Running your Sims 4 folder from an external drive

This is for those running out of space on their Macs and wanting to save their user data – Saves/Tray/Mods etc. – to an external drive. By following this workaround your entire Electronic Arts folder will be stored and updated on the external drive although your game will think it is being stored locally on your Mac internal storage (for the equivalent instructions for Windows, head to Crinrict’s site here). This is because you will be creating a symbolic link, also known as a symlink, to reference the file path of your user data stored in another location. To create the symlink you will be using Terminal which can be found in Applications > Utilities.

Please be aware that entering erroneous commands into Terminal can have severe consequences  both for the stability of your operating system and your data. You should only follow these instructions if you are comfortable using Terminal and have a solid backup of your system. If anything goes catastrophically wrong you can always wipe and reinstall your macOS through Internet Recovery or bootable installer but you WILL lose all your data.

Ok, happy to continue? I’ll start off by explaining my setup so you can familiarise yourself with my Mac user account and computer name which appear in the screenshots:

  • My Mac user account/Home directory has full Administrator rights and is called test
  • My computer name is TouchBarMBP
  • The external drive I am using is a 128GB USB-C thumb drive. It MUST be formatted as Mac OS Extended (Journaled). It is named USB
  • I am running macOS 10.15.3 Catalina

These instructions move your whole Electronic Arts folder to the external drive and assume that your Electronic Arts folder is currently stored locally on your Mac. As such, all games you have installed which store their user data in the Electronic Arts folder will need to have the external drive plugged in to access the data. This includes Sims 3, Sims Medieval, Sims 4, Sims 4 Legacy Edition and any other game folders in your Electronic Arts folder. In these instructions I am using my Sims 4 user data.

  • Backup your Electronic Arts folder to a separate external drive or cloud storage in case you inadvertently wipe it.
  • Plug in your external storage device and check it is properly mounted in Finder or on your Desktop, depending on your Finder View settings. If needed, use Disk Utility to reformat the drive to FAT32:
  • I would recommend reading through these instructions at least once in full before applying the workaround so you are familiar with Terminal and any error and warning messages that pop up during the process.

Step 1 – Moving the Electronic Arts folder to the external drive:

  1. The first thing we are going to tell our Mac to do is move the Electronic Arts folder from the Documents folder to the external drive. Open a Word or any text document and copy and paste the following command (where mv means move and the tilde ~ indicates your home directory) into the document. This is purely for editing purposes:
    mv ~/Documents/Electronic\ Arts /Volumes/USB/
  2. Replace USB with the name of your external drive. For example, if your external is called EXTERNAL the command would be:
    mv ~/Documents/Electronic\ Arts /Volumes/EXTERNAL/
    However, if your external is called EXTERNAL DRIVE you have to introduce backslashes before the spaces in the name (like Electronic Arts in the Documents folder):
    mv ~/Documents/Electronic\ Arts /Volumes/EXTERNAL\ DRIVE/
    To show you where the spaces are, I have entered a black X in the command below (for illustrative purposes only):
    mvX~/Documents/Electronic\XArtsX/Volumes/EXTERNAL\XDRIVE/
    Note that the directory file paths are separated with forward slashes / and file and folder names with multiple words are separated with backslashes \
    If your Electronic Arts folder is to be nested within another folder on the external you must state this clearly in the command. For example, if your EXTERNAL DRIVE has a folder called  Game User Data and you would like the Electronic Arts folder to be within this folder the command would look like this:
    mv ~/Documents/Electronic\ Arts /Volumes/EXTERNAL\ DRIVE/Game\ User\ Data/
    and with the black X denoting the spaces:
    mvX~/Documents/Electronic\XArtsX/Volumes/EXTERNAL\XDRIVE/Game\XUser\XData/
  3. Once you are happy with the command, open Terminal and copy and paste it from the Word/Text document into the Terminal window so it looks like this but with your own information. If it is highlighted black just press the right arrow on your keyboard to move the cursor to the end of the line:
  4. Hit enter/return to execute the command. Your Electronic Arts folder should have moved from your Documents folder to your external drive. Open the Documents folder to check and open a second Finder window showing the external drive.

Step 2 – Creating the symlink for the Electronic Arts folder:

  1. Copy the following command into your Word/Text document:
    ln -s /Volumes/USB/Electronic\ Arts ~/Documents/
    replacing USB with your external drive name and paying attention to the forward and back slashes and spaces. If we use the same example as before with the EXTERNAL DRIVE > Game User Data file paths and names this would be the result:
    ln -s /Volumes/EXTERNAL\ DRIVE/Game\ User\ Data/Electronic\ Arts ~/Documents/
    and with the black X denoting the spaces:
    lnX-sX/Volumes/EXTERNAL\XDRIVE/Game\XUser\XData/Electronic\XArtsX~/Documents/
  2. Once you are happy with the command, open Terminal and copy and paste it from the Word/Text document into the Terminal window so it looks like this but with your own information. If it is highlighted black just press the right arrow on your keyboard to move the cursor to the end of the line:
  3. Hit enter to execute the command. An Electronic Arts folder will appear in your local Documents folder as an alias with a little arrow in the bottom left corner:whilst the actual Electronic Arts folder is still safe on the external drive (I also have the game installed on the external, ignore the app in the image below):

Step 3 – Launch your game:

  1. Launch the game as you would normally. You should notice no difference at all, you should be able to pick up where you last saved the game.
  2. If you get the following error message saying the game is already running:
    • Your external hard drive is not plugged in or not plugged in properly
    • You have not granted Sims 4 or Origin access to either your Documents folder or the external drive during the symlink creation process

Security warning windows you may encounter during this process if you are running macOS Catalina:

Make sure you click ok on all these windows to grant your Mac the access it needs to execute the Symlink.

Reversing the symlink:

If you want to start storing your Electronic Arts folder back in the default location in your Documents folder on your Mac, you must use Terminal commands to do so. Just unplugging the external drive will not force the game to recreate an Electronic Arts folder in the default location, it will result in the The Sims 4 is already running dialogue box (see above). To return the folder back to your Mac:

    1. Copy the following command into Terminal and hit Enter/Return:
      mv ~/Documents/Electronic\ Arts ~/Documents/Electronic\ Arts_bkp
      This will relocate the current symlink/folder to a new name in your Documents folder:
    2. Copy the following command into your Word/Text file so you can edit the external storage part:
      cp -a /Volumes/USB/Electronic\ Arts ~/Documents
      If we use the same examples from Steps 1 & 2 above where your external storage is called EXTERNAL DRIVE and the Electronic Arts folder is within a folder called Game User Data on the external drive, it would look like this:
      cp -a /Volumes/EXTERNAL\ DRIVE/Game\ User\ Data/Electronic\ Arts ~/Documents
      and with a black X denoting where the spaces are:
      cpX-aX/Volumes/EXTERNAL\XDRIVE/Game\XUser\XData/Electronic\XArtsX~/Documents
    3. Once you are happy with the command, open Terminal and copy and paste it from the Word/Text document into the Terminal window so it looks like this but with your own information. If it is highlighted black just press the right arrow on your keyboard to move the cursor to the end of the line. Hit enter/return to execute the command:
    4. In your Documents folder you should now see your Electronic Arts folder back where it used to be before creating the symlink:
      The folder should still be on the external drive too as we have just copied it, not moved it.
    5. Launch your game, nothing should have changed and all your saves should still load perfectly. You can safely trash the Electronic Arts_bkp alias now, no need for the external drive to be plugged in.
    6. You may encounter system security dialogue boxes again, make sure to click Ok.

Whilst your user data is stored on the external drive, usual troubleshooting methods will be slightly different. You cannot now move your Sims 4 to the desktop to force the game to create a clean folder as this will only copy it. You must rename the Sims 4 folder on the external drive, this will force the game to create a new one on the external.

If you have any questions feel free to ask below. Please make sure you clearly reference the part you do not understand so I understand which step you are stuck on 🙂

5 thoughts on “Running your Sims 4 folder from an external drive

  1. also, if I unplug and then replug the external hard would it still tell me to download again because I just completed all these steps and it’s continuing having be redownload all my expansions again.

    Like

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