Set environment variables using the OpenStack RC file

Set environment variables using the OpenStack RC file

To set the required environment variables for the OpenStack command-line clients, you must create an environment file called an OpenStack rc file, or file. If your OpenStack installation provides it, you can download the file from the OpenStack Dashboard as an administrative user or any other user. This project-specific environment file contains the credentials that all OpenStack services use.

When you source the file, environment variables are set for your current shell. The variables enable the OpenStack client commands to communicate with the OpenStack services that run in the cloud.


Defining environment variables using an environment file is not a common practice on Microsoft Windows. Environment variables are usually defined in the Advanced > System Properties dialog box. One method for using these scripts as-is on Windows is to install Git for Windows and using Git Bash to source the environment variables and to run all CLI commands.

Download and source the OpenStack RC file

  1. Log in to the dashboard and from the drop-down list select the project for which you want to download the OpenStack RC file.

  2. On the Project tab, open the Compute tab and click Access & Security.

  3. On the API Access tab, click Download OpenStack RC File and save the file. The filename will be of the form where PROJECT is the name of the project for which you downloaded the file.

  4. Copy the file to the computer from which you want to run OpenStack commands.

    For example, copy the file to the computer from which you want to upload an image with a glance client command.

  5. On any shell from which you want to run OpenStack commands, source the file for the respective project.

    In the following example, the file is sourced for the demo project:

    $ .
  6. When you are prompted for an OpenStack password, enter the password for the user who downloaded the file.

Create and source the OpenStack RC file

Alternatively, you can create the file from scratch, if you cannot download the file from the dashboard.

  1. In a text editor, create a file named and add the following authentication information:

    export OS_USERNAME=username
    export OS_PASSWORD=password
    export OS_TENANT_NAME=projectName
    export OS_AUTH_URL=https://identityHost:portNumber/v2.0
    # The following lines can be omitted
    export OS_TENANT_ID=tenantIDString
    export OS_REGION_NAME=regionName
    export OS_CACERT=/path/to/cacertFile


    Saving OS_PASSWORD in plain text may bring a security risk. You should protect the file or not save OS_PASSWORD into the file in the production environment.

  2. On any shell from which you want to run OpenStack commands, source the file for the respective project. In this example, you source the file for the admin project:

    $ .


You are not prompted for the password with this method. The password lives in clear text format in the file. Restrict the permissions on this file to avoid security problems. You can also remove the OS_PASSWORD variable from the file, and use the --password parameter with OpenStack client commands instead.


You must set the OS_CACERT environment variable when using the https protocol in the OS_AUTH_URL environment setting because the verification process for the TLS (HTTPS) server certificate uses the one indicated in the environment. This certificate will be used when verifying the TLS (HTTPS) server certificate.

Override environment variable values

When you run OpenStack client commands, you can override some environment variable settings by using the options that are listed at the end of the help output of the various client commands. For example, you can override the OS_PASSWORD setting in the file by specifying a password on a openstack command, as follows:

$ openstack --os-password PASSWORD server list

Where PASSWORD is your password.

A user specifies their username and password credentials to interact with OpenStack, using any client command. These credentials can be specified using various mechanisms, namely, the environment variable or command-line argument. It is not safe to specify the password using either of these methods.

For example, when you specify your password using the command-line client with the --os-password argument, anyone with access to your computer can view it in plain text with the ps field.

To avoid storing the password in plain text, you can prompt for the OpenStack password interactively.

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Except where otherwise noted, this document is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. See all OpenStack Legal Documents.