Information for Inbound Students

Obtaining your account information sheet from IMSS

  • For new undergraduates and transfer students: new account info will be sent prior to your arrival at Caltech to the email address provided on your application. Alternatively, come by the Central Engineering Services building, room 204 (Building 85 on the map) during business hours.
  • For Summer students: the Student Faculty Programs office will have your account information sheets for you along with your SURF orientation materials.
  • For FSRI students: the FSRI program will have your account information sheets for you along with your FSI orientation materials.
  • For new graduate students:  new account info will be sent prior to your arrival at Caltech to the email address provided on your application. Alternatively, come by the Central Engineering Services building, room 204 (Building 85 on the map) during business hours.

Note that you will need to show either a valid Caltech ID card or other legal photo ID (such as a state ID, a drivers license or a passport) to obtain your Caltech account information.

Connecting your computer to the Caltech network

Before connecting your computer to the Caltech network, update your operating system and software to keep critical security patches up to date, run antivirus software, and use a firewall. Caltech has a site license for Symantec Antivirus, which is available for free for students from

If you are using Windows and it's not XP SP2 and above with the firewall enabled, you should get help, either from the IMSS Help Desk or from your IMSS House Rep, before putting your system online.

Register Your Computer - to help IMSS contact you much more quickly in the event that there is a problem or concern with your computer.

Other information and configuration guides for connecting your computer to the Caltech network are online.

Peer-to-peer filesharing is allowed at Caltech, but please note that infringement of copyright is a violation of Caltech's acceptable use policies. See our copyright tutorial and security website for details. Many p2p programs install as servers by default, and Caltech's excellent internet connections make any system sharing out copyrighted materials here a prime target for groups that enforce copyright law.

General account information

Please familiarize yourself with our general access.caltech account information and password information. Information about IMSS services are available here on our website, and on your access.caltech account information sheet that you will pick up once you are on campus.

Incoming Students' Overview to Caltech's Computing Resources


Do I need to buy a computer before I come to Caltech?

It is not necessary to do so. Much of undergraduate computer use is word processing. Caltech maintains ample computing facilities (workstations and printers) in the student house labs and in the central Steele Computing Lab. Caltech Wired often offers educational discounts on computing equipment and software once you arrive on campus and are a registered student.

Should I bring my computer with me to Caltech?

Probably. Although a computer is neither required nor essential, it is more convenient to have a computer in your room. Students with computers typically have PC or Macintosh computers running a wide range of operating systems including UNIX variants like Linux.

What hardware, software, and operating systems does IMSS recommend for students?

IMSS has the following recommendations.

For Windows and Linux computers:

  • CPU speed: 2.0 Ghz or above
  • Memory: 2 GBor above
  • Hard Drive:80 GB or above
  • Network Card: Yes
  • Wireless Card: Yes (we recommend cards that support 802.11 b/g/n)
  • Windows operating system: Windows 7 (with all other Windows updates)
  • Linux Operating system: Red Hat Enterprise
  • Antivirus software. Students may download Symantec from our Software site after they have received their access.caltech accounts

Mac Computers:

  • CPU speed: 1.0 GHz or above
  • Memory: 2 GBor above
  • Hard Drive: 40 GB or above
  • Network Card: Yes
  • Wireless Card: Yes (we recommend cards that support 802.11 b/g/n)
  • Operating system: Max OS 10.6 or above
  • Antivirus software: Symantec (students may download Symantec from our Software site for Mac OS X)


Over the past few years, the campus has undergone a massive re-wiring program. Each student living in on-campus housing has one 100Base-T Ethernet port. Students need only buy an Ethernet card to use the port; we recommend that you buy the card after you arrive at Caltech.

Wireless network connectivity at Caltech is an ongoing project; where wireless is available, your access.caltech account will grant you access.

The campus network is connected to the Internet via high speed leased lines. All computers connected to the campus network are able to access the Internet. Typical Internet services include electronic mail, World Wide Web, Usenet news, file transfer and remote login.


Each of the undergraduate student houses has at least one computer room, open all the time. These rooms include primarily Windows computers and laser printers. These house labs are maintained by student IMSS Representatives, students' first contact for computer support.

In addition to the facilities in the houses, Sherman Fairchild Library has public computers, including Macintosh and Intel PC, as well as laser printers, color printers and scanners. 24-hour access to these resources is also available.

Caltech also maintains a UNIX cluster used for computing, electronic mail and web pages. Accounts on this cluster are set up automatically for incoming students.

Most academic divisions at Caltech provide some computer resources. Most are intended for research or divisional use, but computers and resources within the divisions are often made available to undergraduate students when specific software is needed for a class. Sherman Fairchild Library also maintains workstations for permitted patrons, both for individual use and group study. The workstations are Windows machines, with scanners and printers available. The SFL document work room is set up to run the most challenging applications of authoring and multimedia tools and store files on a variety of removable media.

Caltech Policy on Computer Ethics

Caltech provides computer resources to assist members of the Institute community in the pursuit of education and research. These resources are intended to be used to carry out the legitimate business of the Institute. As is the case for the use of other Institute property, faculty staff, and students who use campus computing resources should be guided by the Institute's Honor System, which prohibits any member of the community from taking unfair advantage of another.

Some examples of inappropriate use are: harassment of other users; destruction or damage to equipment, software or data belonging to others; disruption or unauthorized monitoring of electronic communications; violations of computer security systems; unauthorized use of accounts, access codes, or identification numbers; use of facilities in ways that intentionally impede the computing activities of others; violation of copyrights and software license agreements; violations of another's privacy, and academic dishonesty.

Inappropriate uses of Institute resources may result in administrative discipline up to and including separation from the Institute. In addition, illegal acts involving Institute computing resources may result in prosecution by state and federal authorities.

For more information about IMSS and Caltech policies, see Information Security Policies and Student Affairs Policies and Procedures.

Other Resources