"I DON'T KNOW YOU": A Windows 10 tale

So, in the name of vanity, I did something rather dumb.

I changed my Windows 10 account's username.

Not just changing the user's name -- that's cosmetic. I mean, I fully changed the actual username; the goal was to change my root folder path, but as it turned out, this did not work as expected, and all I did was break my Windows 10 login.


I started by running the command netplwiz. This let me get my grubby little mitts on my own user account, for which I edited the properties and promptly changed, swapping the username (Which is ancient, from when I first built the computer and went by a different handle on the internet) to a more current one. I saved it, and thought nothing of it.

Start Menu then did not work; I tried opening my account settings, and it locked up. I thought a reboot would fix the problem.

It made it worse -- Windows 10 home edition tries to sign you in with the last username you used. Which was my old username. So no matter how hard I tried, my password would always be "wrong", because the username, which I could not see or choose, was wrong.

Safe mode to the rescue -- hold shift when clicking "restart" from the power menu. Boot into safe mode with networking. The networking bit isn't that important, unless you need to Google, but it gives us a gui where you can hold Windows + R to run another command -- netplwiz again, and I rolled back my change pronto. Happy day?

Reboot. Wrong -- guess what user I'd just signed in as? Safe mode Administrator. Which is disabled in regular environment. So again, I was going nowhere.

I went back to Safe Mode, and set up another user that wasn't Administrator or my usual, just as a placeholder. Rebooted, and could log in as them just dandy... but couldn't switch back to my usual user.

The key was being able to enter in a username -- for that, you need to run the command secpol.msc. Under "Local Policies" -> "Security Options", there's a bunch of options, and the one I wanted was "Interactive Logon: Don't display last signed in".

This was disabled by default for me, so I Enabled it, and rebooted. Like a charm, I was asked for a username and a password. Entering in my rolled-back username then got me into my account.

Like a child burnt, I sought to return things to the way they were; this was much easier done. Now that I'd successfully signed in, I went back into secpol.msc and re-disabled "Don't display last signed in". A quick reboot, and things are back to normal.


The big takeaway from all this:

  1. Don't just change your username like a muppet
  2. If you do, go safe mode, open secpol.msc, enable "Don't display last signed in" so you can enter in your new username and get back in

I've learned my lesson, and I'll try again to change that folder name a bit more carefully next time.

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