What Is a Hostname?

Definition of hostname and how to find it in Windows

A hostname is a label assigned to a device (a host) on a network. It distinguishes one device from another on a specific network or over the internet. The hostname for a computer on a home network may be something like new laptop, Guest-Desktop, or FamilyPC.

Hostnames are also used by DNS servers, so you can access a website by a common, easy-to-remember name. This way, you don't have to recall a string of numbers (an IP address) to open a website.

A computer's hostname may instead be referred to as a computer name, sitename, or nodename. You may also see hostname spelled as host name.

Examples of a Hostname

Each of the following is an example of a Fully Qualified Domain Name with its hostname written off to the side:

  • www.google.com: www
  • images.google.com: images
  • products.office.com: products
  • www.microsoft.com: www

The hostname (like products) is the text that precedes the domain name (for example, office), which is the text that comes before the top-level domain (.com).

How to Find a Hostname in Windows

Executing hostname from the Command Prompt is the easiest way to show the hostname of a computer.

hostname command prompt command in Windows 10

Never used Command Prompt before? See our How to Open Command Prompt tutorial for instructions. This method works in a terminal window in other operating systems, too, like macOS and Linux.

Using the ipconfig command to execute ipconfig /all is another method. Those results are more detailed and include information in addition to the hostname that you might not be interested in.

The net view command, one of the several net commands, is another way to see your hostname and the hostnames of other devices and computers on your network.

How to Change a Hostname in Windows

Another easy way to see the hostname of the computer you're using is through System Properties, which also lets you change the hostname.

System Properties can be accessed from the Advanced system settings link inside the System applet in Control Panel. Or, press Win+R and then type control sysdm.cpl to go to the correct screen.

System Properties dialog box

More About Hostnames

Hostnames can't contain a space because these names can only be alphabetical or alphanumerical. A hyphen is the only allowed symbol.

The www portion of a URL indicates a subdomain of a website, similar to products being a subdomain of office.com.

To access google.com's images section, you must specify the images hostname in the URL. Likewise, the www hostname is always required unless you're after a specific subdomain. 

For example, entering www.lifewire.com is technically always required instead of only lifewire.com. This is why some websites are unreachable unless you enter the www portion before the domain name.

However, most websites you visit open without specifying the www hostname—either because the web browser does it for you or because the website knows what you're after.

DDNS services like No-IP are available that can create a hostname for your public IP address. This is useful if you have a dynamic IP address (it changes), but you need to have access to your home network even when the address updates. The service will tie a hostname to it that's easy for you to remember and that updates automatically to always refer to your current IP address.

  • How do I find and change my hostname on Linux?

    Open the Linux terminal, type hostname, and press Enter. To change the hostname, enter sudo hostname NEW_HOSTNAME, replacing "NEW_HOSTNAME" with the name you want.

  • What is the hostname for Gmail?

    When accessing Gmail in Outlook or a similar program, the incoming hostname is imap.gmail.com or pop.gmail.com (depending on how you have it set up). The outgoing hostname is smtp.gmail.com.

  • What is a hostname in Minecraft?

    The name of a Minecraft server is called the hostname. If you create a Minecraft server, give it a custom hostname so you don't have to remember the IP address.

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