Move "Microsoft User Data"

22 February 2013, 09:00

Maybe I’m too neat but I get annoyed that the Microsoft Office apps insist on putting a Microsoft User Data folder in my Documents folder. As its name suggests, the Documents folder is for documents — not for app settings!

The solution for neat freaks like me is simple — quit ALL Microsoft Office apps, then open a Finder window. Browse to the Documents folder. Then open a second Finder window (right-click the Finder icon in the Dock and select New Finder Window), then hit Shift+Command+G and type the following before hitting Return:


Then move the Microsoft User Data folder from Documents to this new Finder window. Simply clicking and dragging should do the trick.

In future the Office apps will look for and find their settings data in this new location, and won’t recreate anything in the Documents folder. Problem solved!

Edit: A few people have suggested this won’t work — see the comments below. In particular, it’s been pointed out that Outlook and Entourage are “hard coded” to find their settings in the Documents folder, and also that mail messages won’t be indexed if you use Outlook or Entourage, which is true. My advice: Use this tip only if you DON’T use Entourage/Outlook. In any case things are easily fixed if it doesn’t work — just copy the folder back to its original place in Documents, deleting any new folder that might have been created by Office.

Know better?

This is a really silly idea.

The most likely result is that users will lose ALL of their stored mail. Of course, various other things won’t work right either, but the loss of email is the thing most users will notice almost immediately.

The Microsoft User Data is in the Documents folder for one simple reason: to ensure it participates in the user’s BACKUP.

These days, most of the content is moving to /Application Support. But the stuff that remains in the MUD needs to stay there, or the applications won’t work.

Cheers: John McGhie, Microsoft MVP

— John McGhie · Mar 1, 07:34 PM · #

John’s correct. Outlook for Mac is hard-coded to look for the Microsoft User Data folder in ~/Documents. It will not recognize the MUD anywhere else.

Even if you could move it, ~/Library/Preferences is a horrible place to store this data. The MUD contains message data beyond a handful of settings. Preferences is not indexed by Spotlight, which is necessary for searching messages.

FYI, an alias with the same name that points to the Microsoft User Data folder on another drive or in another location will work but Microsoft won’t support it.

William Smith · Mar 1, 08:25 PM · #

Have you guys actually tried this? It worked fine in my tests but I don’t use Outlook/Entourage. I’ll add a note to the posting mentioned your concerns, but I don’t think you’re 100% correct. Try it first, then let me know.

— Keir Thomas · Mar 12, 06:29 AM · #

William, the reason I specify ~/Library/Preferences is because that’s the only location that works as an alternative. I don’t know why. But the key thing is that I didn’t choose it as a destination!

— Keir Thomas · Mar 12, 06:34 AM · #

If this is just a visual nag, how about making the folder invisible but keeping it in the Documents folder? Pasting in Terminal: chflags hidden ~/Documents/Microsoft\ User\ Data

I’d probably forget it’s there but I can’t remember needing the folder anyway.

— Rick Closson · Oct 18, 09:46 AM · #

I second Rick Closson’s excellent suggestion (thank you!). It’s quick, easy*, and much less likely to cause problems.

* in Terminal, type “chflags hidden “ (make sure there’s a space after “hidden “), then drag the folder to the Terminal window. The path will be added automatically. Hit enter.

If you’re going to hide multiple folders, I recommend two additional steps:

1) Create a “Data” folder inside Documents. Add aliases for each folder you will hide. The alias will provide access to the folder even after it is hidden. (It’s also a good reminder the folder is still there, just hidden)

2) Create a “Read Me” text file in the Data folder and list the hidden folders. Copy/paste the Terminal commands twice into the Read Me file, changing the second line from “chflags hidden “ to “chflags nohidden “. This will make it much easier to hide and unhide the folders later – just copy/paste the appropriate line into Terminal.


chflags hidden /Users/?????/Documents/Microsoft\ User\ Data
chflags nohidden /Users/?????/Documents/Microsoft\ User\ Data

chflags hidden /Users/?????/Documents/Adobe
chflags nohidden /Users/?????/Documents/Adobe

Note: “?????” is your User folder’s name.

— Michael · Jan 13, 05:18 PM · #

This is a great idea! I only use office to read customers files and I also like a tidy docs folder!!!
Thanks! :-)

woody · Jan 14, 02:18 AM · #

My solution was to create a documents folder inside documents. For example:


I moved all the files and folders except for “Microsoft User Data” from ~/Documents to ~/Documents/Documents.

The next change I made was to remove ~/Documents from the favorites list on the left of the finder menu. Then, I added ~/Documents/Documents to the finder menu. This solves my issue in finder. I now have to navigate one folder deeper when I view my file system in a drop down menu but it solves the majority of the issue for me.

— Brian LeBlanc · Feb 26, 05:41 AM · #