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How to rename a Chef node

In Chef the node_name is for human usage. By default it is set to the fqdn. Which is annoying for typing.

In my network, all hosts have the same domain name. However, we knife bootstraped this one system without setting the node name with the -N flag.

Therefore I wanted to rename the nodes. With some experimentation, I figured it out.


Let’s say I have a node called but I want to change the node name to just george.

  1. knife node edit ''
    • Change the node_name to george (deleting the
    • When you’re done, knife will say it is making a copy.
  2. knife node delete ''
  3. knife client delete ''
  4. knife client create -d 'george'
    • Copy the newly created private key.
  5. Connect to as root/Administrator.
  6. Paste the new private key into /etc/chef/client.pem.
  7. Edit /etc/chef/client.rb
    • Either add or edit the node_name line exists, changing it to node_name "george"
    • Alternatively, if you use the chef-client cookbook (recommended!) run chef-client -N george and it’ll update client.rb for you.
  8. If you use the chef-client daemon, restart it: /etc/init.d/chef-client restart

That’s it!

It’s important to understand that nodes and clients are tied together only via their names. The node contains the status, etc. The client only contains the public key that is needed for communicating.

You can’t rename or copy clients. So you have to delete it and recreate it with a new name. knife client create command generates a new private and public key. You have to save private key and put it on the client server because the chef-server doesn’t store it.

If you ever lose the private key for a client, you can use knife client reregister to regenerate the private key again.


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