The AWS Command Line Interface (CLI) offers a convenient way to interact with Amazon Web Services (AWS) from the command line. However, users may encounter the frustrating “AWS CLI Unable to Locate Credentials” error when attempting to use the CLI. This error occurs when the CLI fails to find valid authentication credentials, preventing users from accessing AWS services.

In this guide, we will explore the causes of this error and provide step-by-step solutions to resolve it. We will discuss where AWS CLI credentials are stored and how to verify their configuration.

By following these solutions, users can overcome the “AWS CLI Unable to Locate Credentials” error and ensure the smooth operation of their AWS CLI commands. Let’s dive in and address this issue together!

Understanding the Error

What Causes the “AWS CLI Unable to Locate Credentials” Error?

The “AWS CLI Unable to Locate Credentials” error occurs when the AWS CLI cannot find valid authentication credentials to access AWS services. Credentials are essential for verifying the identity and permissions of the user or application attempting to interact with AWS resources.

Where are AWS CLI Credentials Stored?

AWS CLI credentials can be stored in several places, including:

  • Environment variables: AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID and AWS_SECRET_ACCESS_KEY can be set as environment variables. The CLI automatically detects these variables and uses them for authentication.
  • Shared credentials file: AWS CLI supports storing credentials in a shared credentials file, typically located at ~/.aws/credentials on Linux or macOS and %USERPROFILE%\.aws\credentials on Windows.
  • AWS config file: The AWS CLI also supports storing credentials in an AWS configuration file, typically located at ~/.aws/config on Linux or macOS and %USERPROFILE%\.aws\config\ on Windows.

Understanding Credentials and Profiles in AWS CLI

The AWS CLI allows users to manage multiple sets of AWS credentials and profiles. Credentials consist of the access key ID and secret access key, which are used to authenticate with AWS services. Profiles, on the other hand, are named collections of these credentials.

When using the AWS CLI, users can specify a profile to use for each command. This allows them to easily switch between different sets of credentials and access resources associated with different AWS accounts or IAM roles.

By default, the AWS CLI uses the “default” profile if no profile is specified. This profile corresponds to the credentials stored in the shared credentials file or environment variables.

To use a different profile, the user can either specify it explicitly in the command using the --profile option or set the AWS_PROFILE environment variable to the desired profile name.

Profiles are defined in two configuration files: the shared credentials file (~/.aws/credentials) and the AWS config file (~/.aws/config). The shared credentials file stores the access key ID and secret access key for each profile, while the config file allows users to specify additional configuration options for each profile.

In the shared credentials file, each profile is represented by a section enclosed in square brackets []. For example:

aws_access_key_id = YOUR_ACCESS_KEY
aws_secret_access_key = YOUR_SECRET_KEY

aws_access_key_id = PROFILE1_ACCESS_KEY
aws_secret_access_key = PROFILE1_SECRET_KEY

In the AWS config file, profiles are defined under the [profile PROFILE_NAME] section. Additional configuration options can be set for each profile, such as the default region or output format.

For example:

[profile profile1]
region = us-west-2
output = json

To use a specific profile, simply specify its name when running an AWS CLI command. For example:

aws s3 ls --profile profile1

This command would list the contents of an S3 bucket using the credentials and configuration defined in the profile1 profile.

Understanding credentials and profiles in the AWS CLI is essential for managing multiple sets of credentials and accessing different AWS resources with ease. By leveraging profiles, users can maintain separation between different environments and accounts, ensuring secure and organized management of their AWS CLI operations.

Resolving the Issue

1. Verify Credential Configuration

The first step to resolving the “AWS CLI Unable to Locate Credentials” error is to ensure that the credentials are correctly configured in the appropriate location. Check the following:

  • Environment variables: Confirm that AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID and AWS_SECRET_ACCESS_KEY environment variables are correctly set.
  • Shared credentials file: Verify that the credentials file exists and contains the correct credentials.
  • AWS config file: Validate that the config file is present and properly configured.

2. Check AWS CLI Configuration

If the credentials appear to be correctly configured, the next step is to verify the AWS CLI configuration. Run the following command to check the configuration:

aws configure

Make sure that the output displays the correct access key ID and secret access key. If not, reconfigure the AWS CLI by running aws configure and providing the correct credentials.

3. Check User Environment Variables

Another potential cause could be related to the user environment variables. Ensure that the necessary environment variables, such as AWS_DEFAULT_PROFILE and AWS_REGION, are set correctly. The AWS CLI relies on these variables to determine the appropriate profile and region to use for the command execution.

If you are running the AWS CLI as a normal user or script with sudo, it is crucial to understand that the environment variables and configuration files for the default user and root user might differ. In this case, the default profile and corresponding Credential File might not be accessible, resulting in the credentials error. Make sure to check the configuration and environment variables for the specific user account from which you are running the AWS CLI.

If you have multiple profiles configured, ensure that you are using the correct profile for your intended operations. The “–profile” option allows you to specify the desired profile explicitly. If the AWS CLI is unable to find the relevant profile and its associated Credential File, it will return an error message.


In conclusion, the “AWS CLI Unable to Locate Credentials” error can be frustrating, but with the right knowledge and troubleshooting steps, it can be resolved. By understanding where AWS CLI credentials are stored and how profiles work, users can effectively manage multiple sets of credentials and access different AWS resources.

I hope this guide has been helpful in understanding and resolving this error. If you have any further questions or need assistance, feel free to reach out.