Recover from renaming your Home folder

It is a grave mistake to rename your Home folder -- changing its file name from johnsmith to John, for example -- in an attempt to change the short name for your account when using Mac® OS X.

If you change the file name of your Home folder while using your account, it will immediately appear as if all of your preferences, Mail, Address Book contacts, iCal calendars, iPhoto pictures, iTunes music, Dock customization, and other items have either vanished or been reset to default values.

There are two approaches to changing the short name of your account:

  1. The Apple®-recommended procedure for changing an account's short name is specified in the AppleCare® Knowledge Base document "Mac OS X: How to Change User Short Name."
  2. The third-party utility ChangeShortName. Note that:
    • The X Lab™ has not tested ChangeShortName: use at your own risk.
    • It is critical to fully read, understand, and follow the documentation for ChangeShortName.

If you have renamed your Home folder without using one of those methods, then they will not help you now. You must first restore what has changed in the Home folder of your account.

What has happened is that a new Home > Library folder (~/Library directory) has been created, effectively resetting all your preferences and moving the data for many of your applications -- Mail, Address Book, iCal, and others -- from where these applications expect to find such.

We have seen cases where, after renaming the Home folder, the user's former Home > Library folder now resides inside the new Library folder. In other words, their preferences and the data for many of the applications bundled with Mac OS X now reside in a new Home > Library > Library folder (~/Library/Library directory).

To correct this, do the following:

  1. Do not log out or restart your Mac. If you have already done so:
    1. You may need to follow the directions in the AppleCare Knowledge Base document "Mac OS X 10.3 or later: Return to Default Desktop, Apparent 'Loss' of Home Directory."
    2. You may still need to perform steps 3-9 below.
  2. Rename your Home folder to its original name. For example, if the file name of your Home folder was johnsmith and you renamed it to John , rename your Home folder back to johnsmith .
  3. Replace the folders in your Home > Library folder with those from the Home > Library > Library folder, as follows:
    1. Open your Home > Library folder and the Home > Library > Library folder in separate Finder windows.
    2. Select all (Command-A) the folders in the Home > Library > Library folder.
    3. Copy (Option-drag) the folders from the Home > Library > Library folder to the Home > Library folder.
    4. When prompted if you want to replace a folder in the Home > Library folder with an older version from the Home > Library > Library folder, select Replace to permit the replacement.
  4. Move (click and drag) the Home > Library > Library folder to your desktop. This is to create a temporary backup copy of your old Library folder in case of a mistake in step 3.
  5. Optional but recommended: perform a full Cache Cleaning if you have previously installed a tool which can perform Cache Cleaning. See Step 4, "Perform cache cleaning" in our "Resolving Disk, Permission, and Cache Corruption" FAQ.
  6. Restart your Mac.
  7. Log in to your account, for example johnsmith per the example in step 2.
  8. Verify that your account is operating normally: assure that the Home folder, Address Book, iCal®, iTunes®, iPhoto®, Mail, Safari®, and other applications are functioning properly.
  9. When you are sure that your account is again operating normally:
    1. Trash the Library folder on your desktop, which was created in step 4.
    2. Empty the Trash.
Did you find this FAQ helpful? You will find a wealth of additional advice for preventing or resolving Mac OS X problems in Dr. Smoke's book, Troubleshooting Mac® OS X.
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