How to change the hostname on an Ubuntu server using the command line

This guide will show you how to interrogate the hostname of an Ubuntu server.

When working with hostnames, there is the shortened version (the name of the host) and the FQDN – the fully qualified domain name which includes the hostname. Numerous systems, for example WHM and Virtualmin, needs the FQDN to be correct too. With WHM is easy with the UI to change the hostname, but it’s best with Virtualmin to do this before installing the control panel.

Please be careful of making the hostname of WHM or Virtualmin the same as an existing working domain – rather seperate the hostname to something that will only be used to access the host. WHM warns you about this, and Virtualmin will have Postfix issues due to this.

The commands you would use to interrogate the hostname and FQDN are:

hostname --fqdn

All three those should return the correct results.

Furthermore, after a perfect setup, your /etc/hosts file should look like this:

[email protected]:~# cat /etc/hosts
... host localhost

Additionally your /etc/hostname file should look like this:

[email protected]:~# cat /etc/hostname 

Instructions for Changing the Hostname

Changing the hostname on Ubuntu needs to happen in two places to make it permanent:




In /etc/hosts look for: old-host-name

and change to new-host-name

If you prefer fully qualified, which is better, do this: new-host-name

Finally to make it stick for now, do this:

hostname new-host-name

Old information

If you’re used to looking for /etc/hostname and /etc/hosts  and the hostname command to change your hostname, things are much more intricate with Ubuntu 18.04. Here are the various places you have to go and look to change the hostname:

hostnamectl display the current hostname

To change:

sudo hostnamectl set-hostname new-hostname


/etc/hosts look for a line such the one below. Warning, do not change localhost. The localhost entry may be used and as convention localhost is always   localhost   old-hostname

You might also have a /etc/cloud/cloud.cfg file. If so, set the following entry:

preserve_hostname: true

In summary:

hostnamectl set-hostname new-hostname


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