Not Just Any Name: Tips For Picking Good Names For Your Devices

Names For Devices Intro   Not Just Any Name: Tips For Picking Good Names For Your DevicesAssigning names to devices is a small action that has very few real consequences. Whether the name of your latest computer peripheral stays as “CORSAIR 829495” or changes to “Bingo” has no effect on the device’s performance. But on a personal level, naming your devices properly can have lasting implications for your productivity, organization, or just plain enjoyment.

I bet you’ve rarely thought of device names as important. In fact, some of you reading this article probably weren’t aware that devices could be renamed. Either way, I’m going to give you some tips on how to make the most of the names you decide to use.

Don’t Use Your Personal Details As An Anchor

The first time you install an operating system like Windows, you’re usually prompted for your name. In turn, when the installation finishes, your computer is automatically named something like “Patrick-PC.” This may seem fine to you, and really, there’s nothing inherently bad about it.

But, counter-intuitively, using your name can make your devices impersonal and boring. Would you name your beagle “John’s dog”? Probably not. Your dog is a separate entity from you, so you give it a name of its own. In the same way, you should name your device uniquely.

More practically, it can get confusing. Say your computer is named “Home-PC,” which is bland but it won’t break your system. What if you bought another computer? Or two? Would you name them “Home-PC-2″ and “Home-PC-3″? Or maybe “Home-Computer” and “Home-Desktop”? You can see the potential for confusion here.

device names 1   Not Just Any Name: Tips For Picking Good Names For Your Devices

Don’t Assign Purpose To Your Devices

I’m sure there’s a lot of philosophical thought that could go into whether or not devices truly have a purpose or not, but a device’s name is not where you want to make that decision. For example, don’t name your computer “Gaming Laptop” and don’t name your phone “Note Phone.”

Why? Because devices can have multiple purposes and because a device’s purpose can change over time. At one time, my portable netbook would’ve been “Writing Netbook” but now I only use it for random web browsing.

Don’t Use Locational Descriptions

Perhaps your desktop workstation is located in the rear office room of your company’s business, so you decided to name it as “Rear Office PC.” That’s all good and nice… until you’re promoted (or demoted) and now you have to rename it to “Penthouse PC.”

The location of a PC will change over time. Even if your home computer is located in the living room, you never know when your son wants to move it into his bedroom. Just leave location out of it.

device names 2   Not Just Any Name: Tips For Picking Good Names For Your Devices

Don’t Use Strange Letters Or Characters

Your device names have to be used for any number of things. Bluetooth is a good example, but also for services like HomeGroup, network sharing, etc. If you use really strange letters and symbols, you make it more difficult for people to type your device’s name out.

Furthermore, certain symbols may not even be recognized by the system. Even though the name “‡Fjœrk‡” might work on your Windows operating system, what happens when you hook it up to your phone or to another computer on another operating system that might not recognize those symbols?

Strangely enough, some operating systems don’t support spaces (“ “) either, so be wary of that. When in doubt, use only letters, numbers, and sometimes hyphens.

Do Use Short Names That Are Easily Identifiable

Since device names are mostly used in the context of networking, making them short and simple is usually best. Long names or phrases might be unique or comedic, but given enough time, they’ll just become annoying and disruptive. Keep your device names between 4 to 8 characters whenever possible.

Similarly, if your name is hard to read, generic, or otherwise difficult to identify, you’ll just make the networking experience that much more unpleasant. A good test is to imagine your friend asking you, “What’s your device called?” If your response is convoluted or confusing, you may need a new name.

device names 3   Not Just Any Name: Tips For Picking Good Names For Your Devices

Do Use Names That Are Easy To Spell

Again, imagine if your friend asked you for the name of your device. You tell him what it is and he responds with, “Oh, how do you spell that?” It doesn’t seem so bad until you end up having to spell it out every single time someone needs your device name.

Sure, it may look easy to spell when it’s “Xavathon” on paper, but once you say it out loud, there’s some confusion that arises from it. Skip the hard-to-spell names for your own convenience.

Do Use a Pattern Of Names For Multiple Devices

If you have a lot of devices to name (let’s say 3+), it might be beneficial for you to use a certain pattern, set, trend, or grouping of names across all of your devices. For example, my computer peripherals follow the pattern of “(element)duck”. My desktop is Heliumduck while my external hard drive is Chromeduck. Don’t ask me why.

You can do something similar or you could do something more conventional. Name them after the 7 Deadly Sins, or the planets in the Solar System, or the colors of a rainbow, or cities in Germany. Giving them a pattern will make it easier for you to remember which device is which.

Conclusion

By using the naming conventions listed here, you’ll cut down on a lot of potential confusion. Plus, you may just find that you grow so attached to certain devices that their name alone evokes feelings that you didn’t know you had. I know I felt sad when I packed away my Apple iPod Touch (named “iDuck”) in favor of my current Android phone (“Anduck”).

What about you, readers? How do you name your devices? Do you even name them? Share with us in the comments!

Image Credits: Confused Drawing Via Shutterstock, Lap Tablet Via Shutterstock, Head Scratcher Via Shutterstock, Easy Spelling Via Shutterstock

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40 Comments -

5 votes

Kirby

Very good article.

When I need to do a ping test to a computer at work and forgot the IP address of that computer, I usually ping the computer name and it’s just as good as pinging the IP add. For someone like me whom it’s easier to remember the computer name than the IP address, it’s a big help to have systematic \ organized comp names.

0 votes

Joel Lee

There are very few people who would prefer IP addresses over systematic computer names, I think. Haha! But yes, you are right. That’s a big benefit to properly named devices.

0 votes

Nevzat Akkaya

I use department names for computer names at work, adding them just numbers. I use my name for my own, personal laptop, I didn’t think too much on it :)

0 votes

Fik of Borg

Same here, I associate the computer’s name with the department name.
If a computer gets upgraded, the new hardware gets the old name and the old hardware gets the name of whatever office it was handed down.

0 votes

Rubis Song

Very useful article. I’ve never thought of most of the tips you give. And really it’s confusing. I have several blackberry devices hooked on bridge on my tablet and sometime it’s difficult to know which one is the one I am looking for. I will definitevely use your tips and rename all these lovely life-help ;)

0 votes

Dr.Samuel Chandra Kumar

A very informative article.
I agree about the confusion newer devices will create and also can vouch for pattern naming system, I find it effective for naming devices or even while creating some folders.

0 votes

Tim Veluwenkamp

A very informative article.
I agree about the confusion newer devices will create and also can vouch for pattern naming system, I find it effective for naming devices or even while creating some folders.

0 votes

Alexander

Great article! I am going to use this in the future, when i get new devices.

0 votes

Scott Macmillan

The psychology of naming your device properly is fascinating.It was a real joy to read such a well thought article.

0 votes

Joel Lee

Thanks for the kind words! Glad you enjoyed the article.

0 votes

Mac Witty

I have always named my devices and remember them still. My Mac SE/30, lovely computer, was EarlGrey, the beautiful Pismo was BlackMac and so on.

0 votes

Fik of Borg

“Don’t Assign Purpose To Your Devices” [because purposes can be reassigned]. I disagree: if the purpose is reassigned, the name should also be reassigned.

Users don’t see physical devices as in “the computer with the grey front and blue stripe”, they see devices that offer some service(s) as in “the computer where videos are stored” (or whatever). For example, if the hardware from //Hermes, the email server is replaced with the hardware from //Kubrik (the computer with the grey front and blue stripe where videos are stored), the latter should be renamed as the former so users don’t see the change and keep using //Hermes even though the hardware was //Kubrik’s.

I often upgrade user’s hardware at work, but keep the names as in //Accounting-03, //Management-01, //CustService-02, etc. Our servers are the three musketeers (I toyed but rejected the idea of naming them after the three stooges).

At home I pick less formal names but somewhat related to the computer function, so the kitchen/den computer is //Guinan (toyed with naming it //Neelix), the library computer is //Demetrius, the firewall/proxy is //Cerberus, the media server is //Kira, the home security system is //Worf and the home automation machine is //HAL9000. General purpose machines are more spur of the moment, //SergeGraystone, //Barbarella, //MaxHeadroom, //Arwen and //Frodo (an old PDA), //Yamato, //PADD (a tablet. duh).

5 votes

Lisa Santika Onggrid

I’d have to say constantly reassigning name is a hassle, and it’s better to pick universal name to begin with. BTW,I think I can guess your interests based on those names. The last one is surprisingly bland compared to others, though.

0 votes

Fik of Borg

Hi Lisa, thank you for your comment.

I don’t reassign computer names “constantly”, only “often”. Say, 2 or 3 every couple of months. Not much of a hassle, I think. How is your universal name convention? They just use “Computer-nn” at wotk before my time, but many users were prone to get lost that way, and sometimes end up printing at the wrong printer, for example.

Did you guess my interests? What gave me away? he hehe…
Which name is bland, HAL9000 or PADD? I’m guessing PADD, I don’t like it very much either (but it stuck). I think I will change it when I get a second tablet. Suggestions?

0 votes

Lisa Santika Onggrid

I’m bad with names, so I try to name my devices just once and let it be.
What I meant with universal name is name that isn’t related to the purpose of said device so it’s much more flexible (pretty much like what you did with your own devices).
Haha, correct me if I’m wrong, but putting //Kira and //Yamato or //Arwen and //Frodo isn’t exactly difficult.
You said the names are still somewhat related to their functions, so I’m very curious about that PDA named Frodo. What exactly you’re using it for?
Yes, I think PADD is bland, but I can’t say I’m good at naming myself. How about Freedom?

5 votes

Fik of Borg

Arwen’s naming was spur-of-the-moment (ok, I had a crush with Liv Tyler at the time), so it’s name is not related to its purpose.

Frodo is a Compaq iPaq 3630 Pocket PC I bought for using while on the road at the same freelancing jobs I worked with Arwen at the time. Activities related to Arwen and it was small, so… Frodo. (whoa, I just tried and it stills turns on after 12 years! battery is busted though)

Kira the media server was named after the muse in the movie Xanadu, because music and arts.

Yamato the Samsung Galaxy 2 was named after the 2nd starfleet galaxy class spaceship in the Star Trek universe.

Regarding PADD/Freedom, I’d like to get a small “fleet” of cheap chinese tablets to have around the house to be used as remotes and/or media players, so eventually I will name them all in that light. Maybe Starfleet’s (or NASA’s) shuttles?

0 votes

Joel Lee

Like Lisa said, I believe it’s detrimental to change names regularly–even if it’s only once a month or whatever. Instead, I think the more user-friendly method would be to associate purpose with a name instead of inscribing a device with purpose. To be honest, I think your naming system (uniquely named devices where each has a purpose unrelated to its name) supports my point of view. Maybe I just didn’t convey it well?

5 votes

Fik of Borg

Hi Joel, thanks for your comment. I think we agree, but haven’t agreed in how to agree.
I’m not sure I get why “to associate purpose with a name” and “inscribing a device with purpose” are mutually exclusive. The way I see it it’s both: at work most computer devices do have a natural purpose, and this purpose gets associated with it’s name. I suppose one could name the computers after flowers or something like that, it could be friendly but not intuitive. Care to elaborate?

And of course it’s detrimental to change names regularly, but It depends of what causes the name changing. One can say that I change the names to keep the names.
Let me elaborate: suppose I have these users: A in accounting, B in sales and C in Maintenance. A’s machine has a printer shared with his coworkers, and gets a new software that needs a more powerful computer. B’s computer has a folder shared with his coworkers, it is a little outdated but it gets by. C gets his work done with pencil and paper but could use a computer.
A gets a new hardware to run the new software, and this new yet-to-be-named machine gets the same name of the old one, ACC02. If I assign the new machine a new name like ACC02-b, I must also go reconfiguring A’s coworkers’machines to print with the shared resource which now is in //ACC02-b.
B gets handed down A’s old machine, which is faster than the one he has. I wipe the files in the old ACC02, transfer B’s files to it AND CHANGE IT’S NAME to SALES01, B’s old machine’s name. If I don’t change the original name according to it’s new purpose in sales, It would not be friendly to sales’ staff to have a machine named ACC(ounting)xx. Here I also would need to reconfigure B’s coworkers machines to access the shared files, and of course there would have been a conflict with two ACC02 in the network.
C gets the old SALES01, but it also get it’s name changed to MAINT01. It would be confusing to the people in maintenance to have a computer named SALESxx, beside the network name conflict if I don’t change SALES01.

By “I reassign computer names often, say 2 or 3 every couple of months” I didn’t mean I go saying “It’s been weeks since I changed this computer name, lets change it”. As I said, I change the names to keep the names: I change the HARDWARE’S names to keep the WORKSTATION’S name associated with it’s purpose, and every couple of months I find myself in that circumstance.

At home I use a less formal naming scheme (and wear shorts instead of a suit), but still are somewhat related to each machine purpose. There I would also change the hardware names to keep the workstation or server name, so If I get a new hardware for the media server, the new hardware gets the old name (so the rest keep getting media from the same network resource) and the old hardware gets it’s name changed according to whatever use I put it.
But being less formal, if I get a new phone or some other general purpose device, I don’t rename the old one, I just think of a new name for the new one.

p.s.
Sorry for the uppercases, I prefer to use italics for emphasis but I don’t now how to do that here.

0 votes

Lisa Santika Onggrid

You can use HTML tags here like this.

Thank you for the explanation. Now I see your point and I agree, that’d be the best in your case. I think I’d do the same when dealing with corporate networks.
What caused the misunderstanding was you somewhat implied that you might change the names every now and then without real reason.

0 votes

Fik of Borg

Hi again Lisa.

Off topic: I didn’t know HTML tags could be used here… and as I’m typing I still don’t, your comment doesn’t show formatting, at least now in my browser. Let’s try bold, italics and underline and see if they work after I click “Post”.

I’m glad my (long!) explanation was useful. English is not my native language and sometimes I can’t seem to explain myself. This is often the case with disagreements: they are really agreements before being better explained.

But now you are giving me ideas! I’ll start changing names without reason, just to keep users alert he hehe…

0 votes

Fik of Borg

Nope. The HTML tags didn’t work, at least in two computers and two browsers (Chrome and Firefox). They didn’t show in the posted text either.

0 votes

Joel Lee

Seems like your naming scheme works well for you. If that’s the case, then hey, I won’t say anything against it! These tips were meant for people who haven’t ever given much thought when naming their devices, and even so, the tips are just meant to be guidelines. If you can deviate and be successful, then great!

No problem on the uppercases. I use them for emphasis sometimes since italics are lacking. :)

0 votes

Lisa Santika Onggrid

Very strange. I thought italic would work because WordPress’ built in comment accepts common formatting tags, and at least it renders linebreaks.

0 votes

Jacen47

This style is actually one I use myself.
I name all of my flash drives after MLP characters depending upon the flash drives pupose.
I name my external hardrives Store. Currently MegaStore, GigaStore, and TerraStore. Hard to guess how I have those names huh? MegaStore is actually an old hand-me-down from my father.
I name my systems on variants of ovo since I use 90% lenovo systems. They generally aren’t named according to pupose and are more spur of the moment for fun kind of thing.
The tablet I’m soon to get will be named Tabletha and my subsequent tablets will follow a similar scheme of placing tablet somewhere in a female’s name; even to the point of using foreign versions of tablet.
My office actually has a sweet setup. We use different ssh servers to do different tasks. Since we have such large programming projects, we need a small super-computer to compile our programs. My boss had me seup that server in such a way that every system on the network could just run an alias command formatted “COMPILER ” It gets the job done and is an easy import with a .bashrc.

Hope you continue to have fun with your awesome naming scheme.

0 votes

claudine ratelle

Good article! I never thought of all this before naming stuff. I’ll be keeping that in mind next time. Thanks!

0 votes

Lisa Santika Onggrid

I once found a website which list name idea based on how many devices you have, like The Greek Muse for nine devices, The Gemini Twin for two devices, etc. Could anyone tell me what’s the name of that website?

10 votes
0 votes

Lisa Santika Onggrid

Exactly! Thank you very much.

0 votes

Joel Lee

That’s awesome! It’ll come in handy for a couple of personal projects I have. :D

0 votes

dragonmouth

Did you run out of ideas for articles? You have created a problem for which you are trying to provide a solution. Just because you don’t happen to approve of certain naming schemes does not mean that everybody else should avoid them.

We have 4 laptops, one for each member of the family. Naming them something cute and approved by Joel Lee would be confusing as no one would remember what name laptop name goes with what family member. Therefore they are named “Amy’s PC”, “Bob’s PC”, etc.

0 votes

Lisa Santika Onggrid

It’s not that rare of a problem actually, but I think it’s entirely situational. In your case, it’s perfectly acceptable to use owner’s name, but in Joel’s case, I’m under assumption he uses all the devices by himself, so it’s natural that he can remember all the names.

0 votes

dragonmouth

People name their computers and electronic devices in a manner so that they can remember the names. Those names may not be original and they may not be sexy or exciting. So what, as long as they are memorable?

To quote Shakespeare:
“What’s in a name?
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”

I don’ begrudge anyone their opinion. People do what they deem is best or most convenient for them. However, as a columnist for MUO, Joel implicitly carries a certain amount of authority. Anything he writes carries a bit more weight than what you and I may post. Many readers, especially those that are less experienced with computers, will read Joel’s opinions and accept them as the only way to do things.

0 votes

Joel Lee

Every tip article in the world (whether MUO or not) is implicitly “use it if it works for you.” After all, they are TIPS and not RULES. Tips are inherently subjective and situational. By your logic, perhaps no publication should ever release tip-based articles?

0 votes

dragonmouth

“By your logic, perhaps no publication should ever release tip-based articles? ”

Depends on the tone or slant of the article. A “tip” recommending the use of Windows over Linux because to use Linux one must know how to compile and be fluent in CLI, is not worth the electrons it is written on/with. :)

5 votes
0 votes

Daniel Huss

Here’s one of the best sites I know about in case you need help coming up with a naming scheme: http://namingschemes.com/

I personally use names of Futurama characters.

0 votes

Cindy

I named my Droid Bionic Steve Austin. When I talk about Steve, all my friends know I’m talking about my phone. Sadly, Steve is having issues. When I replace him, my new Bionic will be named Jaime Sommers. :)

0 votes

dragonmouth

If I had an iPhone I would name it Locutus or 7of9. (grin)

0 votes

Mimmo Mallamo

Historically all the personal notebooks I had so far (4 actually) were named “Pinturicchio”… I am Italian, we are mad for soccer and it is the nickname of Alessandro Del Piero (an Italian soccer player).
At work (I am a network administrator) I name the computer with the first letters of my department (physio for physiology) followed by the last part of the IP addresses (i.e. physio-001, physio-002, …)

0 votes

Nuno André Catarino

I have named my gadgets ‘Baby’ for my Nexus7 because its the latest addiction to my ‘tech-closet’. The Tf101 is the BigA4, like an A4 paper notebook, the Galaxy S3 was given the name of BlueBrain. Regarding Bluetooth of the cars my company has to ride I rename them on the phone, mixing the model with the registration plate letters.
Am I performing good?