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My computer name in System Preferences > sharing is set to "archos" but is showing as "iphone" on the terminal. It just started doing this after I loaded Xcode for doing iPhone development.

Last login: Mon Nov  7 14:46:55 on ttys001
iphone:~ travis$ 

Any ideas what could be causing this?

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what do you get when you type echo $HOSTNAME – Daniel Nov 8 '11 at 6:14
this is weird...I am getting 'archos.local' for echo $HOSTNAME. I did the initial writeup when I was at the office, but on my home network it is back to normal. I wonder if this has something to do with my work network? – Travis Nelson Nov 8 '11 at 6:45

10 Answers 10

up vote 49 down vote accepted

It's perfectly normal for this to occur; when you login Terminal remotely bash does a reverse DNS lookup. It will only be the same if the hostname is not specified on the network you're connecting from and there is no reply from the DHCP server, or the reverse lookup against the remote DNS server fails to resolve.

You can easily over-ride the default setting by using this command in Terminal:

# sudo scutil --set HostName archos

You can check it by using:

# nslookup nn.nn.nn.nn
( or )
# host nn.nn.nn.nn

(where nn signifies your Mac's ip address)

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How can you undo that? – Gio Dec 1 '11 at 18:45
@Gio Delete the HostName key under System from /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/preferences.plist. See this answer. – user495470 May 9 '13 at 10:42
@Gio: @Lauri's post has excellent background info, but if you want a shortcut: to delete, run sudo scutil --set HostName ''. – mklement0 May 5 '14 at 4:51
Setting HostName is not advisable, because it creates a separate value that then persists even when you later try to change the hostname via System Preferences > Sharing. By contrast, setting LocalHostName updates the same value, and is normally also picked up by the shell and hostname (the ComputerName value should be updated in tandem). Or does setting HostName behave differently in a way that is advantageous here? – mklement0 May 5 '14 at 5:00
My fix for this was to remove a dhcp entry on my router and then reboot (the router). It had an old name for my mac cached (well, actually I had a fixed assignment in the dhcp settings) After the router rebooted my mac apparent hostname (in bash prompt for e.g.) matches the one I set in Preferences->Sharing and I can see the new name registered in the dhcp display on the router. PS. This difference only happened since installing Yosemite. It is a sensible change but one that will confuse people. – Matthew Hannigan Nov 6 '14 at 21:40

You may also want to change some other things using the scutil command:

sudo scutil --set ComputerName "newname"
sudo scutil --set LocalHostName "newname"
sudo scutil --set HostName "newname"
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By changing the name in System Preferences->Sharing and then using scutil to set HostName, both ComputerName and LocalHostName were already set to the new name for me (in Mavericks). Nice to know that these other settings exist, though. – Jim Stewart Nov 15 '13 at 19:02
@JimStewart: Indeed, that's why it's better to NEVER set HostName, because doing so will make that value persist even when you later try to change your hostname via System Preferences. Conversely, the LocalHostName is picked up by the shell and hostname, so HostName is never needed. – mklement0 May 5 '14 at 4:50

There are two potential reasons for the shell ($HOSTNAME variable, '\h' in $PS1) and the hostname utility to report a hostname that differs from the one shown in System Preferences > Sharing:

  • sudo scutil --set HostName newName was used to persistently change the hostname - unfortunately, this value is independent of the LocalHostName value set by System Preferences behind the scenes - even though man hostname suggests this method, DO NOT USE IT for that reason; run sudo scutil --set HostName '' to remove it, at which point LocalHostName should again be reported; for background, see this post by @Lauri Ranta.

  • [Update: The following is no longer true as of OSX 10.10] If your /etc/hosts file has an entry that matches your machine's IP address, that entry's name will be reported.

Only if neither of the above is true will the shell and hostname reflect the value set via System Preferences.

If you want to change your hostname from the shell, run both of the following:

  • sudo scutil --set LocalHostName <newName>
  • sudo scutil --set ComputerName <newFriendlyName>

where <newFriendlyName> can be a friendlier version (spaces, punctuation) of <newName> (alphanumerics and dashes only).

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unfortunately, just setting those two didn't seem to be enough in my case: – rogerdpack Dec 19 '14 at 17:47
@rogerdpack: And you've run sudo scutil --set HostName '' first (case matters) and made sure that there's no entry in /etc/hosts? scutil --get HostName should report Hostname: not set. – mklement0 Dec 19 '14 at 18:03
yeah scutil --get HostName HostName: not set /etc/hosts seems benign... – rogerdpack Dec 19 '14 at 19:39
@rogerdpack: Silly question: your PS1 variable doesn't happen to have a hard-coded hostname rather than using \h, does it? As an aside: /etc/hosts is no longer consulted as of OSX 10.10 (I've updated my answer). – mklement0 Dec 19 '14 at 20:15
Beautiful. Removing the hostname (by setting it to the empty string as you suggested: sudo scutil --set HostName '' ) again allows OS X to map the computer name to its IP address (e.g., this now works ping <computername>). – Brent Apr 22 '15 at 22:10

In addition to Jeffrey J. Hoover's tip (above),

I would add these last two steps:

  • Flush the DNS cache by typing: dscacheutil -flushcache
  • Restart your Mac.
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I agree that Jeffrey Hoover's tip was the correct answer. Flushing the DNS cache and restarting the Mac is a nice step too. This is variant of Jeff Hoover's reply:

sudo -i

for n in HostName ComputerName LocalHostName; do
    scutil –set $n new_hostname

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You're missing a -: it must be --set to work. Also, as I commented at Jeff's answer: it's probably better to not set HostName. – mklement0 May 5 '14 at 20:51

As mentioned in a separate answer, another option is to override the default PS1 prompt, like executing the following line (or adding it to your ~/.bash_profile file):

 $ PS1="$(scutil --get ComputerName):\W \u\\$ "


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System Preferences -> Sharing -> Computer Name --> set it to whatever

And then restart your computer. No console commands were necessary. Works for OS X 10.10.2

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I had the problem that only the shell itself (zsh in my case) failed to show the correct computer name. Simply restarting the shell solved it:

exec /bin/zsh
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Use this

sudo systemsetup -setcomputername $name
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In addition to the previous answer, remember that you can use a static address in your router. You have to enter the static IP and the MAC address of your network card, then you set a name for it. The hostname will be automagically updated to the specified name. That's it.

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