Simple Questions: What it the Computer Name & How to Change It?

When you set up your computer for the first time, you are asked to assign it a name. Since we all humans have a name and we name even our pets, why not name our computers? But then you'll ask: What is the purpose of a computer name? Can you change it later on? To learn the answers to these questions, read this article.

What is the Computer Name?

A computer's name is not just something whimsical that its owner can apply to it to make it seem more human. The name is actually used to distinguish that computer from others when placed in a network. It doesn't matter what the name is, just that there is one. This is why Windows offers you a default.

The computer name must be unique when your device is part of a network. Otherwise, there will be conflicts between two or more computers with the same name. When that happens, others are not able to access them correctly and neither their shared resources.

The computer name can be anything you want but you are restricted when it comes to its length and the characters that are allowed as part of the computer name. The computer name must have up to 15 characters. Also, you cannot use the following characters: /\ [ ] " : ; | + = , ? * _ (caret, square brackets, quotation marks, colon, semicolon, pipe, less-than, greater-than, plus, equals, comma, question mark, underscore and space).

How To Change the Computer Name in Windows 7 & Windows 8.1

You will need to be logged in with an account with administrator privileges to do this, regardless of which operating system you have. This method of going through the Control Panel works the same way in Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. The illustrations we used are from Windows 7.

Open the Control Panel and choose System and Security.

Then, click the System category.

In the System window, scroll down to the "Computer name, domain, and workgroup settings" section. There, click Change settings.

The Computer Name tab will be selected in the System Properties window. At the bottom of that window you'll see: "To rename this computer or change its domain or workgroup, click Change". Click the Change button.

This pops up the Computer Name/Domain Changes window. You will see your current computer name and the current Workgroup. If you need more information about the Workgroup, please read this guide: How to Change the Workgroup in Windows 7 & Windows 8.

Change it to anything you want, keeping in mind that there are some characters that are not allowed in computer names. Microsoft lists those characters as: /\ [ ] " : ; | + = , ? * _ (caret, square brackets, quotation marks, colon, semicolon, pipe, less-than, greater-than, plus, equals, comma, question mark, underscore and space). If you try to use one of those forbidden characters, your name change won't go through.

Click OK and you are informed that you must restart your computer to apply the change. Click OK again.

In the System Properties window, click Close.

Your name change won't take effect until you restart the computer. You'll be asked if you want to restart. If you don't want to do that right away, you can choose Restart Later. Otherwise, make sure that you do not have any opened documents or apps and choose Restart Now.

IMPORTANT: If you are on a business network and your computer is managed by the IT staff, you shouldn't be changing the computer name without their approval. Also, you should not fiddle with the Domain settings.

How to Change the Computer Name on Touch-Based Devices with Windows 8.1

In Windows 8.1, the computer name change can also be done through PC Settings. If you're not already familiar with PC Settings, check our excellent tutorial here: Six Ways to Access PC Settings.

Tap PC and devices.

Then, choose PC Info.

On the right side of the screen you will see information about your device, including the PC name or computer name.

Press Rename PC and you'll get a window from which you can do just that. Type in the new name (the same characters that are not allowed in Windows 7 are still not allowed, and if you try using one Windows will tell you you can't) and press Next.

Windows will tell you that your computer will have its new name after you restart. You can restart right away, or wait till later.

Press Restart now or Restart later depending on what you prefer.

Conclusion

As you can see, changing your computer's name is a simple and straightforward process. So there's no need for you to keep WhizbangPC or Tricorder forever. Pick something that fits your life now and enjoy. :)