The PACER Drainage Project: Instructions

Setting up a New Account (Skip Ahead if You Have One Already)

The process for setting up a PACER account is pretty quick and easy if it goes smoothly. To set up an account, go to the registration site and create an account. Most of the fields will be self-explanatory. At the bottom, if you’re in doubt, select “Individual” for your “User Type”. On the second screen you’ll set up a user name, password, and security questions, and on the third screen, you’ll need to give payment information (this is required, but won’t be used).

If this all goes well, you should have a functioning PACER account at this point. A few times we’ve seen that payment information fails the verification process and then needs either human review or to be reentered:

human-reviewIf you run into this problem, log into PACER (ignore the client code field), then go to Account Management. From there, you should be able to fix the problem, but sometimes this error is shown due to duplicate account or other non-credit card errors. In that case, call in to get your account working: (800) 676-6856. We have  never had to wait 7-10 days to get an account working.

Install RECAP

If your account is working, the next step is to:

Either is fine.

Testing Things and Checking Your Balance

If your account is set up properly, you’ll be able to log into PACER (ignore the client code field). When you do that, if RECAP is installed correctly, you’ll see a notification in your browser stating that “RECAP is Activated” (if this is a Chrome browser you may need to look for a bell icon). Great.

If you’re using an existing account, before you begin, you should check your remaining balance for the quarter. To do this, go to the Billing History page, click on “This Quarter” and hit submit. PACER gives you $15 of free downloads per quarter. If you exceed that amount by even a penny, you pay the entire amount, so check this amount carefully and always stay below the $15 threshold.


To drain PACER, we use Operation Asymptote to identify items to download. Your process is:

  1. Go to Operation Asymptote
  2. It will suggest an item for you to download. Click on the suggested link.
  3. You will be shown the cost of the item before you are charged. If it will push you above $15, STOP!
  4. If not, download the item by pressing the “View Document” link.
  5. The item will be downloaded to your computer and RECAP will upload it to the Internet Archive. Success! You’ve contributed to the public domain!
  6. Inform Operation Asymptote that the item was retrieved successfully.

Repeat that process until the next item would exceed the $15 quarterly allotment, then STOP. If you exceed $15, you’ll be required to pay the whole amount. Be careful.

Once you’ve done all this, pat yourself on the back and enjoy the remainder of your day. We’ll see you again next quarter!


Send an email using our contact form.

Thank You

Getting an account, providing your credit card number, and downloading these documents is a lot of work. We’re very grateful for your help and we’re hopeful that we can push the needle with this initiative. If enough people use their quarterly allotment every quarter, we believe PACER will notice. At the same time, you’re helping to build the public domain, and we’re making the case that people want this content and are willing to work for it.

Eventually, with enough effort, the PACER paywall will come down. When that happens you’ll be able to take pride in having played your part of the process. Thank you for contributing to the public domain!

What Else?

If you’ve spent your $15 and you still have energy to work on the PACER problem, there’s more you can do:

  • You can look at our  list of ways to help.
  • You can help add features or resolve bugs in the RECAP extensions (Chrome/Firefox).
  • You can recruit others to join this mailing list.
  • You can tweet about this, blog about this, or otherwise help to get the message out.
  • You can read and study Public.Resource.Org’s “Memo” on PACER and get educated.
  • You can get in touch and ask us for something even more ambitious. We have lots of ideas for different types of people — send us your info and let’s talk.
  • You can suggest something else we haven’t thought of.

So there’s a lot you can do. It’s a big problem, but we’re going to solve it together.