govc is a vSphere CLI built on top of govmomi.

The CLI is designed to be a user friendly CLI alternative to the GUI and well suited for automation tasks. It also acts as a test harness for the govmomi APIs and provides working examples of how to use the APIs.


You can find prebuilt govc binaries on the releases page.

Download and install a binary locally like this:

% curl -L $URL_TO_BINARY | gunzip > /usr/local/bin/govc
% chmod +x /usr/local/bin/govc

To build govc from source, first install the Go toolchain.

Make sure to set the environment variable GOPATH.

You can then install the latest govc from github using:

% go get -u

Make sure $GOPATH/bin is in your PATH to use the version installed from source.

If you've made local modifications to the repository at $GOPATH/src/, you can install using:

% go install


For the complete list of commands and flags, refer to the USAGE document.

Common flags include:

  • -u: ESXi or vCenter URL (ex: user:pass@host)
  • -debug: Trace requests and responses (to ~/.govmomi/debug)

Managed entities can be referred to by their absolute path or by their relative path. For example, when specifying a datastore to use for a subcommand, you can either specify it as /mydatacenter/datastore/mydatastore, or as mydatastore. If you're not sure about the name of the datastore, or even the full path to the datastore, you can specify a pattern to match. Both /*center/*/my* (absolute) and my*store (relative) will resolve to the same datastore, given there are no other datastores that match those globs.

The relative path in this example can only be used if the command can umambigously resolve a datacenter to use as origin for the query. If no datacenter is specified, govc defaults to the only datacenter, if there is only one. The datacenter itself can be specified as a pattern as well, enabling the following arguments: -dc='my*' -ds='*store'. The datastore pattern is looked up and matched relative to the datacenter which itself is specified as a pattern.

Besides specifying managed entities as arguments, they can also be specified using environment variables. The following environment variables are used by govc to set defaults:

  • GOVC_URL: URL of ESXi or vCenter instance to connect to.

    The URL scheme defaults to https and the URL path defaults to /sdk. This means that specifying user:pass@host is equivalent to https://user:pass@host/sdk.

    If username or password includes special characters like \, # or : you can use GOVC_USERNAME and GOVC_PASSWORD to have a simple GOVC_URL

    When using govc against VMware Workstation, GOVC_URL can be set to "localhost" without a user or pass, in which case local ticket based authentication is used.

  • GOVC_USERNAME: USERNAME to use if not specified in GOVC_URL.

  • GOVC_PASSWORD: PASSWORD to use if not specified in GOVC_URL.

  • GOVC_TLS_CA_CERTS: Override system root certificate authorities.

    $ export GOVC_TLS_CA_CERTS=~/.govc_ca.crt
    # Use path separator to specify multiple files:
    $ export GOVC_TLS_CA_CERTS=~/ca-certificates/bar.crt:~/ca-certificates/foo.crt
  • GOVC_TLS_KNOWN_HOSTS: File(s) for thumbprint based certificate verification.

    Thumbprint based verification can be used in addition to or as an alternative to GOVC_TLS_CA_CERTS for self-signed certificates. Example:

    $ export GOVC_TLS_KNOWN_HOSTS=~/.govc_known_hosts
    $ govc about.cert -u host -k -thumbprint | tee -a $GOVC_TLS_KNOWN_HOSTS
    $ govc about -u user:pass@host
  • GOVC_TLS_HANDSHAKE_TIMEOUT: Limits the time spent performing the TLS handshake.

  • GOVC_INSECURE: Disable certificate verification.

    This option sets Go's tls.Config.InsecureSkipVerify flag and is false by default. Quoting

    InsecureSkipVerify controls whether a client verifies the server's certificate chain and host name.

    If InsecureSkipVerify is true, TLS accepts any certificate presented by the server and any host name in that certificate.

    In this mode, TLS is susceptible to man-in-the-middle attacks. This should be used only for testing.






  • GOVC_GUEST_LOGIN: Guest credentials for guest operations

  • GOVC_VIM_NAMESPACE: Vim namespace defaults to urn:vim25

  • GOVC_VIM_VERSION: Vim version defaults to 6.0


Debug Flag

There is a -debug flag which you can use to debug the calls made to the vSphere API and there are some environment variables you can use to configure how it works. If you turn on the -debug flag the default behavior is to put the output in ~/.govmomi/debug/<run timestamp>. In that directory will be four (4) files per API call.

1-0001.req.headers #headers from the request sent to the API
1-0001.req.xml #body content from request sent to the API
1-0001.res.headers #headers from the response from the API
1-0001.res.xml #body from the respnse from the API

In that filename the 0001 represents the an incremented call order and will increment for each time the SOAP client makes an API call.

To configure the debug output you can use two environment variables.

  • GOVC_DEBUG_PATH: defaults to ~/.govmomi/debug
  • GOVC_DEBUG_PATH_RUN: defaults to timestamp of the run
stdout debug

If you prefer debug output to be sent to stdout and seen while the command is running you can override the file behavior by setting the debug path to a dash: export GOVC_DEBUG_PATH=-

Environment variables

If you're using environment variables to set GOVC_URL, verify the values are set as expected:

% govc env
Connection issues

Check your proxy settings:

% env | grep -i https_proxy

Test connection using curl:

% curl --verbose -k -X POST https://x.x.x.x/sdk
MSYS2 (Windows)

Inventory path arguments with a leading '/' are subject to Posix path conversion.


When connecting to a non-TLS endpoint, Go's http.Client will not send Secure cookies, resulting in a NotAuthenticated error. For example, running govc directly against the vCenter vpxd endpoint at Set the environment variable GOVMOMI_INSECURE_COOKIES=true to workaround this:

% GOVMOMI_INSECURE_COOKIES=true govc ls -u http://user:pass@


Several examples are embedded in the govc command help


Changes to the cli are subject to semantic versioning.

Refer to the CHANGELOG for version to version changes.

When new govc commands or flags are added, the PATCH version will be incremented. This enables you to require a minimum version from within a script, for example:

% govc version -require 0.14

Projects using govc


govc is available under the Apache 2 license.


Pronounced "go-v-c", short for "Go(lang) vCenter CLI".


The Go Gopher

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Source Files