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Install EC2 command line tools with OS X

I’ve been using EC2 a lot recently, probably creating and destroying around 20 instances trying out a project, today alone. I needed to be able to do this a lot faster than the web console lets me, so I downloaded the EC2 command line tools to give me that bit extra.


It’s very easy to setup:

  1. Grab the zip file from the AWS developer site
  2. Unzip to your home directory
  3. Rename the extracted directory to .ec2
  4. Go to the Security Credentials page on the AWS site
  5. Select the X.509 Certificates tab
  6. Click on Create a new Certificate
  7. Download the two files in the popup to your ~/.ec2 directory

Configuring to work with your CLI

Now we need to configure our shell–Fish in my case–to use the EC2 tools. Copy the following into your ~/.config/fish/ file:

set PATH $EC2_HOME/bin $PATH
set -g -x JAVA_HOME /System/Library/Frameworks/JavaVM.framework/Home/
set -g -x EC2_HOME ~/.ec2
set -g -x EC2_URL
set -g -x EC2_PRIVATE_KEY (ls {$EC2_HOME}/pk-*.pem)
set -g -x EC2_CERT (ls {$EC2_HOME}/cert-*.pem)

If you’re using bash or zsh, it’s a similar setup - just create the variables, and update your PATH. Here’s bash (add this to your ~/.bash_profile file):

export PATH=$PATH:$EC2_HOME/bin
export JAVA_HOME=/System/Library/Frameworks/JavaVM.framework/Home/
export EC2_HOME=~/.ec2
export EC2_URL=
export EC2_PRIVATE_KEY=`ls $EC2_HOME/pk-*.pem`
export EC2_CERT=`ls $EC2_HOME/cert-*.pem`

Note: I’ve set my default region to eu-west-1. You may want to set this to something different. Change the EC2_URL variable accordingly.

Open a new tab or terminal window and the changes should now be present. To check, you can run:


You should get a list of the instances currently associated to your account in your default region.

Taking the tools for a spin

A good way to test the tools is to use my previous post on getting started with EC2, but rather than using the web AWS console, we’ll use nothing but the command line tools.

Create the key pair:

ec2-create-keypair blog | sed 1d > blog.key

The output of this file includes a fingerprint of the key at the top, which we don’t want, so we use sed to remove that line so we can easily save it to a file. We then just set restrictive permissions:

chmod 600 blog.key

Create the security group:

ec2-create-group blog -d Blog
ec2-authorize blog -P tcp -p 22
ec2-authorize blog -P tcp -p 80

Create and run the instance:

ec2-run-instances -t t1.micro -g blog -k blog ami-e9eded9d

From the output of this command, get the instance ID, which is prefixed with i-.

Assign a dedicated IP:


The above command will output an IP address. Copy that to your clipboard, and use it in the following command (paste it in place of 123.456.789.012):

ec2-associate-address -i i-INSTANCE_ID 123.456.789.012

You can then ssh into the instance with:

ssh -i blog.key ubuntu@123.456.789.012

All done.