"Relocated items.nosync"?

On my new M1 MacBook Air, the latest update to Big Sur, excepting today’s 11.3.1, presented me with a desktop file labelled ‘Relocated items.nosync’. it seems to be filled with old files and some non-Apple music from CDs. I have no clue what to do with this file, and the accompanying notes leave me none the wiser. Can anyone explain what this is, its relationship to the rest of Big Sur, and what calamity awaits me if I delete it?

Couldn’t find anything with ‘Relocated items.nosync’

Not sure if this will help:

If you see a Relocated Items folder on your Mac after upgrading macOS:

Thanks, but no, it doesn’t help; not me anyway. In my opinion it was written by a computer nerd who assumed far more knowledge about Macs and operating systems than some of us non-computing users have. However, since it appears to be quiescent, I have it sequestered in a corner of the screen until the Apple store opens after the Covid lock-down, and I can pester a ‘Genius’. Thanks again; appreciate your effort.

Whenever Apple installs a system update, if it discovers system configuration files that were manually changed (e.g. because you changed something or because an installed app changed something), Apple won’t just clobber the changes. Instead, it will create a “Relocated Items” folder in the /Users/Shared directory and the user who ran the installer will get an alias to it on the desktop.

There is a PDF document in this folder that should explain its purpose.

Alongside the PDF, there is a directory tree that mirrors the directory tree of system files, containing the changes. Typically (at least for me), there is one file for each one I’ve changed, containing what the installer would have installed had I not changed the original.

In my case, these are configuration files for the Apache web server, which I am running on my Catalina system. I modified these files on my system, so Apple doesn’t clobber them but instead writes the new defaults to Relocated Items.

More rarely, there may be a configuration file where the installer did clobber your changes. In which case, your original file is stored in Relocated Items.

All the files in Relocated Items have filename extensions indicating if they are default files or backups of your files. Unfortunately, I don’t currently have such a folder on my system, so I can’t present more details.

As for what to do about them, you can typically just ignore them and the system will work fine.

For myself, I typically compare their files against mine, merging in any changes that I think I need to incorporate (usually there aren’t any). Then, if I did make any changes, I reboot to ensure that the changes take effect. Then I delete the contents of Relocated Items, since I no longer need them, having merged the contents with the working system configuration files.


Thanks. That’s an explanation my software-uneducated mind can understand. I can now deal with this. Success!

Thanks again

Ah, so that’s what that stuff is . . . thanks, David.

No PDF doc in my case, though.

The latest security update to Catalina created a Relocated Items folder on my system, so I can provide a bit more details here. The PDF at the top of this folder has an icon named What Are Relocated Items?. Internally, this icon is actually a folder named Quarantine.lpdf, which in turn contains versions of this document in 39 different languages. The (US English) text contains:

I suspect that this document may contain other paragraphs if the Relocated Items folder has more sub-folders than just the Configuration folder that mine has. For example, if you’re performing an OS upgrade that results in some apps no longer working, as happened when upgrading from Mojave to Catalina.

Within the Configuration folder, as I described, is a folder hierarchy that mimics the system’s root directory structure, containing only those files that are potentially conflicting. In my case, it contains three files:

  • private/etc/sudoers.system_default
  • private/etc/apache2/httpd.conf.system_default
  • private/etc/apache2/extra/httpd-userdir.conf.system_default

These contain the system-default versions of the corresponding configuration files (/etc/suders, /etc/apache2/httpd.conf and /etc/apache2/extra/httpd-userdir.conf) because I customized these three files.

Thanks, David, found the PDF and Configuration/private/etc [sic!] folders and a single file within, group.system_default. Opened in TextEdit, I have:

Group Database
Note that this file is consulted directly only when the system is running
in single-user mode. At other times this information is provided by
Open Directory.

See the opendirectoryd(8) man page for additional information about
Open Directory.

This is followed by a long list of unintelligible (to me) items like


etc. etc. At which point I am inclined to say, Whatever. My single-user installation of BS is running fine . . .

This means that the contents of /etc/group is different from the system-default configuration. This file is a text file containing the UNIX names for every user-group configured for the system, but as the comments state, it is only used in single-user mode.

You can see what groups you belong to by typing id in a terminal window:

$ id
uid=1025(...) gid=20(staff) groups=20(staff),401(com.apple.access_screensharing-disabled),12(everyone),61(localaccounts),204(_developer),100(_lpoperator)

If you want to see what the change is, you can compare Configuration/private/etc/group.system_default and /etc/group. Some text editors have features to let you directly compare two files. Or you can use the command-line diff command:

$ cd "/Users/Shared/Relocated Items/Configuration/private/etc"
$ diff group.system_default /etc/group

You will see the differences between the two files. Most likely, some application or utility you installed created one or more new groups or it added one or more users to an existing group (or both).

Either way, it’s not something you should need to be concerned about because group membership is normally determined by Open Directory. Open Directory integrates a local database with three network-based directory protocols often used by corporate networks: Active Directory (used by Windows networks), LDAP (a very popular industry standard), and NIS (an older standard originally invented by Sun for UNIX networks).

If you want to get a list of all the groups from Open Directory, this will work:

$ dscl . list /groups


If you want to see all the details about all the groups:

$ dscl . readall /groups

AppleMetaNodeLocation: /Local/Default
GroupMembership: _clamav
Password: *
PrimaryGroupID: 83
 SPAM Assassin Group 2
RecordName: _amavisd amavisd
RecordType: dsRecTypeStandard:Groups
AppleMetaNodeLocation: /Local/Default
GroupMembership: root
Password: *
PrimaryGroupID: 0
 System Group
RecordName: wheel
RecordType: dsRecTypeStandard:Groups