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How to Create an IAM User in AWS

5 min read
How to Create an IAM User in AWS

How to Create an IAM User in AWS

How to Create an IAM User in AWS

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a comprehensive and widely adopted cloud platform, offering over 200 fully featured services from data centers globally. One of the foundational services of AWS is Identity and Access Management (IAM). IAM allows you to manage access to AWS services and resources securely. This blog post will provide a detailed, step-by-step guide on how to create an IAM user in AWS, ensuring your cloud infrastructure remains secure and well-managed.

Understanding AWS IAM

Before diving into the practical steps, it’s essential to understand what IAM is and why it’s crucial.

IAM (Identity and Access Management) is a web service that helps you securely control access to AWS services and resources for your users. With IAM, you can:

  1. Manage Users and Their Access: Create users in your AWS account, assign them individual security credentials, and manage their permissions.
  2. Granular Permissions: Define permissions for users and groups to control access to AWS resources.
  3. Secure Access: Use multi-factor authentication (MFA) and roles to enhance security.


To create an IAM user in AWS, you need:

  • An AWS account with administrative privileges.
  • Basic knowledge of AWS Management Console navigation.

Step-by-Step Guide to Creating an IAM User

Step 1: Sign in to the AWS Management Console

  1. Visit the AWS Management Console: Go to AWS Management Console.
  2. Sign in: Enter your root account credentials or IAM user credentials with administrative privileges.

Step 2: Navigate to the IAM Service

  1. Search for IAM: In the AWS Management Console, type “IAM” in the search bar at the top.
  2. Select IAM: Click on “IAM” from the search results to open the IAM dashboard.

Step 3: Add a New User

  1. Go to Users Section: In the IAM dashboard, select “Users” from the left-hand navigation pane.
  2. Add User: Click on the “Add user” button at the top.

Step 4: Configure User Details

  1. User Name: Enter a unique user name (e.g., “JohnDoe”).
  2. Access Type: Choose the type of access this user will have:
  • Programmatic Access: If the user needs access to the AWS API, CLI, SDK, or other development tools.
  • AWS Management Console Access: If the user needs to log into the AWS Management Console.
  1. Console Password: If you selected AWS Management Console access, choose the password type:
  • Autogenerated password: AWS will create a temporary password for the user.
  • Custom password: You can create a password for the user.

Click “Next: Permissions” to continue.

Step 5: Set User Permissions

You can assign permissions to the new user in several ways:

Option 1: Add User to a Group
  1. Create a Group: If you haven’t created any groups yet, click “Create group”.
  2. Group Name: Enter a name for the group (e.g., “Developers”).
  3. Attach Policies: Select policies that define the permissions for this group. For example, you might select “AdministratorAccess” for full access or specific policies like “AmazonS3ReadOnlyAccess” for read-only access to S3.
  4. Create Group: Click “Create group” to finalize.
Option 2: Attach Existing Policies Directly
  1. Attach Policies: Select policies directly from the list. For example, choose “AdministratorAccess” for full access or specific policies for limited access.
  2. Policy Search: Use the search bar to find specific policies quickly.
Option 3: Copy Permissions from Existing Users
  1. Copy Permissions: Choose an existing user whose permissions you want to replicate.
Option 4: Attach Custom Policies
  1. Create Policy: For advanced users, you can create custom policies that provide precise control over permissions.
  2. JSON Editor: Use the JSON editor to define policy statements.

Click “Next: Tags” to proceed.

Step 6: Add Tags (Optional)

Tags are key-value pairs that help you manage and organize your AWS resources. Adding tags to IAM users can help with resource tracking and billing.

  1. Add Tag: Click “Add tag”.
  2. Enter Key-Value Pair: Enter a key (e.g., “Department”) and value (e.g., “IT”).
  3. Additional Tags: Add any additional tags as needed.

Click “Next: Review” to continue.

Step 7: Review and Create User

  1. Review User Details: Ensure all details, permissions, and tags are correct.
  2. Create User: Click “Create user” to finalize the process.

After creating the user, AWS will display a confirmation page with the user’s access details, including:

  • Sign-in URL for the AWS Management Console.
  • User name.
  • Password (if you chose a custom password or autogenerated password).
  • Access key ID and secret access key (if programmatic access was selected).

Step 8: Distribute User Credentials Securely

  1. Download Credentials: Download the .csv file containing the user’s credentials or copy the details.
  2. Secure Distribution: Provide these credentials to the user securely. Ensure they change their password upon first login if a temporary password was generated.

Implementing Best Practices

Creating an IAM user is just the beginning. To ensure robust security, follow these best practices:

Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

  1. Navigate to Users: In the IAM dashboard, select “Users”.
  2. Select User: Click on the user’s name.
  3. Security Credentials: Go to the “Security credentials” tab.
  4. Manage MFA: Click “Manage MFA” and follow the instructions to enable MFA.

Use IAM Groups

  1. Group Management: Rather than assigning permissions directly to individual users, create groups and attach policies to those groups.
  2. Add Users to Groups: Add users to the appropriate groups to inherit the necessary permissions.

Implement Least Privilege Principle

  1. Minimal Permissions: Only grant the permissions necessary for the user to perform their job functions.
  2. Regular Review: Periodically review and update user permissions to ensure they are still appropriate.

Monitor and Audit

  1. Enable CloudTrail: Use AWS CloudTrail to log and monitor API calls and user activity within your AWS account.
  2. Access Analyzer: Use IAM Access Analyzer to identify any permissions that might be overly permissive or expose your resources.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

User Cannot Access Resources

  • Verify Permissions: Ensure the user has the correct policies attached.
  • Check Group Membership: If the user is in a group, verify the group has the correct permissions.
  • Review Service Control Policies (SCPs): For organizations using AWS Organizations, SCPs might restrict access.

MFA Setup Issues

  • Device Compatibility: Ensure the user is using a compatible MFA device or application.
  • Time Synchronization: Check that the time on the MFA device is synchronized with an accurate time source.

Access Denied Errors

  • Policy Conflicts: Ensure there are no conflicting policies that might override the permissions.
  • Permission Boundaries: Check if permission boundaries are limiting the actions a user can perform.


Creating an IAM user in AWS is a fundamental task that ensures secure and controlled access to your AWS resources. By following the detailed steps outlined in this guide, you can create IAM users with appropriate permissions, enhancing the security and efficiency of your AWS environment. Remember to implement best practices, such as enabling MFA, using IAM groups, and following the principle of least privilege, to maintain a secure and well-managed infrastructure.

AWS IAM is a powerful tool that, when used correctly, provides the flexibility and security necessary to manage access to AWS resources effectively. Whether you are a small startup or a large enterprise, proper IAM management is essential for protecting your cloud environment and ensuring smooth operations.

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