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Changing your computer name or your login name is easy, but there are certain limits. I'll show you how, and then discuss what cannot be changed.

I recently married and need to change the name on my computer - not just the name of the computer - where do I go to change it?

As your question alludes to, it depends somewhat on which name you mean: your computer's name, or your login name.

Computer name: easy to change.

Your login name: easy to change - mostly. There's one part that, when it comes down to it, is pretty close to impossible to change.

Changing The Computer Name

Right click on Computer or My Computer, on your desktop or Start menu, and click on Properties. Click on Advanced system settings. In the resulting dialog click on the Computer Name tab:

System Properties, Computer Name

Click on the Change... button:

Computer Name / Domain Changes dialog

As you can see all you need do is enter your new computer name, and press OK.

The change may not take effect until your next reboot.

Changing Your Login Account Name

In Control Panel, click on User Accounts:

User Accounts in Control Panel

Click on Change your account name:

User Accounts - Change Name dialog

As you can see, you can enter a new name and press Change Name to change it.

Seems simple, yet there's a catch.

What you Can't Change

When a user account is created in Windows, the login name assigned is used to create folders specifically for that user. For example on my machine I created my login account as "LeoN", and therefore I have on my machine:

C:\Users\LeoN

As the folder which contains My Documents, my start menu, desktop and all my other account-specific information.

Even if you change your login name to something completely different, that folder name will not change. It'll still be associated with your account, and it'll all still work, but even if I change my login name to something completely different, like "Betty", my account-specific folder will still be "LeoN". (There are various reasons why this must be, but regardless of the reasons it just is.)

There may be other places where that original account login name is preserved even after a name change; the account-specific folder is just the most obvious.

The only way I know of to change this name is to create a new account with the new name, move whatever data and settings you might want to preserve from one account to the other, and then delete the old account. This tends to be very error prone as various programs that you've been running will have accumulated data in your user-specific folders that you essentially cannot move.

Of course the other option is to reinstall Windows from scratch and use the new name from the start.

Either approach is very painful and typically not worth it.

My honest recommendation is to live with it until you get a new computer someday and start with your new name on that machine.

Article C4464 - September 26, 2010 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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7 Comments
Phil
September 28, 2010 11:32 AM

Even that won't change the name you registered when you installed software like Microsoft Office. Some applications allow you to change the registration name through a Registry hack (Windows for one), but most make it difficult if not impossible to do barring a complete reinstallation of the specific application.

Janet
September 28, 2010 11:35 AM

Also-- what Leo said only applies to the local computer's info. This is different from 1) your e-mail account name (which can be different from the display name), and 2) your corporate LAN login (if that applies to you).

Those would have to be changed by your corporate IT department-- if they are willing to do so. Where I work, we have a policy that the login credentials and e-mail address do not change, EVER. If, on your first day, you are given the identity "jane.doe6" then you stay "jane.doe6" forever-- when you get married (or divorced!) and become Jane Smith, your e-mail is still "jane.doe6@----" (We will change your display name, so e-mail headers read "Jane Smith " however). When plain-old "jane.doe" leaves, you don't get to lose your numeral 6, etc. That may sound obnoxious, but you would not believe the behind-the-scenes chaos we had before that policy was put into effect.

Valerian Dec
September 28, 2010 11:57 AM

Another option for changing the C:\Users\..., is possible if you look for something like Recovery Manager from HP, or Dell's version or whatever. On my HP laptop, it is a program by Cyberlink, licensed by HP. From there, you can restore the computer to factory default by clicking on system recovery. You will be asked if you wish to return the computer to its original factory condition, like turning the computer on for the first time.
In doing so, all settings, added software, stored emails, bookmarks etc will be lost, so back up your music, pics, and stuff you want to keep. You will have the opportunity to name the computer whatever you wish from there, provided your computer has the recovery manager. Be sure to update everything as soon as you are up and running again. Best of luck.

James Ferris
September 28, 2010 2:45 PM

don't forget, you Could use 'Account Manager' to create a completely new account with the new name, then work through transferring all personal settings - some you can do by copying from the c:\users\'old-user' directories... - some require a registry hack.
Then when done, you can delete the old name account.
Done.

steven
September 28, 2010 7:51 PM

Reformat and reinstall

Aaron
November 5, 2010 6:39 PM

When I want to create a new user account I do all the steps, but when it comes down to "type a name for your account name" I do, but then it always says Specified account name is not vialed cannot contain...........and so on. I just want to create a user acount for my hp

Marie
February 27, 2013 5:12 AM

Partly as a result of transferring from a computer shared with my husband to an individual one, and a lot of stuff being imported from his, and partly because I had not taken the trouble to understand the Directory system, my directory has got into a real muddle resulting in it having a set of User Files listed under the file named with my Login name (Marie) and some under the C Drive. After reading your article, I assume I don`t need to change my Login (User) Name. Is it feasible to open a new folder labelled MARIE in the C Drive and drag programme files into it ?
And should Application Files be in there too.
At present I have Document and Document Settings under MARIE and also in C Drive. My husband started a new drive E drive for the text documents I edit constantly, so they are completely separate. I actually have duplicate sets of User Files in C Drive and outside it !

Can you help ?

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