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Version: v2.6

Install/Upgrade Rancher on a Kubernetes Cluster

In this section, you'll learn how to deploy Rancher on a Kubernetes cluster using the Helm CLI.


Kubernetes Cluster

Set up the Rancher server's local Kubernetes cluster.

Rancher can be installed on any Kubernetes cluster. This cluster can use upstream Kubernetes, or it can use one of Rancher's Kubernetes distributions, or it can be a managed Kubernetes cluster from a provider such as Amazon EKS.

For help setting up a Kubernetes cluster, we provide these tutorials:

  • RKE: For the tutorial to install an RKE Kubernetes cluster, refer to this page. For help setting up the infrastructure for a high-availability RKE cluster, refer to this page.
  • K3s: For the tutorial to install a K3s Kubernetes cluster, refer to this page. For help setting up the infrastructure for a high-availability K3s cluster, refer to this page.
  • RKE2: For the tutorial to install an RKE2 Kubernetes cluster, refer to this page. For help setting up the infrastructure for a high-availability RKE2 cluster, refer to this page.
  • Amazon EKS: For details on how to install Rancher on Amazon EKS, including how to install an Ingress controller so that the Rancher server can be accessed, refer to this page.
  • AKS: For details on how to install Rancher with Azure Kubernetes Service, including how to install an Ingress controller so that the Rancher server can be accessed, refer to this page.
  • GKE: For details on how to install Rancher with Google Kubernetes Engine, including how to install an Ingress controller so that the Rancher server can be accessed, refer to this page. GKE has two modes of operation when creating a Kubernetes cluster, Autopilot and Standard mode. The cluster configuration for Autopilot mode has restrictions on editing the kube-system namespace. However, Rancher needs to create resources in the kube-system namespace during installation. As a result, you will not be able to install Rancher on a GKE cluster created in Autopilot mode.

Ingress Controller

The Rancher UI and API are exposed through an Ingress. This means the Kubernetes cluster that you install Rancher in must contain an Ingress controller.

For RKE, RKE2, and K3s installations, you don't have to install the Ingress controller manually because one is installed by default.

For distributions that do not include an Ingress Controller by default, like a hosted Kubernetes cluster such as EKS, GKE, or AKS, you have to deploy an Ingress controller first. Note that the Rancher Helm chart does not set an ingressClassName on the ingress by default. Because of this, you have to configure the Ingress controller to also watch ingresses without an ingressClassName.

Examples are included in the Amazon EKS, AKS, and GKE tutorials above.

CLI Tools

The following CLI tools are required for setting up the Kubernetes cluster. Please make sure these tools are installed and available in your $PATH.

Install the Rancher Helm Chart

Rancher is installed using the Helm package manager for Kubernetes. Helm charts provide templating syntax for Kubernetes YAML manifest documents. With Helm, we can create configurable deployments instead of just using static files.

For systems without direct internet access, see Air Gap: Kubernetes install.

To choose a Rancher version to install, refer to Choosing a Rancher Version.

To choose a version of Helm to install Rancher with, refer to the Helm version requirements


The installation instructions assume you are using Helm 3.

To set up Rancher,

  1. Add the Helm chart repository
  2. Create a namespace for Rancher
  3. Choose your SSL configuration
  4. Install cert-manager (unless you are bringing your own certificates, or TLS will be terminated on a load balancer)
  5. Install Rancher with Helm and your chosen certificate option
  6. Verify that the Rancher server is successfully deployed
  7. Save your options

1. Add the Helm Chart Repository

Use helm repo add command to add the Helm chart repository that contains charts to install Rancher. For more information about the repository choices and which is best for your use case, see Choosing a Rancher Version.

  • Latest: Recommended for trying out the newest features
    helm repo add rancher-latest
  • Stable: Recommended for production environments
    helm repo add rancher-stable
  • Alpha: Experimental preview of upcoming releases.
    helm repo add rancher-alpha
    Note: Upgrades are not supported to, from, or between Alphas.

2. Create a Namespace for Rancher

We'll need to define a Kubernetes namespace where the resources created by the Chart should be installed. This should always be cattle-system:

kubectl create namespace cattle-system

3. Choose your SSL Configuration

The Rancher management server is designed to be secure by default and requires SSL/TLS configuration.


If you want terminate SSL/TLS externally, see TLS termination on an External Load Balancer.

There are three recommended options for the source of the certificate used for TLS termination at the Rancher server:

  • Rancher-generated TLS certificate: In this case, you will need to install cert-manager into the cluster. Rancher utilizes cert-manager to issue and maintain its certificates. Rancher will generate a CA certificate of its own, and sign a cert using that CA. cert-manager is then responsible for managing that certificate.
  • Let's Encrypt: The Let's Encrypt option also uses cert-manager. However, in this case, cert-manager is combined with a special Issuer for Let's Encrypt that performs all actions (including request and validation) necessary for getting a Let's Encrypt issued cert. This configuration uses HTTP validation (HTTP-01), so the load balancer must have a public DNS record and be accessible from the internet.
  • Bring your own certificate: This option allows you to bring your own public- or private-CA signed certificate. Rancher will use that certificate to secure websocket and HTTPS traffic. In this case, you must upload this certificate (and associated key) as PEM-encoded files with the name tls.crt and tls.key. If you are using a private CA, you must also upload that certificate. This is due to the fact that this private CA may not be trusted by your nodes. Rancher will take that CA certificate, and generate a checksum from it, which the various Rancher components will use to validate their connection to Rancher.
ConfigurationHelm Chart OptionRequires cert-manager
Rancher Generated Certificates (Default)ingress.tls.source=rancheryes
Let’s Encryptingress.tls.source=letsEncryptyes
Certificates from Filesingress.tls.source=secretno

4. Install cert-manager


New in v2.6.4, cert-manager versions 1.6.2 and 1.7.1 are compatible. We recommend v1.7.x because v 1.6.x will reach end-of-life on March 30, 2022.

You should skip this step if you are bringing your own certificate files (option ingress.tls.source=secret), or if you use TLS termination on an external load balancer.

This step is only required to use certificates issued by Rancher's generated CA (ingress.tls.source=rancher) or to request Let's Encrypt issued certificates (ingress.tls.source=letsEncrypt).

Click to Expand

Recent changes to cert-manager require an upgrade. If you are upgrading Rancher and using a version of cert-manager older than v0.11.0, please see our upgrade documentation.

These instructions are adapted from the official cert-manager documentation.


To see options on how to customize the cert-manager install (including for cases where your cluster uses PodSecurityPolicies), see the cert-manager docs.

# If you have installed the CRDs manually instead of with the `--set installCRDs=true` option added to your Helm install command, you should upgrade your CRD resources before upgrading the Helm chart:
kubectl apply -f

# Add the Jetstack Helm repository
helm repo add jetstack

# Update your local Helm chart repository cache
helm repo update

# Install the cert-manager Helm chart
helm install cert-manager jetstack/cert-manager \
--namespace cert-manager \
--create-namespace \
--set installCRDs=true \
--version v1.11.0

Once you’ve installed cert-manager, you can verify it is deployed correctly by checking the cert-manager namespace for running pods:

kubectl get pods --namespace cert-manager

cert-manager-5c6866597-zw7kh 1/1 Running 0 2m
cert-manager-cainjector-577f6d9fd7-tr77l 1/1 Running 0 2m
cert-manager-webhook-787858fcdb-nlzsq 1/1 Running 0 2m

5. Install Rancher with Helm and Your Chosen Certificate Option

The exact command to install Rancher differs depending on the certificate configuration.

However, irrespective of the certificate configuration, the name of the Rancher installation in the cattle-system namespace should always be rancher.

Testing and Development:

This final command to install Rancher requires a domain name that forwards traffic to Rancher. If you are using the Helm CLI to set up a proof-of-concept, you can use a fake domain name when passing the hostname option. An example of a fake domain name would be <IP_OF_LINUX_NODE>, which would expose Rancher on an IP where it is running. Production installs would require a real domain name.

The default is for Rancher to generate a CA and uses cert-manager to issue the certificate for access to the Rancher server interface.

Because rancher is the default option for ingress.tls.source, we are not specifying ingress.tls.source when running the helm install command.

  • Set the hostname to the DNS name you pointed at your load balancer.
  • Set the bootstrapPassword to something unique for the admin user.
  • To install a specific Rancher version, use the --version flag, example: --version 2.3.6
helm install rancher rancher-<CHART_REPO>/rancher \
--namespace cattle-system \
--set \
--set bootstrapPassword=admin

If you are installing an alpha version, Helm requires adding the --devel option to the install command:

helm install rancher rancher-alpha/rancher --devel

Wait for Rancher to be rolled out:

kubectl -n cattle-system rollout status deploy/rancher
Waiting for deployment "rancher" rollout to finish: 0 of 3 updated replicas are available...
deployment "rancher" successfully rolled out

The Rancher chart configuration has many options for customizing the installation to suit your specific environment. Here are some common advanced scenarios.

See the Chart Options for the full list of options.

6. Verify that the Rancher Server is Successfully Deployed

After adding the secrets, check if Rancher was rolled out successfully:

kubectl -n cattle-system rollout status deploy/rancher
Waiting for deployment "rancher" rollout to finish: 0 of 3 updated replicas are available...
deployment "rancher" successfully rolled out

If you see the following error: error: deployment "rancher" exceeded its progress deadline, you can check the status of the deployment by running the following command:

kubectl -n cattle-system get deploy rancher
rancher 3 3 3 3 3m

It should show the same count for DESIRED and AVAILABLE.

7. Save Your Options

Make sure you save the --set options you used. You will need to use the same options when you upgrade Rancher to new versions with Helm.

Finishing Up

That's it. You should have a functional Rancher server.

In a web browser, go to the DNS name that forwards traffic to your load balancer. Then you should be greeted by the colorful login page.

Doesn't work? Take a look at the Troubleshooting Page