How to Change a User Home Folder Name in Mac OS
Some advanced Mac users may wish to change a users Home directory folder name. This is a fairly unusual scenario that is typically only necessary for very specific reasons, whether a new user account has been added to a Mac, accounts are being merged, a user is changing their name and adding a new user account is not possible for some reason, troubleshooting unusual conflicts with directory names, or for other specific reasons relevant only to advanced Mac users.
Do not attempt to change a user home folder unless you have a compelling reason to do so and you know exactly what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. This is not an action to be taken lightly due to the potential for a myriad of things to go very wrong. This is relevant to advanced Mac users only.
Warning: Back up a Mac with Time Machine or your backup method of choice before doing this. If something goes wrong, the user account could be inaccessible including any and all files, and there are other potential issues that could arise as well. Do not skip backing up the Mac and user data before performing any of these actions.
How to Change User Home Directory Names in Mac OS
The method we’re going to show here works to change a users home folder name in Mac OS and Mac OS X, including versions Sierra, El Capitan, Yosemite, Mavericks, and Mountain Lion.
- Back up the Mac before doing anything else, do not skip this
- Log in to a different Admin user account, it must be different from the account folder being changed
- From the Finder of Mac OS, go to /Users/ directory and rename the folder of the user account you wish to change as you would any other file/folder, authenticating when requested
- From the Apple menu choose “System Preferences” and then choose “Users & Groups”
- Click the lock icon and authenticate to gain access to making changes to Users
- Right-click on the user account you wish to change the Home folder for and choose “Advanced Options”
- Look for the “Home Directory” option and edit the path to match the newly renamed folder in step 3, be certain the directory name and the proper directory path match otherwise the user account will not work at all
- Click “OK” and then restart the Mac for changes to take effect
- Log into the user account whose user home folder was changed and insure that everything is accessible and working as expected, including customizations, preferences, settings, apps, file access, data access, photos, media, apps, permissions, and any other relevant item
It is critical to insure that everything in the changed user directory is accessible and works as intended, do not skip verifying data, files, and preferences, as things can go awry and lead to issues down the road.
Note there can be some unusual side effects with doing this, including having the user account lose various customizations and settings, or sometimes even an inability to access certain files or data. For example, you may lose all Dock and Finder settings on log out persistently, until you either fix the user library folder permissions with chown or your method of choice. Additionally, users may lose access to some files or folders if they are referencing a directory that no longer exists due to the name change. This is just a small sample of the many things that can go sideways, which further should emphasize why this is truly only relevant to advanced Mac users and not a casual undertaking.
Note that we’re changing only the user folder name in this example, and not moving the location of the user home directory, which is sometimes undertaken to relocate a users files to a different hard drive or volume. The task is similar, however.