Change of home folder name and perhaps password too

I have recently purchased a 21.5" iMac 2009 running OS Sierra for the express purpose as I needed access to a working copy of GarageBand for my son’s school project.The previous owner {whom I know well} removed all his personal data but left genetic user admin User Account settings including his admin password to help me get around any issues that we may encounter,which hasn’t happened I might add. Can I now rename his Home Folder to something more appropriate and if so also change the old password. Thank you for any assistance.

I wouldn’t try to rename that old account. What I would do instead:

  • Use that existing admin account to create a new user with admin privileges.
  • Log in with that new admin account and delete the old one. Choose the option to delete the home directory to get rid of it (assuming there’s nothing of value in that account).

Yep…but log in as that user and create a new admin account for yourself first…you can then delete the old one (after making sure the new one works of course) and System Prefs will give you the option of preserving the old homedirectory just in case, it will be in /Users/Deleted Users IIRC.

I wouldn’t want to inherit someone else’s system installation. I would recommend performing a clean erase/install of macOS (from Recovery mode or a botable installer). Then the request of the questions are moot.

That having been said, I don’t think “admin” is a bad name for an administrator account. I’d leave it (after changing the password). But I’d go create a non-privileged account for myself to use. Then just use the admin account/password when prompted for it (e.g. during software installation or system configuration).

Agreed with you @Shamino - the prior owner should have decommissioned the Mac properly before transfer - making sure it’s disconnected from iCloud services if it was ever attached, the disk reformatted (with multi-pass erase if you’re paranoid), and macOS freshly installed. At first power-up it would then be set up like it was brand new.

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I have a related question.

I don’t want to change the home folder name, just the display name for my account. I recently changed my legal name and want the account name to reflect that. This wouldn’t affect the actual home folder name, as it is completely different from the personal name on the account and isn’t changing.

I have found no way to do this via System Preferences (in Big Sur). Even updating the contact card linked from the Users and Groups pref pane doesn’t change the display name for the account. Nor does changing the name on my AppleID (which I did some time ago).

Is this something that can be done via the Terminal? I really don’t want to have to create a new account and migrate my data—I’ve done that in the past on an older machine (in a much earlier version of OS X), and fixing ownership and permissions on my files was an absolute nightmare.

I know the display name shows up in very few places, but one of those is the login screen, and I don’t like being deadnamed by my computer every time I reboot.

Have you seen the following Apple tech note? Change the name of your macOS user account and home folder - Apple Support

You don’t have to change the user (account) name or home directory, but there’s a field to change the “Full Name” which is what I think you want to do.


Two thoughts before going ahead with a clean erase and install:

  1. Is there a requirement for a particular version of GarageBand, e.g., the one that is installed on this Mac? If it is an older version that is needed, and you want to start with a fresh installation of macOS, you should be careful to install the same version of macOS that already is installed. The specific steps to do so will depend on the version of macOS installed and the model of the Mac.
  2. As is being discussed on another thread, if you have a spinning hard disk in your Mac (instead of an SSD), you may be very disappointed with the speed of the system if you upgrade to a current version of macOS. In that case, it may be better to stay on the currently installed version of macOS or to switch o an SSD if practical.

Thank you! That’s exactly what I needed. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to look for a contextual menu there.

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You can also wipe it and install any particular version you like. Apple provides links to download the latest version of most of the major macOS releases.

From there, you can download the installer and use it to make bootable install media (USB thumb drive or DVD). You can then boot that device and use it to completely wipe the Mac’s storage and install the new system in its place.

According to MacTracker, a 21.5" Late 2009 iMac originally shipped with Mac OS X 10.6.1 (Snow Leopard) and can go up to macOS 10.13.6 (High Sierra).

Since yours is running Sierra (10.12), I’d probably stick with it, since it is a known quantity. And upgrading to High Sierra might introduce performance problems if you have a hard drive (installation to an HFS+ partition is theoretically possible, but I haven’t tried it so I don’t know what you need to do in order to make it happen). If you want to use High Sierra, I would strongly recommend installing to an SSD (internal or external), since the APFS file system performs very poorly on HDD media.

See also:

I actually used that Apple document to change my own admin account (for what some would think a silly reason, and just asking for trouble). It was a piece of cake.

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Probably not the only way to fix this…but if you log in as an admin user and create a new folder in /Users with the updated display name…then copy (might need to reset perms on the old homedir first) everything in old_homedir to the new folder…then create a new account with the name you used in the first step and tell it to use the existing homedir it will fix all the perms for you on the new one.

Alternatively…and I haven’t played with this beyond looking at the options…right click on the user account in System Prefs and choose advanced options…auth as admin, and then it appears you can change most of the info. I would likely create a new account for testing and then test changing various items does before doing it to your real account…just in case Bad Things happen:-)

Actually…it’s my personal thought that usernames should not be your actual name…part of the Trust No One (TNO) theory and Security by Obscurity that Steve Gibson has talked about. None of my macOS usernames are real names for either myself of my bride…and the admin account ain’t named admin or administrator either. Might provide a little extra roadblock for the baddies…but then again might not.

But then…as a smartass macOS guy whose day job was a Windows sysadmin all of my servers were named using internal Apple code names for products…none of my bosses ever figured it out and when they asked me what made JWICS work I just said “Smoke and Mirrors”. One of my compatriots running a different domain built a Windows cluster with a name of Rivers…the cluster name is the only one that user see…and named the cluster nodes Gluteus and Maximus…all was fine until the bosses saw that and then all heck happened…and we had an unwritten rule since most of their hostnames were actual river names that an admin named Calvin had to be able to spell it before it could be used…that came about when somebody named a server Monongahela, we ended up rebuilding that one.

I personally disagree. There are three kinds of attacks to consider:

  • Someone who can get physical access. This is most likely to be an opportunistic crime (swipe a phone or laptop from a public place), and the attacker probably doesn’t know your real name. But maybe it may make sense to pick an unusual name for the admin account. And if they’re willing to do that kind of research, then you’re talking about a targeted attack, which is a completely different situation.

  • Malware. If it is launched, then it is trivial to fetch the user list. No advantage here.

  • Remote attack. Like someone with physical access, if they know who you are, then you’re talking about a targeted attack. A good firewall and keeping your software up to date (as well as string passwords) is going to be more protection than hiding your user name.

But I would have a different opinion as an IT professional managing a corporate fleet of systems. Corporate systems are far more likely to be targeted, so you probably should assume that the attacker is doing research. (I assume this is why my user ID for my employer is my 10-digit employee ID number.)

Reminds me of a former job where we code-named projects after rivers in western PA. I never once remembered how to spell Youghiogheny.

I don’t think that’s always true these days. Apple has gotten very fond of adding “extended attributes” (xattr) to numerous files to augment the POSIX permissions security model, and it can be a nightmare to troubleshoot when things go wrong copying to a new account. YMMV, but I’ve run into a few cases where it would have been just easier to start from scratch with a fresh new user and set preferences etc manually, unless there are licensing/activation issues for certain apps that would complicate matters.

For what it’s worth, I’ve changed my username and home directory (sometimes one, sometimes both) several times over the years on various versions of MacOS and never had a problem.* I’ve always done it in the ‘official’ way that @Technogeezer linked to. So I think if @holty43 wants to change the home folder name (and potentially username), they should, following Apple’s instructions.

*[This is not entirely true. In the early versions of Mac OS X, there was no official way to change these things, it had to be done in the command line with multiple steps. I did this once or twice for reasons, and it wasn’t what I’d call ‘smooth’, but it worked. It became much more reliable once Apple introduced the hidden contextual menu to do this.]

That must have been a very early version. I remember changing these things using the “Users & Groups” preference panel in Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger).

This menu wasn’t always hidden. An old version of that Apple support page, seems to indicate that the option became “hidden” in Mac OS X 10.10 (Yosemite):

I’m good with that…opinions are like haircuts…everyone has one​:smile::smile:…and nobody is right or wrong, jus’ different.

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Yeah, remember doing this way back in 10.1 or 10.2. Of course, my memory could be faulty!