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Changing the short user name

 
 
Michelle Steiner
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      03-28-2008, 08:31 PM
This keeps popping up here. MacWorld has written an excellent article
on the subject; it is Leopard oriented, but contains a link to a utility
for Tiger.

The article, which contains links and graphics, is at
<http://www.macworld.com/article/132693/2008/03/changeshortusername.html>

Here it is sans said links and graphics:

One of the most-frequently-asked questions about Mac OS X is ³How do I
change my short username?² While it's easy to change your full
username‹an easily-accessible setting in Accounts preferences‹the short
username, which is also the name of your home folder in the Finder,
seems set in stone (or in silicon, if you will).

And in previous versions of Mac OS X, that was nearly the case: changing
your short username was a complicated‹and risky‹procedure. In fact, it
was so complex that even Apple¹s own instructions weren¹t exhaustive.
(Because of this, a colleague and I wrote a special utility for
pre-Leopard versions of OS X, ChangeShortName, that did the job right.)
But in Leopard, Apple has finally given users a reasonably-simple way to
change the short username, and it's located right in System
Preferences‹assuming you know where to look. Even better, you have three
options, of varying levels of complexity and risk, for making the
change; all three are considerably safer than the unauthorized
procedures you had to use in the past.

Why would you want to change your short username? Maybe you too-casually
accepted the Setup Assistant¹s suggestion when first configuring your
Mac, and that ³short² name isn¹t really short; perhaps you¹ve got two
Macs and want the same short username on both; or maybe you inherited a
Mac from someone and would prefer to change the name of an existing
account instead of creating a new one.
Whatever the reason, you just want a change, and we're here to help with
the rundown on each procedure. Note that whichever approach you take,
the steps must be performed from an administrative user account. And, of
course, you should always have a good backup before you go mucking
around with user accounts.

The simple approach: account aliases
If the main reason you want to change your short username is to reduce
how much you need to type in name/password dialogs‹for example, when
logging in to your account or when performing actions that require
administrator authentication‹Leopard offers an easier solution: account
aliases.

Like an alias in the Finder, which refers to an original file, and
essentially functions as that original file when accessed, an account
alias refers to an actual account name, and functions as that account
name when typed. For example, if your name happens to be Englebert
Rumplestiltskin and the OS X Setup Assistant kindly made your short
username englebertrumplestiltskin, you can create an account alias of
rumple; whenever you¹d normally type englebertrumplestiltskin, you can
type rumple, instead.

To create an account alias, follow these steps:



1. Open the Accounts pane of System Preferences. (You can do so from
within your own account or from another account; you just need
administrative access.)

2. If the lock icon in the lower-left of the Accounts window is
³locked,² click on it and provide an administrative username and
password; this allows you to make changes.

3. In the list of accounts on the left, right-click (or
Control-click) on the name of the account you want to modify and choose
Advanced Options from the resulting menu.

4. In the Advanced Options screen, click the plus (+) button under
Aliases and then type your desired account alias. (Do not make any other
changes.)

5. Click on OK.
Although your new account alias may be usable immediately, I recommend
restarting just to be sure all of OS X¹s services are aware of it. From
now on, any time you¹re asked for your username and password, you can
type your account alias instead of your actual short username. You can
even access your personal Web Sharing Web site using your account alias
(for example, http://yourIPaddress/~alias).


The Advanced Options screen of Accounts preferences

Advantages: Easiest procedure; absolutely safe; can log in and access
shares via the alias; can connect to Web Sharing files via the alias;
few, if any, side effects.

Disadvantages: Doesn¹t actually change your short username; doesn¹t
change the name of your home folder in the Finder; File Sharing shares
still use your original username; possible security implications by
having multiple login names.

The middle ground: changing just your short username
The next step up in complexity is to actually change your short
username, but to leave your home folder (in the Finder) alone. This
would let you log in using the new short username, and any dialogs in
which your short username is automatically filled would use the new
name, but your home folder in the Finder will still reflect your
original name.

One potential issue to be aware of here: Some programs may store
settings or preferences based on your short username. If you change that
name, you may find that particular programs, and possibly even some OS X
services, exhibit minor issues after making the change. The solution is
usually as simple as viewing the settings interface for the offending
program or service and changing whatever setting is causing the problem.

Here are the steps to follow:
1. If Automatic Login is enabled (in Accounts preferences) for the
account you¹re modifying, disable it. Similarly, if File Vault is
enabled (in Security preferences), disable it. You can re-enable these
features, if desired, after completing the procedure.

2. Log in as a different user than the one you want to modify.

3. Open the Accounts pane of System Preferences.

4. If the lock icon in the lower-left of the Accounts window is
³locked,² click on it and provide an administrative username and
password; this allows you to make changes.

5. In the list of accounts on the left, right-click (or
Control-click) on the name of the account you want to modify; choose
Advanced Options from the resulting menu.

6. In the Advanced Options screen, delete your current short username
in the Short Name field, and then type in your desired new short
username. (Do not make any changes to the Home Directory field.)

7. Click on OK and close System Preferences.
8. Restart your Mac.
After restarting, your original short username will no longer be valid;
you¹ll need to use your new name exclusively. Mac OS X automatically
updates any groups to which your account belongs, and changes the path
to your personal Web Sharing directory (for example,
http://yourIPaddress/~newusername).

TIP: If after changing your account name, you find yourself occasionally
typing your original username by accident, you can use the first
procedure, above, to add your old name as an alias to your new one.

Advantages: Relatively safe; your actual short username is changed;
avoids problems with preferences and applications that store settings
based on the path to your home directory; Web Sharing directories
reflect your new username.

Disadvantages: Doesn¹t change the name of your home folder in the Finder
or the name of File Sharing shares; can cause minor issues with
preferences and application that store data or settings based on your
short username.

The full monty: changing your short username and the name of your home
folder
If the thought of your username and the name of your home folder in the
Finder being different offends (or confuses) you, or if you want your
home directory¹s name to match your username when accessing your account
over File Sharing, you want to change both your short username and your
home folder name.

Although this procedure is more complete than the previous one, it has
caveats of its own. In addition the issue mentioned above with respect
to programs that store settings based on your short username, there are
also programs‹in fact, more programs‹that store settings or preferences
based on the path to your home folder. If you change the name of your
home folder, that path changes (from /Users/oldname to /Users/newname)
and, thus, those settings are no longer valid. However, as before, the
solution is usually as simple as viewing the settings interface for the
offending program or service and changing whatever setting is causing
the problem.

If you still want to go all the way, here are the steps to follow; note
that these instructions assume your home folder is located in /Users:
1. If Automatic Login is enabled (in Accounts preferences) for the
account you¹re modifying, disable it. Similarly, if File Vault is
enabled (in Security preferences), disable it. You can re-enable these
features, if desired, after completing the procedure.

2. Log in as a different user than the one you want to modify.

3. Open the Accounts pane of System Preferences.

4. If the lock icon in the lower-left of the Accounts window is
³locked,² click on it and provide an administrative username and
password; this allows you to make changes.

5. In the list of accounts on the left, right-click (or
Control-click) on the name of the account you want to modify; choose
Advanced Options from the resulting menu.

6. In the Advanced Options screen, delete your current short username
in the Short Name field, and then type in your desired new short
username.

7. In the Home Directory field, change /Users/oldusername to
/Users/newusername, where oldusername is your original short username
and newusername is your new short username. Make note of the original
and new paths.

8. Click on OK and close System Preferences.

9. Open Terminal (in /Applications/Utilities).

10. Type the following command, all on one line, and then press
Return; when prompted, provide the password of the admin account you¹re
currently using, and then press Return again:
sudo mv /Users/oldusername /Users/newusername
(These are the original and new Home Directory paths from Step 7;
oldusername is your original short username and newusername is your new
short username.) This step renames your home folder in the Finder.

11. Restart your Mac.



After the restart, your short username is completely changed, at least
as far as Mac OS X is concerned‹both your account name and the name of
your home folder in the Finder have been updated.

One specific issue you may experience after performing this procedure is
an inability to access Web Sharing for the modified account at
http://yourIPaddress/~newusername; instead, you may see a "forbidden" or
"403" error. (I tested the above procedure many times for this article
and experienced this issue only once.) If this happens to you, follow
the procedure in this Apple Support article; note that in Step 16 of the
article, shortname means your new short username.

TIP: If after changing your account name, you find yourself occasionally
typing your original username by accident, you can use the first
procedure, above, to add your old name as an alias to your new one.

Advantages: Both your short username and your home folder in the Finder
are changed; nearly-complete method of changing your short username.

Disadvantages: Can result in minor issues with services and applications
that store their settings or data based on your short username or the
path to your home folder; you may need to fix Web Sharing for it to
recognize the change in your home directory.

Change challenges
You¹ll notice that I called even the full-monty method a
³nearly-complete² one. Primarly because of the potential issues I
mentioned above with respect to settings, especially among third-party
software. But also because I'm hedging a bit: In the past, Apple has
stored a good number of user-level settings, and even a few system-level
settings related to users, as references to users' home directories;
when working on ChangeShortName, my colleague James Bucanek and I
regularly discovered, and had to account for, minor issues relating to
such settings.

The good news is that many of the OS X settings that would break when
you changed the short username in Tiger‹even ones using home-directory
paths‹are automatically updated by the OS when you change the short
username in Leopard. I've been pleasantly surprised by how well
Leopard's tools work.

--
Support the troops: Bring them home ASAP.
 
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