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Version: v2.0-v2.4

CLI with Rancher

Interact with Rancher using command line interface (CLI) tools from your workstation.

Rancher CLI

Follow the steps in rancher cli.

Ensure you can run rancher kubectl get pods successfully.


Install the kubectl utility. See install kubectl.

Configure kubectl by visiting your cluster in the Rancher Web UI then clicking on Kubeconfig, copying contents and putting into your ~/.kube/config file.

Run kubectl cluster-info or kubectl get pods successfully.

Authentication with kubectl and kubeconfig Tokens with TTL

Available as of v2.4.6


If admins have enforced TTL on kubeconfig tokens, the kubeconfig file requires the Rancher cli to be present in your PATH when you run kubectl. Otherwise, you’ll see error like: Unable to connect to the server: getting credentials: exec: exec: "rancher": executable file not found in $PATH.

This feature enables kubectl to authenticate with the Rancher server and get a new kubeconfig token when required. The following auth providers are currently supported:

  1. Local
  2. Active Directory
  3. FreeIpa, OpenLdap
  4. SAML providers - Ping, Okta, ADFS, Keycloak, Shibboleth

When you first run kubectl, for example, kubectl get pods, it will ask you to pick an auth provider and log in with the Rancher server. The kubeconfig token is cached in the path where you run kubectl under ./.cache/token. This token is valid till it expires, or gets deleted from the Rancher server Upon expiration, the next kubectl get pods will ask you to log in with the Rancher server again.


As of CLI v2.4.10, the kubeconfig token can be cached at a chosen path with cache-dir flag or env var RANCHER_CACHE_DIR.

Current Known Issues

  1. If authorized cluster endpoint is enabled for RKE clusters to authenticate directly with downstream cluster and Rancher server goes down, all kubectl calls will fail after the kubeconfig token expires. No new kubeconfig tokens can be generated if Rancher server isn't accessible.
  2. If a kubeconfig token is deleted from Rancher API tokens page, and the token is still cached, cli won't ask you to login again until the token expires or is deleted. kubectl calls will result into an error like error: You must be logged in to the server (the server has asked for the client to provide credentials. Tokens can be deleted using rancher token delete.