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

17 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


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