Account Problems and Issues: Creation, Use, and Closing



Students, faculty, and staff with UNIX accounts on a the Office of Information Technology (OIT) machine sometimes encounter problems using their accounts or when dealing with ordinary account maintenance tasks. This document addresses common problems and issues you may face. We recommend procedures you can follow to solve most problems. For other cases, we point to documents and resources you can use for effective solutions. Users who experience more complex account problems should contact the OIT Help Desk for an initial consultation.

General Account Problems/Issues

Account Creation Problems


Only people who are currently part of the Rutgers community may have accounts on Rutgers machines. Your status in the Rutgers system is recorded in databases (Rutgers Online Directory) maintained and updated by the Registrar (for student accounts) and the Personnel office (for faculty/staff accounts). You cannot create an account unless you are in one of the databases. You may activate your NetID and create an account by going to: and selecting NetID Activation.

Students should be able to create their accounts shortly after they have paid their term bill, and employees should be able to create their accounts by the time they receive their first paycheck. If an employee needs the RCI account before his/her record is posted to the Online Directory, an Emergency NetID can be submitted to speed up the process.

Even after you access the databases, the account creation program will not allow you to create an account if it finds a conflict between information you enter to verify your identity and the information in your database record. If this happens, an informational message will be displayed on the screen. To determine whether a conflict in information is the source of the problem, you should contact the OIT Help Desk. If incorrect information is contained in your database record, the Registrar or Personnel office must make the necessary change so you may proceed with account creation.

In general, only students are allowed on the student machines ( in New Brunswick), and only faculty/staff on the faculty/staff machines ( in New Brunswick). The two systems have the same basic software available to them. People who have a legitimate reason for having an account on another system (e.g., faculty who need guest account access to the student system for instructional purposes) should consult the document on guest accounts for guidelines or contact the OIT Help Desk for additional details.

Account Quotas and Mail Quotas

All OIT accounts are granted a limited amount of disk space on the system for users to store computer files and electronic mail. RCI and Eden users have a single quota for file storage, including both web pages (and other files) and mail:

  • The RCI Quota is 1 GB.


  • The Eden Quota is 1 GB.

If you reach your quota limit, you will be unable to write any new files, including making changes to reduce the size of existing files, until you drop your usage below the quota level. Usually, the only thing you can do at that point is delete files with the UNIX command rm.

In most mail programs, when you "delete" a message, you actually only move it to the Trash folder. This is a safety measure. If you accidentally delete something, you can go into Trash and move it back to where it belongs. You have to empty the Trash folder to erase the messages and reclaim the space they take up.

Whenever something is moved from one folder to another (including Trash), it is actually copied there. If the copy succeeds, the original is erased, but not until then. So, when you move something, you have to have at least enough space for two copies of the item to exist at the same time, until the mail server verifies that the copy has succeeded. If you have reached your quota limit, or are even near it, you may not have enough space to delete messages through your mail program.

If you have used it before, the Pine mail program, which runs in an SSH session to your account, can be used to delete messages, since Pine does not delete messages in the same way as other programs. Run Pine with the command pine -d 0 to suppress Pine's record-keeping files. Delete messages by selecting them with the arrow keys and pressing D to mark them for deletion. Then press X to "expunge" (erase) the marked messages.

If you still have a little space on your account, and you can run your preferred mail program, you may be able to make some space by emptying your Trash folder. Different mail programs do this at different times, and some may not empty it at all until you explicitly say to do so. For example, the SquirrelMail program used at the sites will usually only empty Trash when you click the "(Purge)" link next to the Trash folder.

If you can free up a little space, you may be able to free up more space by deleting small, unwanted messages first. With the space regained by that, you will have enough space to delete larger messages. Start by deleting a small message or two and emptying Trash right away. Then repeat that for larger and larger messages.

Because exceeding your account quota or failing to take action following warning messages will cause problems, it's a good idea to check your usage status on a regular basis and to monitor files that tend to grow quickly, especially folders for electronic mail messages (such as the AUTO-DELETED-SPAM folder). We recommend two helpful commands you can use to do this:

1) The quota command: To check the status of your quota and limit, use the UNIX command quota. If you have not exceeded your quota, the command will not produce a response. If you have exceeded your quota, the quota command will notify you that you are over disk quota and will indicate the minimum number of kilobytes you must remove and the time you have left to remove them. If you are not over quota and you want the quota command to respond, use the verbose form of the command by typing quota -v. You will then receive output showing your current usage:

rci> quota -v
Disk quotas for jsmith (uid 47867):
Filesystem     usage  quota  limit    timeleft  files  quota  limit    timeleft
                   0 102400 102400                  0     -1     -1            
               65064 102400 102400               1343     -1     -1            

Because of a limitation in the way quota usage is checked on Eden and RCI, the quota command will report information for an account across all file systems on that computer. In the example above, from RCI, it reports usage on both the "underworld" and "avernus" file systems for the account "jsmith", even though jsmith's account actually exists only on the "avernus" system. Thus, only the file system showing actual usage is relevant. The same effect will be seen for Eden accounts, but since Eden has more than two file systems, more irrelevant quota reports will be shown.

er1% quota -v
Disk quotas for jsmith (uid 47867):
Filesystem     usage  quota  limit    timeleft  files  quota  limit    timeleft
                   0 261120 261120                  0     -1     -1            
                   0 261120 261120                  0     -1     -1            
               82420 261120 261120               3484     -1     -1            
                   0 261120 261120                  0     -1     -1            
/army/home4        0 261120 261120                  0     -1     -1            

A web-based version of the quota command is available at

2) The du command: The du command offers you a more detailed profile of your account usage because it indicates how much disk space is being used in each of your account directories and subdirectories. To obtain an overview of your account usage expressed in kilobytes for each directory, issue the du -k command from your home directory. This will produce the following type of output:

niflheim> du -k
123	./mail
1	./icdocs
2	./.nn
33	./sasuser
207	.

The last entry indicates the total space used in your home directory and all subdirectories, and you can compare this figure with the output from quota -v.

Please note that if you normally use graphical mail-reading programs like Netscape Mail or Microsoft Outlook Express and rarely log in to your account from a UNIX terminal or Telnet program, you may exceed your mail quota without ever seeing a warning message. To take advantage of the account monitoring tools described above, you must log onto your UNIX account on a regular basis.

More details about disk space management are available for RCI system users in the document Managing Disk Space on RCI. Some of the tips may also apply to EDEN users.

Faculty researchers on the RCI system may find their initial diskspace quota is not sufficient for the work they need to do on their accounts. Interested parties may send e-mail to help@rci to request a quota increase. Since resources are limited, account holders will be asked to make efficient use of their existing quotas before an increase is granted. More details about disk space management and the procedures for obtaining a quota increase are available for RCI system users in the document Managing Disk Space on RCI.

Increases on the student system are generally granted only at the request of a student's professor, for particular purposes, and then only for one semester at a time.

Quotas for student staff members with accounts on the RCI system are intentionally kept low. Increases will not be granted for these accounts.

Account Suspension: The Problem Shell ("probsh")

All members of the Rutgers community are expected to use their computer accounts in conformity with the university's Acceptable Use Policy for Computing and Information Technology Resources. This policy is intended to maintain a secure and productive atmosphere for computer use, and it addresses use issues in relation to other people on the system and to the system itself. When an individual violates the Acceptable Use Policy (e.g., by sharing an account, sending e-mail bombs, using an account for commercial purposes, distributing pirated software from an account, etc.), the system administrator is authorized to suspend that person's account. An account is suspended by placing it in a "problem shell" (or "probsh"). Once in "probsh" status, the account cannot be used and its files - including web pages - cannot be accessed.

If your account is suspended, you will be notified the next time you log in. Instead of connecting you to your account, the system will return the following message:

There is a problem with your account. Please contact the OIT Help Desk in person at Hill Center Room 013, Busch Campus for assistance. (Telephone: 848-445-HELP). Please bring a valid photo ID with you.

Depending on the nature and severity of the violation, account suspension will involve different types of disciplinary action. In all cases of account suspension, users must contact the OIT Help Desk as soon as possible for details about the next steps they must take. These may include contacting a Dean, a system administrator, or another appropriate official. In no case will a suspended account be reactivated unless the user meets with the official handling the problem and submits a formal written request accompanied by an agreement to refrain from future system abuses. Account suspension incidents become part of an individual's student or employment record at Rutgers, and the consequences of subsequent violations are more severe.

Guest Account Use Issues

Individuals who are granted guest accounts on either the Research Computing Initiative (RCI) or Instructional Computing Initiative (ICI) systems can use them for a limited period of time (usually one semester or one academic year ending on May 30, depending on the specific circumstances). Near the end of this period, the guest will be notified of the account's pending expiration and must submit a renewal form to keep the guest account open. Guest accounts that are not renewed will be deleted from the system. There is one important exception to this practice: faculty members with guest accounts on the ICI systems (e.g., EDEN) use them for instructional purposes each semester and are generally exempt from this renewal schedule as long as they make regular use of their accounts.

Please note that if a guest account will not be renewed, it is the guest's responsibility to copy or move files from the account and to contact electronic mail correspondents about the account's closing. OIT will not forward electronic mail sent to closed guest accounts, nor will it recover other files from a closed guest account.

For information on how to obtain a guest account, see the "Guest Accounts" section of the document Creating Accounts on OIT Systems. Initial requests for guest accounts must be submitted by appropriate sponsors.

RCI Departmental Account Use Issues

Departmental accounts are available on the Research Computing Initiative (RCI) systems for departments, groups, or organizations at Rutgers that want to conduct business from a central location rather than from one user's account. The account's username reflects the group rather than an individual user. A departmental account has one "owner" who is responsible for the account. The owner may also designate any number of additional users.

A departmental account has no password and cannot be logged into; instead, authorized people should first log on to their personal RCI accounts, then use a special command, become, on RCI to switch from their personal accounts to the departmental account. Departmental accounts are available on RCI machines only (,, and Therefore, anyone who is going to have access to a departmental account must have a personal RCI account.

The most common problems in departmental account use are related to changes in personnel, as people who access and manage accounts come and go. When a departmental account "owner" leaves the department or withdraws from account maintenance duty for any reason, account ownership must be transferred to someone else. If an account owner leaves without transferring ownership, newcomers to the department or project group will have difficulty identifying someone who can add their names to the account. If an account owner is not identified on a departmental account's web page by means of an e-mail link or some other device, individuals with RCI accounts who are trying to contact the owner will not be able to do so through the web page. The following tools can help you answer some basic departmental account questions:

Finding the Owner: If you know the name of the departmental account, you can find the owner by typing the following command from your home directory on the RCI system:

> ypcat group | grep name of become account

The output will provide you with a list of all members of the account. The owner's username is always first on the list of users that appears after the account's name and identification number. For example, if you typed the command to find the owner of a departmental account called einstein and the output looked like this,


then jsmith, as the first username on the list, is the owner of the account.


If the ypcat command results in no output and returns only the UNIX prompt, then the name you are using is not the name of the departmental account. If you took the name from a web page, you were probably looking at a virtual host name rather than the departmental account's real name. Virtual host names are often used as aliases for real account names because they convey more meaningful information about the subject of a web site (e.g., and they are easier to remember than long strings of characters that may include no words at all.

To find an account name on the basis of a virtual host name, type the following command from your home directory on the RCI system:

> grep -10 virtual host name /orcus/www/apache_root/conf/httpd.conf

For example, if you wanted to find the real account name for the virtual host name, you would type grep -10 registrar /orcus/www/apache_root/conf/httpd.conf and receive the following output:

ServerAlias registrar
DocumentRoot /rci/www/clio/regru
ErrorLog /rci/www/logs/clio/regru/error_log
TransferLog /rci/www/logs/clio/regru/access_log
AccessConfig /dev/null
AddHandler imap-file map
#ResourceConfig /dev/null

The departmental account name can be found at the end of the DocumentRoot line: regru. You can now use the ypcat command to identify the owner of the account.


Requesting a Virtual Host Name: Virtual host names can be granted for departmental accounts on the RCI system if the owner submits a formal request. The request should be sent by electronic mail to and must contain the following information:

  • The proposed virtual host name. The name must be either something in the domain, or a .org domain owned by the person making the request.
  • The URL for an existing web page on a departmental account. This is a prerequisite for obtaining a virtual host name because it is not possible to link a virtual host to a page that will be on the account "soon."

If you have reason to believe your proposed virtual host name has already been taken, use the host command on RCI to check it. For example,

amenti> host
Host not found.

means that host name is available.

Once the request is received, it takes about a week for the new virtual host name to be created. The owner will be notified by electronic mail when the virtual host is ready for use. All web page maintenance will still be done using the departmental account's real name.


(For more details about the procedure for obtaining a departmental account, see the "Departmental Accounts" section of the document Creating Accounts on OIT Systems.)

Student Organization Account Use Issues

For information on Student Organizational Accounts and how to request one. Please read the Student Organizational Accounts page.

Account Closing Issues

Regular accounts on OIT machines are available for use so long as the individuals who created them maintain their status as students or employees of the university. When graduation, transfer, resignation, retirement, etc., ends an individual's affiliation with the university, the Registrar or Personnel office will convey that information to OIT. The individualís computer account will then be closed during the next regularly scheduled account closing for that system.

Once your account is closed, it will no longer receive or store electronic mail. Mail sent to a closed account will be returned to the sender. All files stored on an individual's account will be deleted after the account has been closed. Therefore, it is important that you copy or remove from your account any files you wish to keep before you leave the university. Files that have been removed from OIT systems are usually difficult or impossible to recover.

Special policies apply to the account closing process in the following cases:

  • Student Graduation - Although the university does not provide alumni accounts, it does offer graduating students to keep their regular student accounts open for a one-year period following graduation. Students who leave the university for reasons other than graduation are not eligible for this program.
  • Faculty/Staff Retirement - Retired Rutgers employees who have served the university for a minimum of 10 years can apply for retention of their RCI accounts following retirement. To do so, they must contact the Benefits Department, University Human Resources, ASB II, 57 US Highway 1, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8554 (848-932-3990). Once the request has been approved, the retiree's RCI account will be subject to all guest account regulations. The retiree should reply to the email message sent out annually around early September to maintain his/her RCI account. There is no need to submit the printed account renewal form. If no reply is received by the due date, the account will be closed during the next regularly scheduled account closing time.
  • Death - Decisions regarding accounts to be closed because of the death of a student or employee will be made on a case-by-case basis. Generally, someone authorized by the next-of-kin may be granted permission to copy files, answer e-mail, etc., before the account is closed.

Please note that matriculated students are expected to register for classes each semester until graduation. Students who fail to register and do not notify the Registrar of an intent to continue their programs will be subject to account closure. Students who intend to continue at Rutgers can avoid account closure by notifying the Registrar of their plans.


Password Problems/Issues

Changing Your Password

Any account holder may change his or her own password at any time. To change a NetID password, point a web browser to:

and click on Manage NetID Password

When prompted, enter your NetID and password, and click on "OK". On the following page you will reset your password. Your new password must be entered twice to ensure accurate typing. After entering all required information, click on the "Reset Password" button. If all goes well, you will see a confirmation page. If not, please email help@eden or help@rci, talk to a lab consultant, or call the OIT Help Desk at 848-445-HELP.


Forgot Your Password?


  • Students - If you've forgotten your password, and you created your account since 2007, you may be enrolled in the Remote Password Reset service. You can set a new password by going to the Secret Questions page select "Manage NetID Password" and then "Forgotten Password" . Enter your NetID and your personal information in the formats requested on the page. Leave the "Activation Key" box empty, and click the "Authenticate" button. If you are in the RPR service, and you have entered the correct information, you'll be asked three security questions which you set up when you created your account. If you provide the correct answers to all three, you'll be allowed to set a new password. If you get an answer wrong, you'll be asked the question again. Five incorrect answers to the same questions will temporarily lock you out of the RPR program, and you'll have to follow the instructions below to get a new password.

    If you are not enrolled in the Remote Password Reset service, or if you cannot answer the security questions correctly, you'll need to go in person to one of the Campus Computing Facilities (CCF) Labs and ask a lab supervisor or assistant lab supervisor to help you change your password. Password changing at the CCF Labs takes place on a regular schedule each week. The hours when supervisors are available at the labs are posted on the CCF web site. Please note that these hours change between semesters.

    Passwords may also be changed at the OIT Help Desk , Room 013, Hill Center, Busch Campus.

    When you go to one of the password changing locations, bring Rutgers ID so we can verify that you are who you say you are. Because we must verify your identity to change your password, we cannot take password change requests over the telephone, by e-mail, or from a third party. If you have any questions about this procedure please call the Help Desk, (732)-445-HELP (4357).

    If you are not currently enrolled in the Remote Password Program and wish to join it, you may do so by logging in with your NetID and password at the NetID Management page. Once in, click the "Manage Secret Questions" tab. In most cases, you'll be allowed to join the system and set the three security questions and their answers. However, University employees (Faculty, Staff, Teaching Assistants, Graduate Assistants, and anyone with a Student Worker role, such as part-time employees or Work-Study students) are not allowed to use RPR for security reasons. These people must have forgotten passwords reset by showing a photo ID. More information about the RPR service is available in its own document.

  • Faculty/Staff - You should contact the OIT Help Desk about obtaining a password change. In the Campus Computing Facilities (CCF) Labs only the Site Supervisors for each campus can change your password. If the Labs are more convenient for you, we recommend you contact your campus CCF Lab Manager in advance to schedule an appointment for having your password changed. Please bring a photo ID so we can verify your identity.

Passwords are encrypted on the systems, so we cannot retrieve your old password for you. All we can do is override it with a new one. After you log in with the temporary password we provide, you should change the password to something only you know.

No Password Sharing

Your personal Rutgers computer account is for your own use only. As such, no one but you should know your password. You shouldn't share it with your boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, friend, roommate, or co-worker. By sharing your password, you lose control over access to your account: the resulting account sharing that may take place (with or without your knowledge) can lead to all kinds of problems for yourself and for the system. Because of the potential trouble that can come from account sharing, it is not permitted under our Acceptable Use Guidelines, and violation of the rule against account sharing can be grounds for a forced password change or account suspension.

If you need to share certain files in your account, speak to us so we can suggest a way for you to do it without sharing your password. Please take reasonable precautions against someone else obtaining your password. Don't leave your password written on a piece of paper next to your computer. Avoid writing it down, but if you must, keep the document in a secure place far away from the computer.

For More Information

Questions should be directed to the OIT Help Desk, Room 013, Hill Center, Busch Campus, (732) 445-HELP (4357). You can also send electronic mail to the address or to help on any OIT system (e.g., or

Campus Computing Center Locations--Camden Campus

Business and Science Building, 1st Floor, (856) 225-6326
Campus Center, Lower Level, (856) 225-6274
Law School, Room 203
Paul Robeson Library, 1st Floor

Campus Computing Center Locations--New Brunswick Campus

Busch Campus

Allison Road Classroom Building, Rooms 111, 116, 118/199, and 121, (732) 445-2273
Digital Media Lab, Allison Road Classroom Building, Room 117, (732) 445-3129
Library of Science and Medicine, 2nd Floor, (732) 445-4933

College Avenue Campus

College Avenue Computing Center, Records Hall, (732) 932-8541
College Avenue Student Center, Lower Level, (732) 932-5007
Satellite, Behind Kreeger Learning Resource Center, (732) 932-8195
Alexander Library Graduate Student Lab, 3rd Floor, (732) 932-8541

Cook/Douglass Campuses

Cook/Douglass Computing Center, Loree, Rooms 7, 13, 23, 25, 27, (732) 932-9750
Cook Campus Computing Center, Campus Center, 2nd Floor, (732) 932-7580
Mabel Smith Douglass Library, Ground Floor, (732) 932-5024
Douglass Campus Center, 3rd Floor, (732) 932-1964

Livingston Campus

Kilmer Library, Ground Floor, (732) 445-3465
Livingston Computing Center, Tillett, Rooms 112, 114, 119, and 121, (732) 445-3465

Campus Computing Center Locations--Newark Campus

Engelhard Hall, Room 313
Hill Hall, Room 127
Help Desk: (973) 353-5083