Mac OS X Panther, Renaming Home Folders

Contrary to popular belief, one cannot simply access a Home Folder in the Mac OS X Finder and rename it. If you have attempted to do this you would quickly realise that when you eventually log in again, you face a minute of panic when the operating system seems to have deleted your user files and reverted back to default.

If you do not possess a basic understanding of the Mac OS X file logic and structure its suggested you take a peek at our earlier article, Mac OS X, Understanding and Using Mac OS X UNIX-Like File System , before attempting the steps described in this article.

Learn how to do it right, read this article.

Naming Your Home Folder

Transparent to the user, when you create a new user account in Mac OS X, the operating system uses the Short Name as the name for your Home Folder. Because of this, it is important to choose your Short Name correctly.

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From the point of user account creation, Mac OS X will always refer to the Short Name to find the user’s Home Folder. During the user login process, in the absence of a Home Folder with the matching Short Name, Mac OS X, will create a new default Home Folder with a Short Name as the one keyed into the system.
Altering Home Folder Names

If you have already created an account and wish to change the name of your Home Folder, you will have to access the Accounts pane within your System Preferences.

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Perform the following steps:

  1. Select the appropriate user account and key in the password, if any;
  2. Proceed to edit the Short Name of the particular user account;
  3. Close your System Preferences.

Another easier option would be to simply create an entirely new account, ensuring that the Short Name matches the Home Folder name that you desire. Skip to the next section that explains how to import your original data back into your newly created Home Folder.
Most Commonly Made Mistake In Changing Home Folder Name And How To Recover Your Data

One of the most commonly made mistakes when attempting to change the Home Folder name is to edit it within the Users Folder of Finder. When this is done, your Mac will continue to run fine up till the point you log out and log back in again. You will be shocked to find that your account has been reverted to a default account with the appearance as though all your data has been deleted. Don’t panic.

Here’s what happened:

  • when you renamed your Home Folder in Finder, Mac OS X is unable to match it to the Short Name of your user account;
  • when you log in, because Mac OS X is unable to locate a Home Folder account that matches your user Short Name, it creates a new default Home Folder for your user using your user account’s Short Name.

Locating And Importing Original Home Folder Data Into New Home Folder

If Mac OS X has replaced your ‘missing’ Home Folder with a new default Home Folder don’t panic. Your data is still in your Mac’s hard drive. Open your Finder and navigate to [your hard drive]/Users/ and locate the Home Folder bearing the name that you changed the original Home Folder to. Your original files should be contained within this folder.

If you can access this folder, copy and paste ALL the data from that Home Folder into your new Home Folder. Logout and log back in. If executed correctly, everything should be restored to its original status.

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