SaltStack Cheat Sheet


Welcome to my little SaltStack cheat sheet (for search engines Salt cheat sheet :>).

This little page is based on my own experience using Salt as a remote command execution tool only, so you won’t find any hints regarding Salt States, Reactors, Events, Salt Cloud or other components here.

What is Salt?

SaltStack or Salt is a really awesome collection of tools which help you manage your IT infrastructure. It is able to let you do parallel sys admin stuff on all your nodes (e.g. “manage a large server farm”), it provides Salt States for configuration management and it provides many other features which could and should be used to make life easier.
It is written in Python and uses the ZeroMQ message bus for communication.
In a classic and easy setup, a Salt Master [which is installed on a failover-safe system] sends commands to Salt Minions which have a set of modules in order to carry out the requested actions.

I need mooaaahhhrrrrr

If you need more information on SaltStack and how to use it, I recommend to read the official documentation (which is currently available in English only):

Important hint on my little cheat sheet

All commands listed below shall be used as the root user or by prepending “sudo”.


Useful Salt commands


Listing all Salt key registration requests

salt-key -L

Accepting all Salt key requests:

salt-key -A

Accepting a single Salt key request, where minion_id is the name of the Minion:

salt-key -a minion_id

Removing the key of a Salt Minion, where minion_id is the name of the Minion:

salt-key -d minion_id

Overview of connected Salt Minions

Query Salt in order to find out what Minions are online, offline or maybe even show both 🙂

salt-run manage.up # Shows what Minions are up
salt-run manage.down # Shows what Minions are down or not connected
salt-run manage.status # Shows both online and offline Minions

Reach out to all Minions and request a life sign (aka “ping all Salt Minions”). Please note that not a real ping is sent to the Minions; instead, a function is called which simply returns true.

salt "*"

Targetting Salt Minions

Simply target all Salt Minions (hint: use the “*”):

salt "*" some_module

Target Minions based on their Minion ID (mostly this is the hostname or FQDN):

 salt "web*" some_module

Target Minions based on their characteristics (based on Salt Grains which are invoked via “-G”), e.g. on the name of the OS release:

 salt -G "oscodename:wheezy" some_module

Daily sysadmin stuff

List available package updates for all Minions

salt "*" pkg.list_upgrades

Show the installed version of a specific package on all Salt Minions:

salt "*" pkg.version "openssh-server"

Install a package on all Salt Minions. If the package is already installed, it will be updated:

salt "web*" pkg.install dstat

Check if a specific application/process is running on the Salt minions:

salt "*" ps.grep apache

Gather/collect/pull files from Salt minions and upload them to the master:

salt "web*" cp.push /var/log/dpkg.log

Check if a file on the Salt minions contains a certain string (search file on minions):

salt "*" file.contains /etc/hosts.allow "yber"

Check if a file on the Salt minions contains a certain regex (search file on minions):

salt "*" file.contains_regex /etc/resolv.conf "timeout.4"

Push or upload or copy a file from the Salt master to the Salt minions:

salt-cp "*" /target-dir/


Job management in Salt

As you might know, a command you run via Salt “(e.g. salt “*””) is called a job. In order to list all jobs your master ever handled, simply type in:

salt-run jobs.list_jobs

Awesome other command examples

Running shell commands with Salt:

salt "*" "ls -lah /home/"

Another example for running a shell command via Salt would be installing a package via apt-get install. This is a bad example, though, since Salt contains a package handling module:

salt "web*" "apt-get install --reinstall --yes dstat"

Hints for the Salt master configuration

As a default, the Salt master returns only the data from the minions which could be reached. But if you want to see what Salt minions did not reply, you need to add “–show-timeout” to every Salt call. However, there is a method of making this option a default: Simply add the following string to the Salt master config file:

show_timeout: True

Furthermore, if you would like to allow the Minions being able to transfer files to the master, make sure to add this config var to the master config file:

file_recv: True

Afterwards simply reload/restart the Salt master.
Please note that “file_recv” maybe a security risk for your infrastructure.


Hints for your IT environment

Update management with SaltStack on Debian, Ubuntu and any other Linux distro

As you might know, CentOS, Red Hat, Fedora, Suse and some other rpm-based distros have a very good tool for package update management which is called Spacewalk (or their direct relatives Red Hat Satellite and Suse Manager). But if you are looking for a package manager / package update solution for Ubuntu, Debian or any other deb-based distribution, you either have to patch Spacewalk or write your own… (to be continued as soon as I have time).

Other SaltStack cheat sheets

So far I only found another SaltStack cheat sheet on GitHub.