It’s a good idea to give each of the devices you use a meaningful name. This is especially important on Windows 10, as Microsoft has removed the computer name option from the first-time setup process. Windows 10 PCs will just receive random, meaningless names by default.
On a network, this “hostname” identifies the device on your router’s status pages and when browsing shared files. Such names are also used in “find my device” interfaces and anywhere else the device needs to be identified.
Microsoft simplified the setup process in Windows 10. Windows will no longer ask you to enter a name for your PC when you set it up, which means that your Windows 10 PC probably has a meaningless, confusing name.
To provide a name, open the “Settings” app from the Start menu or Start screen, select the “System” category, and select “About” at the bottom of the list. Click or tap the “Rename PC” button and provide a new name for your PC. Your change will take effect after a reboot.
Windows 7, 8, and 8.1
On previous versions of Windows — or even Windows 10 — you can open the Control Panel, click “System and Security”, and click “System”. Click the “Advanced system settings” link in the sidebar, click the “Computer Name” tab at the top of the System Properties window, and click the “Change” button to the right of “To rename this computer, click Change”. Type a new name into the “Computer name” box and click “OK” to rename your computer.
On a Mac, this option is in the System Preferences window. To access it, click the Apple menu on the menu bar at the top of your screen and select “System Preferences”. Click the “Sharing” icon in the system preferences window, and enter a new name for your Mac in the “Computer Name” field at the top of the window.
iPhone and iPad
This option is available on the “About” screen on Apple’s iOS, used on iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches. To find it, open the “Settings” app from your home screen, tap the “General” category, and tap “About”.
Tap the “Name” field at the top of the About screen and you’ll be able to enter a new name.
For whatever reason, Google doesn’t offer this option on an Android device. If you’re setting up a Wi-Fi hotspot from your Android phone or tablet, you can change the name of that Wi-Fi hotspot in the hotspot settings — but that’s it.
There’s no way to change the device’s name so it’s identified by that particular name on your network. The only way you can do this is to root your Android device and search for an app that can change the “hostname”. You can still use the device’s MAC address to uniquely identify it, at least.
You can rename your Android device in Google Play to make it more distinct when installing apps via Google Play and tracking your lost device, however. Head to play.google.com/settings, or visit the Google Play Store website, click the gear icon, and select “Settings” to access this page. Click the “Edit” button and enter a new name for your device.
Like Android, Chrome OS is also made by Google. So it should be no surprise that Google hasn’t provided a way to change your Chromebook’s name, either. As with Android devices, you can use the MAC address to uniquely identify a Chromebook on your router’s settings page, if you need to.
Chrome OS is just Linux underneath it all, however. If you put your Chromebook into developer mode — for example, you have to do this to install a Linux desktop alongside Chrome OS — you’ll then have write access to the system configuration files and can change your Chromebook’s name.
Different Linux distributions handle this in different ways. You can generally change your hostname just by running the “hostname” command as root, but it’ll be reset when you restart your PC. Different Linux distributions define the hostname in different configuration files. For example, on Ubuntu and other Debian-based Linux distributions, you’ll need to edit the /etc/hostname file.
If you’re using another Linux distribution, perform a web search for something like “change hostname on [name of Linux distribution]”.
Other devices will have hostnames, too. They may or may not provide a way to change their names, but you’ll often find this option on an “About” screen or somewhere else in their settings if they do.
Image Credit: miniyo73 on Flickr