The AWS CLI is a powerful tool that allows you to interact with various AWS services through a command-line interface. In this article, we will go through the steps to configure AWS CLI for multiple accounts on your local machine or any server with Terminal access.

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Install AWS CLI

The first step is to install the AWS CLI on your machine. AWS CLI can be installed on Windows, macOS, and Linux systems. You can follow the appropriate steps from the AWS CLI website.

Generate AWS Access Key

To use AWS CLI, you must have an Access Key and Secret Access Key. You can create them from the AWS Management Console. Follow these steps to create an access key:

  1. Log in to the AWS Management Console.
  2. Click on your username at the top right corner of the console and select “Security Credentials” from the dropdown menu.
  3. In the “Access keys” section, click on “Create Access Key”.
  4. The access key and secret access key will be generated. Download the CSV file containing the keys and keep it safe.
How to Configure AWS CLI for Multi-Account Strategy
Create an Access Key From the Console

Let’s note that once you leave that area, the Access Key won’t be available anymore, so it’s your only chance to copy and keep it safe somewhere else.

How to Configure AWS CLI for Multi-Account Strategy
Warning for the Access Key created

Configure AWS CLI with Access Key

After installing AWS CLI and creating the Access Key, the next step is to configure AWS CLI with that access key. Follow the steps below:

  1. Open a command prompt or terminal window.
  2. Type the command aws configure and press Enter.
  3. Enter your access key and secret access key when prompted.
  4. Enter your preferred region and output format. The region is the geographical location where your AWS resources are located.
  5. Press Enter to complete the configuration.

The command aws configure will save your configurations in a hidden folder generally located in your user’s home folder, on unix/linux based operating systems it’s in “~/.aws” folder.

Verify Configurations

After configuring AWS CLI, it’s important to verify that the configurations were successful. To do this, let’s run the following command:

aws sts get-caller-identity

This command should return the AWS account ID, user ID, and user ARN associated with your access key. Something similar to the following:

    "Account": "XXXXXXXXXXXXXX",
    "Arn": "arn:aws:iam::XXXXXXX:user/XXXXXXX"

Use the AWS CLI

After successfully configuring AWS CLI, you can now use it to interact with AWS services. You can run AWS CLI commands from the terminal. For example, to list all the S3 buckets in your AWS account, run the following command:

aws s3 ls

This will list all the S3 buckets in your AWS account as follows:

How to Configure AWS CLI for Multi-Account Strategy
AWS CLI S3 List command

AWS CLI Multi-Accounts

The --profile option allows you to specify different AWS CLI profiles, each with its own set of access keys, regions, and output formats. This is useful when you have multiple AWS accounts or need to access AWS services in different regions.

Let’s create a new profile in addition to the one that we did on the top, the same command will be used, just that a new option is added:

aws configure --profile master-account

Let’s reply to the same questions again (access key, region, and output format). Indeed, if you don’t provide the --profile option your configurations will set/override the default profile.

You can create as many profiles as you want, at the end we will have something close to this for the ~/.aws/config and ~/.aws/credentials files (default and master-account profiles):

How to Configure AWS CLI for Multi-Account Strategy

Here are some examples of using the --profile option:

➡️ List all S3 buckets in the master-account profile:

aws s3 ls --profile master-account

➡️ Copy a file from local to an S3 bucket in the master-account profile:

aws s3 cp file.txt s3://a-bucket-name/ --profile master-account

➡️ Describe all running EC2 instances in the default profile:

aws ec2 describe-instances --filters "Name=instance-state-name,Values=running" --profile default

By using the --profile option, you can easily switch between different AWS CLI profiles and manage multiple AWS accounts or regions from a single command-line interface. Providing --profile default is similar to not providing the profile option at all.


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In this article, we have covered how to use the AWS CLI with multiple accounts within the terminal, the profile option has been crucial for that.

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About Orleando Dassi

I'm a Solutions Architect with 10 years of experience who is constantly learning while impacting the community by producing technical articles/videos, building projects, and conducting tech mentoring/coaching sessions. What describes me the most is my flexibility. Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn.