Renaming your Windows XP user account

Someone recently asked me how to rename their C:\Documents and Settings\mysername folder but they didn’t leave a correct email address so my reply bounced. So here, for the benefit of all, is my answer.

Under the Documents and Settings is a folder saved in my name instead of my sons. When I had the new hard drive installed and XP the tech used my name instead of my son. Since it is a system folder I cant change it and really don’t want to pay another bill for trying to. Any other option?



As far as I know, you cannot change the name of that folder since it is linked to your user name, and that cannot be changed. (You can change the user name alias, which appears on the login screen, but that does not change the name of the underlying folder in “Documents and Settings”).

You can, however, create a new account, transfer all your settings from the old account profile to the new one, and then delete the old one.

In detail:

Let’s say you have an account named “dad” and you want to change it to “son”.

Go to Control Panel, User accounts, Create a new account.

Type in the account name (“son”), click Next, make the account type “administrator”.

Restart windows and log in using the “son” account you just created.

Right-click on the “My Computer” icon on the desktop, choose Properties, and click the Advanced tab.

Under “User Profiles”, click Settings.

Select the “dad” profile from the list, then click “Copy to”.

Click the Browse button, and browse to the location of your new user profile (it should be in C:\Documents and Settings\son

Click OK, Yes (when it asks if you want to delete the contents of the directory), then OK out of all the dialog boxes.

Restart the computer and log in as “son” again.

Finally, you can delete the “dad” account from the Control Panel, User Accounts.
Hope this saves you a trip to the tech guy!

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11 Responses to Renaming your Windows XP user account

  1. frank says:

    Thanks for your help here

  2. Martin says:

    Fred says to copy the dad profile to C:\Documents and Settings\dad, but shouldn’t we be copying to C:\Documents and Settings\son?

    I just want to be sure before I try it!

  3. fred says:

    Martin is right– there was a typo in my original post. I have made the correction.



  4. Merv says:

    I tried that with my own computer earlier today, and it told me that the contents of the new directory couldn’t be deleted. Any idea what’s wrong there?

  5. hpum says:

    Tried Fred’s method but got the error:
    “failed to set security on the Destination Profile.Error-The directory name is invalid”

  6. fred says:

    Hm, seems like “Fred’s method” is causing some grief. It worked for me… I’ll try it again; maybe I made a mistake in my instructions. Sounds like there might be permissions issues, though.

  7. It’s a problem with the permissions. Probably you made “dads” files private. All you need to to it’s change the owner of the user directory in “Documents and settings” and everything should be ok.

  8. Jason says:

    I think I figured out what happened for #5’s error (I got the same thing too). Fixed it by doing a three-account dance, using the Administrator account. Logged in under THAT account, copied the settings from “dad” (not the account’s real name) into “son”, then proceeded as advertised. Worked like a charm, seeing as the problem was that I was trying to overwrite a file that was in use (something regarding the cookies).

  9. Greg says:

    You have no idea how much this article is going to help me.

  10. Michael says:

    Copy profile was greyed out, so this didn’t work for me. Even logging in as the adminstrator did not change that.

  11. Bill H says:

    This is great info, the only thing is that I am certain there must also be a file somewhere that knows the placement of my icons, the settings for my Startup menu and shortcuts, the preferences I have tweaked for months (years?) for my desktop image, program preferences and all that… is this true?? Can this ALSO be moved over to the new profile so I don’t need to spend hours re-tweaking all my personal and program preferences? THANKS! I’m happy to go into the registry if that’s what is required to do this.. not afraid of that.

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