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Quickstart for users

This guide aims to quickly enable new users to get up and running on ARCHER2. It covers the process of getting an ARCHER2 account, logging in and running your first job.

Request an account on ARCHER2


To access ARCHER2, you need to use two sets of credentials: your SSH key pair protected by a passphrase and a Time-based one-time password (TOTP). Additionally, the first time you ever log into an account on ARCHER2, you will need to use a single use password you retrieve from SAFE.

Obtain an account on the SAFE website


We have seen issues with Gmail blocking emails from SAFE so we recommend that users use their institutional/work email address rather than Gmail addresses to register for SAFE accounts.

The first step is to sign up for an account on the ARCHER2 SAFE website. The SAFE account is used to manage all of your login accounts, allowing you to report on your usage and quotas. To do this:

  1. Go to the SAFE New User Signup Form
  2. Fill in your personal details. You can come back later and change them if you wish
  3. Click Submit

You are now registered. Your SAFE password will be emailed to the email address you provided. You can then login with that email address and password. (You can change your initial SAFE password whenever you want by selecting the Change SAFE password option from the Your details menu.)

Request an ARCHER2 login account

Once you have a SAFE account and an SSH key you will need to request a user account on ARCHER2 itself. To do this you will require a Project Code; you usually obtain this from the Principle Investigator (PI) or project manager for the project you will be working on. Once you have the Project Code:

  1. Log into SAFE
  2. Use the Login accounts - Request new account menu item
  3. Select the correct project from the drop down list
  4. Select the archer2 machine in the list of available machines
  5. Click Next
  6. Enter a username for the account and the public part of an SSH key pair
    1. More information on generating SSH key pair can be found in the ARCHER2 User and Best Practice Guide
    2. You can add additional SSH keys using the process described below if you so wish.
  7. Click Request

The PI or project manager of the project will be asked to approve your request. After your request has been approved the account will be created and when this has been done you will receive an email. You can then come back to SAFE and pick up the initial single-use password for your new account.


ARCHER2 account passwords are also sometimes referred to as LDAP passwords by the system.

Generating and adding an SSH key pair

How you generate your SSH key pair depends on which operating system you use and which SSH client you use to connect to ARCHER2. We will not cover the details on generating an SSH key pair here, but detailed information on this topic is available in the ARCHER2 User and Best Practice Guide.

After generating your SSH key pair, add the public part to your login account using SAFE:

  1. Log into SAFE
  2. Use the menu Login accounts and select the ARCHER2 account to be associated with the SSH key
  3. On the subsequent Login account details page, click the Add Credential button
  4. Select SSH public key as the Credential Type and click Next
  5. Either copy and paste the public part of your SSH key into the SSH Public key box or use the button to select the public key file on your computer
  6. Click Add to associate the public SSH key part with your account

Once you have done this, your SSH key will be added to your ARCHER2 account.

Remember, you will need to use both an SSH key and password to log into ARCHER2 so you will also need to collect your initial password before you can log into ARCHER2 for the first time. We cover this next.


If you want to connect to ARCHER2 from more than one machine, e.g. from your home laptop as well as your work laptop, you should generate an ssh key on each machine, and add each of the public keys into SAFE.

Login to ARCHER2

To log into ARCHER2 you should use the address:

ssh [userID]

The order in which you are asked for credentials depends on the system you are accessing:

You will first be prompted for the passphrase associated with your SSH key pair. Once you have entered this passphrase successfully, you will then be prompted for your machine account password. You need to enter both credentials correctly to be able to access ARCHER2.


If you previously logged into the ARCHER2 system before the major upgrade in May/June 2023 with your account you may see an error from SSH that looks like

The ECDSA host key for has changed,
and the key for the corresponding IP address
has a different value. This could either mean that
DNS SPOOFING is happening or the IP address for the host
and its host key have changed at the same time.
Offending key for IP in /Users/auser/.ssh/known_hosts:11
Someone could be eavesdropping on you right now (man-in-the-middle attack)!
It is also possible that a host key has just been changed.
The fingerprint for the ECDSA key sent by the remote host is
Please contact your system administrator.

If you see this, you should delete the offending host key from your ~/.ssh/known_hosts file (in the example above the offending line is line #11)


If your SSH key pair is not stored in the default location (usually ~/.ssh/id_rsa) on your local system, you may need to specify the path to the private part of the key wih the -i option to ssh. For example, if your key is in a file called keys/id_rsa_archer2 you would use the command ssh -i keys/id_rsa_archer2 to log in.

MFA Time-based one-time password

Remember, you will need to use both an SSH key and Time-based one-time password to log into ARCHER2 so you will also need to set up your TOTP before you can log into ARCHER2.


When you first log into ARCHER2, you will be prompted to change your initial password. This is a three step process:

  1. When promoted to enter your ldap password: Enter the password which you retrieve from SAFE
  2. When prompted to enter your new password: type in a new password
  3. When prompted to re-enter the new password: re-enter the new password

Your password has now been changed
You will not use your password when logging on to ARCHER2 after the initial logon.


More information on connecting to ARCHER2 is available in the Connecting to ARCHER2 section of the User Guide.

File systems and manipulating data

ARCHER2 has a number of different file systems and understanding the difference between them is crucial to being able to use the system. In particular, transferring and moving data often requires a bit of thought in advance to ensure that the data is secure and in a useful form.

ARCHER2 file systems are:

  • home file systems: backed up. Available on login and data analysis nodes.
  • work file systems: not backed-up. Available on login, data analysis and compute nodes.

All users have a directory on one of the home file systems and on one of the work file systems. The directories are located at:

  • /home/[project ID]/[project ID]/[user ID] (this is also set as your home directory)
  • /work/[project ID]/[project ID]/[user ID]

Top tips for managing data on ARCHER2:

  • Do not generate huge numbers of files (>1000) in a single directory.
  • Poor performance relating to file transfer is often due to the number of files involved in the transfer - minimise the number of files that you have to transfer by using archiving tools to improve performance.
  • Archive directories or large numbers of files before moving them between file systems (e.g. by using commands like tar or zip).
  • When using tar or rsync between file systems mounted on ARCHER2 avoid the use of compression options as these can slow performance (time saved by transferring smaller compressed files is usually less than the overhead added by having to compress files on the fly).
  • Think about automating the merging and transfer of multiple files output by software on ARCHER2 to other resources. The Data Management Guide linked below provides examples of how to automatically verify the integrity of an archive.


Information on the file systems and best practice in managing you data is available in the Data management and transfer section of the User and Best Practice Guide.

Accessing software

Software on ARCHER2 is principally accessed through modules. These load and unload the desired applications, compilers, tools and libraries through the module command and its subcommands. Some modules will be loaded by default on login, providing a default working environment; many more will be available for use but initially unloaded, allowing you to set up the environment to suit your needs.

At any stage you can check which modules have been loaded by running

module list

Running the following command will display all environment modules available on ARCHER2, whether loaded or unloaded

module avail

The search field for this command may be narrowed by providing the first few characters of the module name being queried. For example, all available versions and variants of VASP may be found by running

module avail vasp

You will see that different versions are available for many modules. For example, vasp/5/5.4.4.pl2 and vasp/6/6.3.2 are two available versions of VASP on the full system. Furthermore, a default version may be specified; this is used if no version is provided by the user.


VASP is licensed software, as are other software packages on ARCHER2. You must have a valid licence to use licensed software on ARCHER2. Often you will need to request access through the SAFE. More on this below.

The module load command loads a module for use. Following the above,

module load vasp/6

would load the default version of VASP 6, while

module load vasp/6/6.3.2

would specifically load version 6.3.2. A loaded module may be unloaded through the identical module remove command, e.g.

module unload vasp

The above unloads whichever version of VASP is currently in the environment. Rather than issuing separate unload and load commands, versions of a module may be swapped as follows:

module swap vasp vasp/5/5.4.4.pl2

Other helpful commands are:

  • module help <modulename> which provides a short description of the module
  • module show <modulename> which displays the contents of the modulefile
  • module restore which returns you to the default module setup as if you had just logged in


You should not use the module purge command on ARCHER2 as this will cause issues for the HPE Cray programming environment. If you wish to reset your modules, you should use the module restore command instead.

Points to be aware of include:

  • Some modules will conflict with others. A simple example would be the conflict arising when trying to load a different version of an already loaded module. When a conflict occurs, the loading process will fail and an error message will be displayed. Examination of the message and the module output (via module show) should reveal the cause of the conflict and how to resolve it.
  • The order in which modules are loaded can matter. Consider two modules which set the same variable to a different value. The final value would be that set by the module which loaded last. If you suspect that two modules may be interfering with one another, you can examine their contents with module show.

More information on modules and the software environment on ARCHER2 can be found in the Software environment section of the User and Best Practice Guide.

Requesting access to licensed software

Some of the software installed on ARCHER2 requires a user to have a valid licence agreed with the software owners/developers to be able to use it (for example, VASP). Although you will be able to load this software on ARCHER2, you will be barred from actually using it until your licence has been verified.

You request access to licensed software through the SAFE (the web administration tool you used to apply for your account and retrieve your initial password) by being added to the appropriate Package Group. To request access to licensed software:

  1. Log in to SAFE
  2. Go to the Menu Login accounts and select the login account which requires access to the software
  3. Click New Package Group Request
  4. Select the software from the list of available packages and click Select Package Group
  5. Fill in as much information as possible about your license; at the very least provide the information requested at the top of the screen such as the licence holder's name and contact details. If you are covered by the license because the licence holder is your supervisor, for example, please state this.
  6. Click Submit

Your request will then be processed by the ARCHER2 Service Desk who will confirm your license with the software owners/developers before enabling your access to the software on ARCHER2. This can take several days (depending on how quickly the software owners/developers take to respond) but you will be advised once this has been done.

Create a job submission script

To run a program on the ARCHER2 compute nodes you need to write a job submission script that tells the system how many compute nodes you want to reserve and for how long. You also need to use the srun command to launch your parallel executable.


For a more details on the Slurm scheduler on ARCHER2 and writing job submission scripts see the Running jobs on ARCHER2 section of the User and Best Practice Guide.


Parallel jobs on ARCHER2 should be run from the work file systems as the home file systems are not available on the compute nodes - you will see a chdir or file not found error if you try to access data on the home file system within a parallel job running on the compute nodes.

Create a job submission script called submit.slurm in your space on the work file systems using your favourite text editor. For example, using vim:

auser@ln01:~> cd /work/t01/t01/auser
auser@ln01:/work/t01/t01/auser> vim submit.slurm


You will need to use your project code and username to get to the correct directory. i.e. replace the t01 above with your project code and replace the username auser with your ARCHER2 username.

Paste the following text into your job submission script, replacing ENTER_YOUR_BUDGET_CODE_HERE with your budget code e.g. e99-ham, ENTER_PARTITION_HERE with the partition you wish to run on (e.g standard), and ENTER_QOS_HERE with the quality of service you want (e.g. standard).

#!/bin/bash --login

#SBATCH --job-name=test_job
#SBATCH --nodes=1
#SBATCH --ntasks-per-node=128
#SBATCH --cpus-per-task=1
#SBATCH --time=0:5:0

# Replace [budget code] below with your project code (e.g. t01)
#SBATCH --account=[budget code]
#SBATCH --partition=standard
#SBATCH --qos=standard

# Load the xthi module to get access to the xthi program
module load xthi

# Recommended environment settings
# Stop unintentional multi-threading within software libraries
# Ensure the cpus-per-task option is propagated to srun commands

# srun launches the parallel program based on the SBATCH options
srun --distribution=block:block --hint=nomultithread xthi_mpi

Submit your job to the queue

You submit your job to the queues using the sbatch command:

auser@ln01:/work/t01/t01/auser> sbatch submit.slurm
Submitted batch job 23996

The value returned is your *Job ID*.

Monitoring your job

You use the squeue command to examine jobs in the queue. To list all the jobs you have in the queue, use:

auser@ln01:/work/t01/t01/auser> squeue -u $USER

squeue on its own lists all jobs in the queue from all users.

Checking the output from the job

The job submission script above should write the output to a file called slurm-<jobID>.out (i.e. if the Job ID was 23996, the file would be slurm-23996.out), you can check the contents of this file with the cat command. If the job was successful you should see output that looks something like:

auser@ln01:/work/t01/t01/auser> cat slurm-23996.out
Node    0, hostname nid001020
Node    0, rank    0, thread   0, (affinity =    0)
Node    0, rank    1, thread   0, (affinity =    1)
Node    0, rank    2, thread   0, (affinity =    2)
Node    0, rank    3, thread   0, (affinity =    3)
Node    0, rank    4, thread   0, (affinity =    4)
Node    0, rank    5, thread   0, (affinity =    5)
Node    0, rank    6, thread   0, (affinity =    6)
Node    0, rank    7, thread   0, (affinity =    7)
Node    0, rank    8, thread   0, (affinity =    8)
Node    0, rank    9, thread   0, (affinity =    9)
Node    0, rank   10, thread   0, (affinity =   10)
Node    0, rank   11, thread   0, (affinity =   11)
Node    0, rank   12, thread   0, (affinity =   12)
Node    0, rank   13, thread   0, (affinity =   13)
Node    0, rank   14, thread   0, (affinity =   14)
Node    0, rank   15, thread   0, (affinity =   15)
Node    0, rank   16, thread   0, (affinity =   16)
Node    0, rank   17, thread   0, (affinity =   17)
Node    0, rank   18, thread   0, (affinity =   18)
Node    0, rank   19, thread   0, (affinity =   19)
Node    0, rank   20, thread   0, (affinity =   20)
Node    0, rank   21, thread   0, (affinity =   21)
... output trimmed ...

If something has gone wrong, you will find any error messages in the file instead of the expected output.

Acknowledging ARCHER2

You should use the following phrase to acknowledge ARCHER2 for all research outputs that were generated using the ARCHER2 service:

This work used the ARCHER2 UK National Supercomputing Service (

You should also tag outputs with the keyword "ARCHER2" whenever possible.

If you plan to compile your own programs on ARCHER2, you may also want to look at Quickstart for developers.

Other documentation you may find useful: