There are a couple of places on your Mac where your name - or some other name - might appear: the account name and Home folder. The name that appears is based on the Full Name you gave when you (or the administrator) first set up the account.

But what if you want to change your username as it appears in these locations? It’s possible that you have since married and now have a new name (or you just divorced). Maybe IT misspelt your name when they set up your Mac. Perhaps your initial and surname spell something offensive, or it might be time to change what was once an amusing username for something more formal. Maybe your current short name isn’t really short and is a pain to type every time you’re prompted for your username. Perhaps you’ve got two or more Macs and you want to use the same short username on all of them. Or maybe you inherited a Mac and would prefer to just change the name of the existing account rather than create a new one.

Luckily, since Mac OS X Leopard launched in 2007, Apple has made it reasonably simple to change the short username and Home folder name from within System Preferences. Prior to Leopard, changing your short username was a complicated, risky procedure.

There are still a few limitations though:

  • The Short Name and Home folder name must match - so if you were hoping to give your Home directory a comedy name but keen the short name as something more formal, you are out of luck.
  • Despite what we said about it being a less risky procedure, it is the kind of change that could result in data loss if you do something wrong. So make sure you back up first!
  • You will also need to log in to a different (administrator) account to do this, so you may need to create that first.

If you need to create a new administrator account follow these steps:

  1. Open System Preferences > Users & Groups.
  2. Click the lock icon and enter your password.
  3. Click on the + sign.
  4. Change New Account to Administrator.

set up admin account

If you have forgotten your password read: How to recover a forgotten Mac password.

How to change Mac username

Changing the username for your account is simple - assuming you have administrator rights. But you will see a pretty stark warning that changing the settings might damage the account and prevent you from logging in.

User name change warning

You need only follow these steps to change the username:

  1. Open System Preferences.

  2. Users & Groups.
  3. Click unlock and enter your password.
  4. Now Control-click or right-click the user that you want to rename.

  5. Choose Advanced. Advanced Options user
  6. Change the name in the full name field.

  7. Restart the computer for the changes to take effect.

This will only change the username - not the Home directory name, or your Short Name. And, as the warning states, it may damage the account and prevent you from logging in!

We did it without any problems, although there were a few hair raising seconds when the log in process took slightly longer than usual.

How to change Home folder name

Home folder Mac

Changing your Home folder name (and your account name, which is linked) is more complicated.

  1. Click on the Apple logo in the menu and Log Out of the account you want to change the name for.
  2. Log in with a different administrator account (you have to be logged out of an account to rename it) you may need to create a new administrator account (we show you how to do that above). Log in to that account.
  3. Go to the Users folder on the startup drive (to find it open the Finder and click on Go > Computer > Macintosh HD.  Where is Mac Home folder
  4. Open the Users folder - inside you will find the Home directory for the account you're renaming. (Write this down as you will need it later)

  5. Click on the folder and rename it (note the old and new name because you will need it once more)
  6. Enter the password for the admin account you are using when prompted.

How to change your Username

Having changed your Home folder name you now need to change your Username - of you don’t there will be problems because the two need the same name. You also need to change the name in the field what shows the location of the Home directory.

  1. Open System Preferences > Users & Groups.
  2. Click unlock and enter the password for the admin account you just logged in with.

  3. From the list of users, Control-click or right-click the user that you want to rename.

  4. Select Advanced Options.

  5. Change Account Name field to the new name you just gave the Home folder for that user. Change user name Mac
  6. Next change the Home directory field to match the new name you gave the Home folder.

  7. Click OK.

  8. Close System Preferences.
  9. Restart the Mac.

  10. Log on to the renamed account

If you have any problems logging in check that the account and one directory names are the same.

Need to change your admin password? Here's How to change the admin password on a Mac.