Accounts: CS vs. WWU

The Department of Computer Science manages its own computer labs. CS Support is responsible for deploying, configuring, and managing the computers in these labs. This way, we can utilize software, configurations, and operating systems (like Linux) that are not included in the general university computer labs for the purposed of the specific requirements of the curriculum in the department.

As a result, computer science students are given their own separate computer science department accounts. These accounts will use the same username as your general student account, but the password is managed separately. If you try to log into your CS account from a university computer, it will not work. It is important to remember that a file stored on your computer science account will not be available to you if you log into a computer in a general university computer lab. And vice versa: you will not be able to access your general student account storage from one of our lab computers.

In order to receive a computer science department account, you must be officially registered for a computer science course. Please allow 24 hours after registration for your first computer science class before trying to use your account.


Your initial CS account password can be set at You will be prompted to log into your general university account to fetch your identity. You may also use this site to reset your password if you forget it.

Please DO NOT open multiple tabs in your browser! This will cause an authentication error that will not let you set your password.

The requirements for a valid password are:

  1. Contain at least 8 characters.

  2. Must not contain your username or parts of your full name that exceed two consecutive characters.

  3. May not be the same as any of your previous 15 passwords.

  4. Contain characters from 3 of the following 4 distinct character groups:

    • Uppercase (A through Z)

    • Lowercase (a through z)

    • Numbers (0 through 9)

    • Special characters (for example, ., !, $, #, %)

An easy way to come up with a password that will meet these requirements and be easy to remember is to use a proper sentence that does not contain your name.

Understanding CS Account Storage

In the Computer Science department, we store your account’s data and files on our file servers so that you can log in to any machine in our environment and access your files easily. When you sign into a computer in our domain, our file server gets contacted with your credentials to verify your account information. Then your file system gets sent from the file server to the computer you are on to be downloaded and mounted on your computer according to the operating system you choose. This just means when you log in as bobDoe you get access to your CS account files and not billieSmith’s. How your profile is mounted to your computer when you log in is different between loading Windows and Linux, but it is important to understand how it works and what not to do in order to make your log in time as fast as possible. When you log off, whatever you have been working on will be uploaded to the file server.

Linux - Home Directory

In Linux, everything is a file. That means even your user is a file. Like we’ve alluded to in early parts of the survival guide, under /home in the root of the file system (signified by the / symbol at the end of your terminal prompt) we store all the users in our domain. Your computer mounts your account like it would a file so that your information is available and accessible to you on the computer you log into.

Whenever you log into Linux, you are operating in what is called your Home Directory. When you first fire up a terminal, your home directory is signified by the ~ symbol near the end of your command line prompt. You can always get back here by running either cd ~ or just cd.

Another saying you might hear is “root of your profile”. If you were to type in the command pwd in your terminal upon opening it, you would notice that it yields something like the photo below. Notice the ~.


This is because your home directory is not the beginning of the overarching file system, it is just your personal section of the whole file system. You can cd into the /home directory and run ls to see all the accounts that exist in our domain, but you only have access to your account’s files. Directories and files that are parent to /home govern how the lab machines are set up for our specific curriculum goals, this is the root of the machine. Because these files are so important, most are read only and you will not be able to make any changes here.

However, if there is something you are trying to do, whether for a class or for extracurriculars that require you to go beyond your home directory, we ask that you create a virtual machine and experiment away! If you do want to play with a file system’s root, we recommend reading this page on virtual machines.

Important note: Try not to store very large (>1gb) files on your account as it will slow down both our network and your log in time. If you must use files this large, consider carrying around a usb stick.

Windows - Roaming Profile

Under the Windows operating system, a Windows domain offers the ability for anyone to login on any computer. To do this, Windows provides a type of account called a roaming profile that your system administrator configures. While on Linux our lab machines are configured to fetch the file of your user account and mount it when logging in, on Windows they are configured to fetch your roaming profile from the file server and mount it. A roaming profile acts differently from a simple file when it loads into Windows and one is created for every version of Windows you log into. It holds the configuration information you need for when you log into that version of Windows.

Whether on Windows or Linux, you will see a hidden file in your directory called ~/.winprofile/ and your roaming profiles live there. You may have noticed you do not have access to them when you are on Linux but you can go explore the information there when you are on Windows. It is important to keep those there untouched because the information in those files dictates everything you experience when using your roaming profile, including the ability to log onto Windows. You may grow a distaste (or already have one) of Windows but it is good to be familiar with developing in both operating systems as wherever you work in the future could have a preference.

If you have something you want to accomplish with different computer configurations, feel free to make yourself a virtual machine to act as administrator over a Windows environment. Again, to accomplish this, familiarize yourself with this page on virtual machines.

Login Time

Something to be aware of is that the amount of time the computer takes to log you in is dependent on how big your profile is. While the computers are used frequently and over long periods of time, the hardware is more than capable and is only doing its best to download your information. When you have abnormally large amounts of information, there is only so much data that can be piped through our network at once. We suggest you keep what is stored on your profile to a minimum and keep large amounts of information on a flash drive.

Utilizing the /tmp folder

If you have decided you want to create a quick virtual machine or other large temporary files and you do not have a flash drive on you, the best place to create one is within the /tmp folder on the local machine. If you notice, it is just at the root of the file system above all the users in our domain. This folder is very special because it is set to delete all the files inside it when computers get rebooted. Anyone can write in this folder but you can only view the files you have created, not others’ files.