it into the mods folder on their hard drive?


  4. I am attempting to set up the symlink on an external drive, but am getting an error in Terminal saying that the operation is not permitted. The error is a reply in Terminal box rather than a pop up.


  5. sorry if this is a dumb question but right now I have purchased extra iCloud storage for all of my cc but I’m wondering if I need to do that or what will happen if I just turn off iCloud for my Mac documents like will cc still work and will it just take up space on the normal Mac storage then?


    1. If your Sims 4 folder is only stored in the cloud due to limited storage on your Mac, the game cannot see it. This is what creating the symlink to an external drive is for 🙂


  6. How can I install the Sims 4 application itself unto my hard drive? I’m running out of memory on my Mac and would like to run the app from my external hard drive


      1. What about the Expansion Packs? Is it as easy as moving the folder to the new one created on the external harddrive?


  7. Hi Bluebellflora. I have a problem with my disk space, and have spend all day trying to get more space by storing my documents in iCloud, but as you know, it does not solve the problem. I actually have ended up with less hardisk space… Im struck and my game will not open due to the lack of diskspace…. – Or it warns me not to. I had to reinstall the all sims, after I tried to delete – what I found was an extra EA Sims file. I dragged my game to the trash, and it was gone from both places. So My question to you is: Do you also store all your gamefiles and the actual game externally, when you play via USB? I mean my game file is not that big (I have moved all photos and videos etc) It’s the actual game and all the ekstra packs that tales up space on my macbook. – Sorry im not sure If I make any sense. Im really tired now. And ready to trow my Mac out the window! 🙂


  8. Hello 🙂 So after trial and error I managed to get my sims working with all my mods and cc via the sublink after a very long process of messing it up, restoring my Mac, continuously reinstalling sims lool but if I had followed your instructions and read it fully first it would have saved so much hassle but I thought I’d be smart and not mess it up which to be fair only went wrong when I decided to backup my whole computer to the drive and it wiped it and then I couldn’t undo the sublink.
    Nonetheless, after 3 days I have fixed it and can get back to playing. Absolutely nothing is wrong with your guide, it was me with my human errors.

    My question now though, I don’t want to risk messing this up again, how do I go about adding more CC and mods to my game? Where do I put my downloaded files? If I put them into the alias in my documents will it automatically adjust on the external drive?

    Thank you very much for your guide by the way, I absolutely couldn’t have done it without it!! x


    1. Great! Reading through it first before even attempting to do anything is so important and I think why people make a lot of errors. You can put the Mods in either folder as they are one and the same. When you open the alias folder you’re opening the actual folder on the external drive 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi, I am sorry if this is annoying and I know you no longer answer questions about the external hard drive process. However, I have successfully created the symlink and played off of my external hard drive multiple times, but sometimes my mac will create a duplicate folder (with the exact same name as my hard drive) on my built in macintosh HD drive. Do you know why this may happen? It frustrates me because origin will automatically change the location of my installs/saves to this folder on my macintosh HD, and then I have to completely reformat my harddrive and redo the process over in order to play sims. Just wondering if you knew I solution to this so I dont have to redo the process every month or so. Thank you again!


    1. Please disregard my comment. I realized that I did have a documents folder in my Icloud storage so it was optimizing my storage and sending my EA folder to my hard drive. Thank you for your guide it has been super helpful!


  10. Can i just say thanks so much for this, I am not computer illiterate and was considering buying a new laptop with a larger hard drive but know i don’t have to. It took me a while to figure things out but just kept re-reading the instructions, it’s actually very easy. Thanks so much!

    Liked by 1 person

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