Salt install, config, and start#

Salt Project repository configuration#

Salt Project provides a public repository for packages at the Salt Project Package Repo.

The preferred method for installing Salt is via distribution packages, which ensures that all dependencies are met and that Salt is installed in a tested and distribution-aligned way. Salt is often distributed in split packages, but only salt-master and salt-minion are required for Salt to function.


The following examples only cover Debian and Redhat platforms. Instructions for other platforms can be found at the Salt Project Package Repo.

RedHat installation#

Operating systems in the RedHat family install via yum.

  1. Add the Salt repository:

    sudo rpm --import
    curl -fsSL | sudo tee /etc/yum.repos.d/salt.repo
  2. Refresh or expire your local package cache, if necessary:

    sudo yum clean expire-cache
  3. Install packages:

    sudo yum install salt-master
    sudo yum install salt-minion

Debian installation#

Operating systems in the Debian family install via apt.

  1. Add the Salt repository:

    # Download key
    sudo curl -fsSL -o /usr/share/keyrings/salt-archive-keyring.gpg
    # Create apt sources list file
    echo "deb [signed-by=/usr/share/keyrings/salt-archive-keyring.gpg] focal main" | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/salt.list
  2. Install packages:

    sudo apt install salt-master
    sudo apt install salt-minion

Platform-agnostic installation#

Salt can be installed in an platform-agnostic way via the Python package installer pip from Pip can also install other packages that will complement your Salt code.

  1. Install package:

    pip install salt

A benefit of using pip is the ability to install Salt in Python virtual environments and Conda environments.

Salt Bootstrap installation#

The Salt Bootstrap project maintains a shell script that installs Salt on any Linux/Unix platform. The script installs system packages and enables Salt services automatically.

The bootstrap script can be used to install specific services:

# Download the install script
curl -o -L

# Install minion service (default)

# Install both the Salt master and minion
./ -M

# Install just the Salt master service
./ -M -N

# Perform a pip-based installation
./ -P

# Download and run
curl -L | sudo sh -s --

# Download and install a specific git branch/version
curl -L | sudo sh -s -- git develop

Salt network ports#

The Salt master/minion model only requires inbound connections into the Salt master. Connections are established from the minion and never from the master.

salt-master offers two services to the minions:

  • 4505 - Event Publisher/Subscriber port (publish jobs/events)
    • Constant inquiring connection
  • 4506 - Data payloads and minion returns (file services/return data)
    • Connects only to deliver data
Minion subscription publication


Minions do not have to have a master to be managed. A salt-minion can execute commands locally with salt-call --local [module.function].

Basic master configuration#

  • The salt-master comes with default server configurations.
  • The default master YAML configuration at /etc/salt/master contains all the commented settings.
  • Custom settings are added in YAML to /etc/salt/master.d/ as .conf files on the master.
  • The default master file should be used for referencing settings as needed.

Salt master network settings#

By default, the master binds to all available network interfaces, then listens on ports 4505 and 4506.

This example overrides the default settings:

# The network interface to bind to

# The Request/Reply port
ret_port: 4506

# The port minions bind to for commands, aka the publish port
publish_port: 4505

Salt master process management#

If your cluster has thousands of minions, and your minion reports are stalling, the master might be timing out the job’s minion responses. This may mean that the minions failed their job, but it could instead mean that the master doesn’t have enough worker threads to process all the reports.

To manage the salt-minion return calls, the master threads out worker processes with the worker_threads setting. The default limit for the processes is five workers. The minimum limit is three workers.

Example setting in a master configuration file:

worker_threads: 5

Standards for busy environments:

  • Use one worker thread per 200 minions
  • The value of worker_threads should not exceed 1½ times the available CPU cores

Basic minion configuration#

  • The salt-minion comes default with a DNS/hostname configuration setup.
  • The default minion YAML configuration at /etc/salt/minion contains all the commented settings.
  • Custom settings are added in YAML to /etc/salt/minion.d/ as .conf files on the minion.
  • The default minion file should be used for referencing settings as needed.

Connecting to the Salt master#

By default, the minions assume that the Salt master can be resolved in DNS via the hostname salt.

An example that overrides the hostname default setting:


Declaring the minion ID#

The salt-minion will identify itself to the master by the system’s hostname unless explicitly set:

id: rebel_1

Salt key exchange#

For security, Salt uses key-based authentication.

Two types of keys are used in Salt:

  • RSA
  • AES

Salt keys#

The RSA keys are the backbone to the authentication and encryption model used by Salt. All Salt daemons run with unique RSA keys. The minions and master generate RSA keys when they start for the first time, and then use them for PKI-based authentication.

These keys are used to authenticate the AES key to the Salt master, providing secure communication by encrypting data. Each minion presents a public key to the Salt master. The key is then examined, compared, and explicitly accepted by an administrator.

The master also sends a rotating AES key that is used to encrypt and decrypt messages sent by the Salt master. The returned AES key is encrypted using the public key initially sent by the Salt minion, and can therefore be decrypted only by the same Salt minion.

Salt PKI model


Salt minions do not receive data from the Salt master until the key is accepted.

Managing keys#

The salt-key command is used to interface with the authentication system to accept, reject, and otherwise manage keys.

Accepting keys#

When a new minion checks in, the key will wait in Unaccepted keys until it is accepted.

Call salt-key to see the current state of key management:


Example response:

Unaccepted Keys:
Accepted Keys:

In this example, to accept keys, run:

salt-key -a db1

If there are multiple keys to accept and are trusted, you can accept all at once:

salt-key -A


A master that is open to the internet is considered a security vulnerability.

Deleting keys#

Keys can also be deleted singularly or in bulk. Because this is a permanent action, running the command will give a [n/Y] prompt for confirmation.

Deleting a single key:

salt-key -d web1

Example response:

The following accepted key is set to be removed:

Deleting all keys:

salt-key -D

Example response:

The following keys are going to be deleted:

Deleting keys via a filter:

salt-key -d 'web*'

Example response:

The following keys are going to be deleted:

Starting Salt services#

Using systemctl is the main way to start Salt processes. Calling the process directly will show the active logs in the foreground.

Start with systemctl#

When starting salt-master and salt-minion, using systemctl is recommended.

systemctl start salt-master
systemctl start salt-minion

systemctl is also useful for preliminary debugging and process start/stop confirmation:

systemctl [start|status|stop] [salt-master|salt-minion]

Starting in the foreground#

The salt-master and salt-minion daemons can show their logs in the terminal by calling their processes directly:


Verifying a Salt installation#

After a successful installation of Salt:

  1. With systemctl, check that the Salt master is running and logs no errors:

    systemctl status salt-master

    Example response:

    salt-master.service - The Salt Master Server
        Loaded: loaded (/lib/systemd/system/salt-master.service; enabled; vendor preset: enabled)
        Active: active (running) since Tue 2020-02-04 16:34:55 CST; 17h ago
          Docs: man:salt-master(1)
      Main PID: 8727 (salt-master)
         Tasks: 32 (limit: 4915)
        CGroup: /system.slice/salt-master.service
                ├─8727 /usr/bin/python2 /usr/bin/salt-master
    Feb 04 16:34:55 VM systemd[1]: Starting The Salt Master Server...
  2. Check cluster connection and version:

    salt '*' test.version

    Example response: