How To Do AWS CLI Config

Overview of AWS: Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a subsidiary of Amazon providing on-demand cloud computing platforms and APIs to individuals, companies, and governments, on a metered pay-as-you-go basis. With a wide array of services ranging from computing, storage, databases, analytics, and networking, AWS offers solutions to almost all infrastructural challenges faced by startups to enterprises.

The Power of AWS CLI: The AWS Command Line Interface (CLI) is a unified tool to manage AWS services. With just one tool to download and configure, users can control multiple AWS services from the command line and automate them through scripts. By harnessing the AWS CLI, developers and system administrators can quickly execute commands to perform operations, all from their local environment.


Installing the AWS CLI: Before diving into configuration, it’s crucial to have the AWS CLI installed. Depending on your operating system, you might use pip it for Python distributions or download a dedicated installer from the AWS website. AWS CLI v2, the latest major version of AWS CLI, is now stable and recommended for general use.


  1. For macOS or Linux:bashCopy codecurl "" -o "" unzip sudo ./aws/install
  2. For Windows, download and run the AWS CLI MSI installer from the AWS website.

AWS Account Setup: To utilize the AWS CLI effectively, you need an active AWS account. If you haven’t set one up yet, head over to the AWS Management Console, sign up, and navigate to the IAM (Identity and Access Management) service to generate the necessary credentials.

Familiarity with the Terminal: The AWS CLI operates from the terminal (macOS and Linux) or command prompt (Windows). Basic knowledge of navigating and executing commands in these environments will be beneficial.

Understanding AWS CLI Basics

What is AWS CLI? The AWS CLI is an open-source tool that enables users to interact with AWS services using commands in their command-line shell. With AWS CLI, instead of relying solely on the AWS Management Console’s graphical interface, users can harness the power of scripting and automation.

Architecture & Interaction: At its core, the AWS CLI translates the commands you type into HTTP requests, sending them to AWS. When AWS sends back the response, the CLI interprets the response and displays the results to you. This means that every AWS CLI command corresponds to an AWS API operation.

For example, if you use the AWS CLI to list your S3 buckets, the CLI sends a ListBuckets request to Amazon S3. Amazon S3 then responds with a list of all your S3 buckets, which the CLI displays in your terminal.

Setting Up AWS CLI Credentials

Understanding AWS Credentials: To authenticate requests to AWS services, you need two key pieces of information: your Access Key ID and Secret Access Key. Think of the Access Key ID as a username, and the Secret Access Key as a password. Never share these keys, especially the Secret Access Key.

Generating IAM Credentials:

  1. Log into the AWS Management Console.
  2. Navigate to the IAM service.
  3. In the navigation pane, select “Users” and then choose the “Add user” button.
  4. Provide a username and select “Programmatic access” for the access type.
  5. Attach the necessary permissions. For beginners, attaching the “AdministratorAccess” policy provides full access to AWS services. However, be careful with this level of access in production environments.
  6. Review and create the user. On the final confirmation screen, you will see the Access Key ID and Secret Access Key. Make sure to save them securely.

Storing Credentials Safely: AWS credentials should never be hard-coded in scripts or applications. Instead, use the AWS CLI’s built-in mechanism to store and manage credentials.

Configuring the AWS CLI

Using the aws configure Command: After installing the CLI and obtaining your AWS credentials, run the aws configure command. This command prompts you for four pieces of information:

  1. AWS Access Key ID
  2. Secret Access Key
  3. Default region name (e.g., us-west-1)
  4. Default output format (e.g., json)

Provide the values as prompted. These configurations are then saved in a file located at ~/.aws/credentials on Linux/macOS or C:\Users\USERNAME\.aws\credentials on Windows.

Named Profiles: If you manage multiple AWS accounts or work in different AWS regions, named profiles are invaluable. To create a named profile, use:

aws configure --profile myprofile

When executing AWS CLI commands with a specific profile, use the --profile flag, like this:

aws s3 ls --profile myprofile

Best Practices for AWS CLI Config

Security First: Always rotate your AWS credentials regularly. Using IAM roles, you can set policies that force key rotation.

IAM Roles and Policies: Instead of granting full access, provide only the permissions necessary for specific tasks. Use IAM roles for EC2 instances, which allow applications to make AWS requests without storing credentials.

Multiple AWS Accounts and Regions: For large teams or complex setups, segregate your workloads by using separate AWS accounts for different departments or stages (development, staging, production). Use AWS Organizations to centrally manage these accounts.

Auditing and Monitoring: Enable AWS CloudTrail to monitor CLI actions. CloudTrail captures API calls made on your account and delivers log files. By analyzing these logs, you can get a history of AWS API calls and related events.

Using the AWS CLI

Testing Your Configuration: After setting up the AWS CLI, it’s essential to ensure it works correctly. One simple way is to list all your S3 buckets:

aws s3 ls

This command should return a list of your S3 buckets if any exist. If it doesn’t return any errors, your AWS CLI is configured correctly.

Common Commands to Familiarize With:

  1. EC2 Instances: To describe your EC2 instances:
aws ec2 describe-instances
  1. IAM Users: To list all IAM users:
aws iam list-users
  1. CloudWatch Alarms: To describe CloudWatch Alarms:
aws cloudwatch describe-alarms

Debugging Issues: If a command returns an error, you can get more verbose output by appending --debug it to your command. This provides insights into what the AWS CLI is doing and can help pinpoint any configuration or network issues.

Advanced Topics

Integrating AWS CLI with Shell Scripts: The AWS CLI can be a powerful ally when combined with shell scripting. For instance, you could create a script that backs up files to S3 every day or one that starts or stops EC2 instances based on specific criteria.

Using AWS CLI with AWS SDKs and Tools: Beyond the CLI, AWS offers Software Development Kits (SDKs) for various programming languages like Python (Boto3), JavaScript, Go, etc. If you’re building applications, understanding how the CLI commands translate to SDK calls can provide valuable insights.

CLI with Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): For enhanced security, you might consider setting up MFA for your AWS CLI operations. This requires users to provide two or more verification methods – something they know (password), something they have (a trusted device), or something they are (fingerprint or voice recognition).

Tips and Tricks

Using Shorthand Syntax: AWS CLI commands can get lengthy. However, with shorthand syntax, you can condense your commands. Familiarize yourself with this syntax from the AWS documentation to expedite your CLI operations.

Setting Up CLI Autocompletion: Speed up your command input by setting up autocompletion. Once set up, you can start typing a command and press the Tab key to see possible completions.

Customizing CLI Output with Tools like jq: By default, AWS CLI returns output in JSON format. But you can integrate tools jq to parse and transform this output, extracting just the information you need or presenting it in a more readable format.

Example: To get the names of all your EC2 instances:

aws ec2 describe-instances | jq '.Reservations[].Instances[].Tags[]? | select(.Key=="Name") | .Value'


The Power of AWS CLI: Throughout this guide, we’ve unveiled the potential of AWS CLI as an indispensable tool for developers and administrators. The flexibility, efficiency, and capabilities it offers make AWS resource management smoother and more intuitive.

Security is Paramount: As with all tools that grant powerful access to resources, it’s essential to approach the AWS CLI with a security-first mindset. Always keep your credentials secure, regularly audit access, and ensure your configurations follow best practices.

Continuous Learning: The world of AWS is ever-evolving, and so is the AWS CLI. Staying updated with new features, commands, and best practices will ensure that you maximize the tool’s benefits.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is the AWS CLI?

  • The AWS CLI (Command Line Interface) is a unified tool provided by Amazon Web Services to manage and interact with AWS services directly from the command line.

2. Why should I use the AWS CLI when there’s a web console?

  • The AWS CLI provides a way to automate repetitive tasks using scripts. While the web console is user-friendly, for certain operations, especially bulk tasks or those needing to be scheduled, the CLI can be more efficient.

3. How do I install the AWS CLI?

  • The installation process varies based on the operating system. Generally, it can be installed using package managers like pip or by downloading a dedicated installer from the AWS website.

4. Where are my AWS CLI configurations stored?

  • They’re typically stored in a .aws directory in your home folder. On Linux/macOS, this is ~/.aws/, and on Windows, it’s C:\Users\USERNAME\.aws\.

5. Can I configure multiple profiles for AWS CLI?

  • Yes! You can use named profiles to manage multiple sets of credentials. This is especially useful if you’re handling multiple AWS accounts or regions.

6. I forgot my Secret Access Key. How do I retrieve it?

  • For security reasons, AWS doesn’t allow the retrieval of a Secret Access Key post-creation. If you lose it, you’ll have to create a new one via the AWS Management Console.

7. How do I ensure my AWS CLI operations are secure?

  • Always use IAM roles with the least privilege principle, rotate your AWS keys regularly, enable MFA for enhanced security, and avoid hard-coding your AWS credentials in scripts.

8. How do I update my AWS CLI to the latest version?

  • Depending on how you installed the CLI, you can use package managers like pip to update it or download the latest version from the AWS website.

9. What should I do if I encounter errors with AWS CLI commands?

  • Ensure that you’ve set up your credentials correctly. Use the --debug flag with your commands to get verbose output, which can provide more insight into the issue.

10. Are there costs associated with using the AWS CLI?

  • While the AWS CLI itself is free, your actions might incur charges. For instance, if you launch EC2 instances or interact with S3 storage using the CLI, standard AWS service charges apply.

Atiqur Rahman

I am MD. Atiqur Rahman graduated from BUET and is an AWS-certified solutions architect. I have successfully achieved 6 certifications from AWS including Cloud Practitioner, Solutions Architect, SysOps Administrator, and Developer Associate. I have more than 8 years of working experience as a DevOps engineer designing complex SAAS applications.

Leave a Reply