You will need to install and configure the awscli package in order to access objects in S3.

Install the AWS CLI

The AWS CLI is available through the pip installer:

If you have administrator privileges type

pip install awscli

Otherwise use

pip install --user awscli

The project is open source, so you can also download the source at

Authenticate the CLI to Amazon Web Services

Once the aws package is installed, you will need to configure it:

aws configure

You will be prompted to enter four values:

  1. Your AWS access keys: aws_access_key_id / aws_secret_access_key: These can be obtained from within your AWS account. See this AWS documentation for how to retrieve these two keys. If you are the root account owner, go to your account security settings to retrieve these. It is highly advised NOT to use root credentials for access in this way.
  2. Your default AWS region: Unless you know your S3 bucket is scoped to another region, enter us-east-1.
  3. Your default output format: Your options are text, json and table output.

The AWS account you enter in these steps must have at least read permissions to access the resources you want to download.

Access S3 using the AWS CLI

aws s3 ls - List Buckets

aws s3 ls

2018-01-18 16:16:17 mybucket1
2018-06-20 13:18:38 mybucket2
2017-08-15 09:35:08 my-new-bucket
2018-06-28 09:19:29 my-other-bucket

aws s3 mb - Make a new bucket

aws s3 mb s3://mybucket3

Remember that S3 bucket names must be globally unique from all other AWS customers.

aws s3 rm - Remove a bucket

aws s3 rm s3://mybucket3

Remember that S3 buckets must be emptied of all contents before they can be removed. Once removed the bucket name is available for other users.

aws s3 ls - List the contents of a bucket

aws s3 ls s3://mybucket1/
                           PRE keys/
                           PRE status/
                           PRE zip/
2020-06-26 09:50:08      10451 index.json
2020-06-26 09:50:09         64 robots.txt

aws s3 cp - Download a file

aws s3 cp s3://mybucket1/robots.txt ./

aws s3 cp - Upload a file

aws s3 cp local-file.txt s3://mybucket1/

To upload a file and make it publicly available via HTTPS, add an acl property to it:

aws s3 cp --acl public-read local-file.txt s3://mybucket1/

aws s3 sync - Synchronize to/from an S3 bucket

aws s3 sync ./local-dir s3://mybucket1/remote-dir/

You can synchronize between any source/destination so long as at least one of them is S3:

  1. Sync from local workstation to S3
  2. Sync from S3 to local workstation
  3. Sync from S3 bucket to another S3 bucket

aws s3 rm - Remove a file from S3

aws s3 rm s3://mybucket1/file-not-wanted.pdf

aws s3 mv - Move a file within S3

aws s3 mv s3://mybucket1/original-file.csv s3://mybucket1/moved-file.csv

aws s3 presign - Presign an S3 URL

In some cases users want to share a file with a remote party without creating access keys or for a limited amount of time. The presign feature is useful in this case since it creates a unique signed URL that expires after a set amount of time.

To set the expiry time, calculate the length of time you want the signature to last in seconds. This value will be used with the --expires-in flag.

aws s3 presign --expires-in 600 s3://mybucket1/path/file-to-share.tar.gz

Access S3 using boto3 in Python

The boto3 package is the standard library enabling programmatic access to AWS using Python. boto3 can access all AWS services and is helpful for creating, managing, or removing remote resources and infrastructure dynamically. The steps below refer to using boto3 for working with files in S3.

Install boto3

pip install boto3

boto3 will obtain its credentials from one of a few various locations:

  • Hard-coded credentials within the application code itself. This is not recommended.
  • Inherited credentials from the ~/.aws/ directory within your home directory. This is common for remote development.
  • Injected as environment variables of the environment in which your code is running.
  • Inherited credentials from the IAM role of the EC2 instance running your code. This is a best practice for production systems in AWS.

Use boto3

Import the library as you would for any other Python package, and set up a client or resource for the AWS service:

import boto3

s3 = boto3.client('s3')

Upload a file to S3

Download a file from S3

More Information about boto3

Documentation is available here.