5 Register a GitHub account

Register an account with GitHub. It’s free!

5.1 Username advice

You will be able upgrade to a paid level of service, apply discounts, join organizations, etc. in the future, so don’t fret about any of that now. Except your username. You might want to give that some thought.

A few tips, which sadly tend to contradict each other:

  • Incorporate your actual name! People like to know who they’re dealing with. Also makes your username easier for people to guess or remember.
  • Reuse your username from other contexts, e.g., Twitter or Slack. But, of course, someone with no GitHub activity will probably be squatting on that.
  • Pick a username you will be comfortable revealing to your future boss.
  • Shorter is better than longer.
  • Be as unique as possible in as few characters as possible. In some settings GitHub auto-completes or suggests usernames.
  • Make it timeless. Don’t highlight your current university, employer, or place of residence, e.g. JennyFromTheBlock.
  • Avoid words laden with special meaning in programming. In my first inept efforts to script around the GitHub API, I assigned lots of issues to the guy with username NA because my vector of GitHub usernames contained missing values. A variant of Little Bobby Tables.

You can change your username later, but better to get this right the first time.

5.2 Free private repos

GitHub offers free unlimited private repositories for users and organizations in education, academic research, nonprofits, and charities.

Go ahead and register your free account NOW and then pursue any special offer that applies to you:

  • Students, faculty, and educational/research staff: GitHub Education.
    • GitHub “Organizations” can be extremely useful for courses or research/lab groups, where you need some coordination across a set of repos and users.
  • Official nonprofit organizations and charities: GitHub for Good

5.3 Pay for private repos

Everyone else can pay for some private repos. A personal plan with unlimited private repos is $7 / month at the time of writing. See the current plans and pricing here: