MacMost Now 670: Changing Your Short User Name

Your short user name is both your account name and the name of your home folder. You can't really change it. But you can create a new user account and move everything to that account if you are willing to put a lot of effort into it.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: MacMost Now 670: Changing Your Short User Name.

Hi. This is Gary with MacMost Now. Today's episode "Let's Take a Look at How to Change Your Short User Name". Now, on your Mac, you've got user accounts. You may only have one if you're the only one that uses the Mac. And each user account has a long user name, usually your full name, and also a short user name. That short user name is also the name of your Home folder. If you look under Users, then there's that name of your folder. For instance it could be MacMost for me or it could be just your first name or just your last name or some sort of abbreviation. Usually you set this up when get a new Mac. It asks you for your full name and also a short name to use for the User account. However, if you got your Mac used or some other method where somebody set up an account for you ahead of time, then you may want to change the short User name and the Home folder name for your User account.
So, for instance here, I've looked in my Finder at my Macintosh hard drive and then the Users folder here. I can see there's my Home folder name and it puts a little picture of a house there. I've got other users here as well and the shared folder and the Guest User account folder. So, this is the short user name. Here it's MacMost and it's also the name of the User account. So in System Preferences, if I go down here to Users & Groups, I can see that the current user is named MacMost. That's the name of the account. In this case, I also have the full name, named MacMost. Typically, if you had a short name, like say that was Gary, then the full name would be Gary Rosenzweig.
So then the question is "how can you easily change this?". Well, you can't. You can't usually change it. Matter of fact, you really can't change it at all. You see, the User name and the Home folder name are tied into tons of things in the operating system that have to do with that user. Different applications, different system processes, everything uses it. That's why it's critical to pick the right name. So, when you set up your Mac, be careful to set up the right short user name, something you're never going to want to change. And if you choose something that's not quite perfect but can live with it, then live with it. Now if you have to change it, like say you bought a used Mac and it had somebody else's name as a short user name, then the thing to do is right away before you use that Mac, to create a new account, a new administrator account. Set that up with the short user name you want, then begin using your Mac under that new User account. And then later on you can delete that old account that you don't need anymore.
Now believe it or not, the process for changing your short user name is similar. You don't change it. What you would do is create a new User account with the short name that you want and start using that new User account and leave your old one behind. So, for instance here, I would unlock the account right here. Then once it's unlocked, I can use this plus (+) button at the bottom here to create a new user. And since it's my Mac, I would use an administrator account, create it all and this Account Name here, that's your short user name. So for instance, let's go do that. And I'll create one, let's go and just do that. I'll create a short user name of just Gary. I'll assign a password, something good and strong and create the user. So now I've got this new user created and I would simply switch to it and start using it.
Now of course, if I've already been using my old account, what I want to do is transfer files from that old User account to this new one. Now you can do that in many different ways. For instance, you can simply drag the files to an external drive and then switch users to the new account and drag them into your new account. You can simply drag them to the shared account or you can drag them into the drop box of the new account from your old account and then re-position them. The important thing is to get them into the right place. You have your Documents folder, you've got your Movies folder, your Pictures folder, all of that. Establish that.
Apple actually has a different way for doing this. So at this page at the Apple site, they have detailed instructions about another method that they recommend. And that is to enable the root user, this is kind of like a super administrator. And once you have a root user, you can log on and do things you can't even do under an Administrator account. And what they have you do is actually change the folder name, the Home folder name of your existing account to the exact short name that you want to use for your new account. So for instance, I can change the folder for MacMost to Gary. And I'm doing this under the root account so there are other folders outside of the account I'm currently using which is root. Then create the new account called Gary, and what should happen then according to their instructions, is you should get a message that basically asks if you want to use the folder that you renamed as the folder for this account and this could make things a lot smoother.
So you can go to this page and follow these instructions which include instructions of how to enable root account and cover various versions of Mac OS 10 as well. Now I would only recommend doing this if you consider yourself to be a pretty good expert at handling systems and maintaining your Mac. If you're not sure of any of this, I would maybe seek the help of a professional, maybe a friend that's done this before, maybe take it into a Mac shop or hire a Mac expert to give you a hand because this is pretty delicate stuff. And before you do any of it, one of the things I would do is of course backup. Backup the time machine, maybe even make a second backup of your user account just to be sure, to another drive, because you are messing with the very fabric of your User account when you do this. So if you find this useful, til next time, this is Gary with MacMost Now.

Comments: 5 Responses to “MacMost Now 670: Changing Your Short User Name”

    7 years ago

    Hi Gary… Thanks for all of the great videos.

    I’ve got five Macs and thought I would try the the Apple instructions using the root user that you mentioned in your video. I couldn’t get it to work on a new Macbook Air running Lion. Admittedly, I was a little nervous so I aborted at the first sign of a problem, even though I had a clone and Time Machine backup of the drive.

    Instead, I created an alias via Login Options-Advanced that appears to have accomplished my goal. My goal was to be able to move to any of my Macs (via network or physical presence) and type in a consistent administrators name each time the Mac requested it when installing software, etc.

    (I think the root user method may not have worked because my short name on the Lion machine was not all in small case letters, something that I migrated to the MacBook Air (which is why I wanted to change my short name), but who knows.)

    7 years ago

    Hei Gary! Thanks for the tutorial. I have a question. You said that we can’t change the home folder name because it’s tight to the system and applications. If I create a new admin account and delete the old one, what about the system and application that tight to my old short username? will that affect the new user? or I can connect my system and application to the new home folder name? thanks anyway.

      7 years ago

      Creating a new account and then deleting the old one is a valid way to do it. It will work as long as you remember to move over all of your files and don’t mind starting from the beginning with system preferences, settings, options, accounts, etc. It won’t affect applications unless you have specifically installed some for only one user (it is rare that anyone does that). And, of course as long as you are using the same App Store ID and iCloud ID, etc.
      I would only recommend this if you absolutely MUST change your short user name for some reason. Don’t do it unless it is absolutely necessary and back up everything first, of course.

    6 years ago

    If I changed my short name (which I might do), I would also like to transfer an Apple icloud id email that has purchases to a new one. Is this possible? Also, I “reached my limit” on creating free icloud accounts on my new macbook, is there a way to permanently delete the previous ones I no longer want and have them erased from my machine’s history? I’m new to apple products and it seems every click is being recorded and unchangeable, unlike microsoft which I used all my life up until now.

      6 years ago

      These things are unrelated. User accounts on your Mac have nothing to do with iCloud/iTunes accounts. You should have only one iCloud/iTunes account. You can sign out and sign in to iCloud/iTunes accounts on various apps (Mail, iTunes, App Store, etc) but you should never have to as you should only have one. And that is unrelated to how you organize your Mac hard drive and local users.

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