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This section describes the various methods of installing ColdFront. New releases of ColdFront may introduce breaking changes. Please refer to the upgrading section and changelog for more information.


ColdFront releases can be downloaded from PyPI or on GitHub here.


ColdFront requires Python 3.6.

Installation Methods

The recommended way of installing ColdFront is via pip inside a virtual environment:

$ python3 -mvenv venv
$ source venv/bin/activate
$ pip install --upgrade pip
$ pip install coldfront
We recommend you install ColdFront in a test environment first; however, if you want to jump right to instructions for installing and deploying in a production environment, go here

Install via source distribution

We recommend installing via pip, but if you prefer to install via a source distribution you can download ColdFront releases via PyPI or GitHub. We also recommend installing this in a virtual environment.

$ tar xvzf coldfront-x.x.x.tar.gz
$ cd coldfront-x.x.x
$ pip install .

Developing ColdFront

If you're interested in hacking on the ColdFront source code you can install by cloning our GitHub repo and install via pip development mode. Note the master branch is the bleeding edge version and may be unstable. You can also checkout one of the tagged releases.

$ python3 -mvenv venv
$ source venv/bin/activate
$ pip install --upgrade pip
$ git clone
$ cd coldfront
$ pip install -e .


Checkout a tagged release by running:

git tag -l
git checkout v1.x.x

Configuring ColdFront

For complete documentation on configuring ColdFront see here. ColdFront can be configured via environment variables, an environment file, or a python file which can be used for more advanced configuration settings. ColdFront requires a database and if you don't configure one it will use SQLite by default.

Initializing the ColdFront database

ColdFront supports MariaDB/MySQL, PostgreSQL, and SQLite. See the complete guide on configuring ColdFront for more details. By default, ColdFront will use SQLite and create a database file in your current working directory.

After configuring your database of choice you must first initialize the ColdFront database. This should only be done once:

$ coldfront initial_setup
Running migrations:
  Applying contenttypes.0001_initial... OK
  Applying auth.0001_initial... OK

After the above command completes the ColdFront database is ready for use.

Creating the super user account

Run the command below to create a new super user account:

$ coldfront createsuperuser

Running ColdFront server

ColdFront is a Django application and comes with a simple web server to get started quickly. This is good for evaluating ColdFront and testing/demo purposes. Run the following command to start the development web server:

$ DEBUG=True coldfront runserver

Point your browser to http://localhost:8000 and login with the super user account you created.


Do not run this in production. For more information on deploying ColdFront in production see here.

Loading the sample test data

If you're interested in evaluating ColdFront we provide an easy way to load some test data so you can get a feel for how ColdFront works. Run this command to load the test data set:

$ coldfront load_test_data
  • You can log in as admin with password test1234.
  • You can log in as a PI using username cgray with password test1234.
  • You can log in as center director using username csimmons with password test1234.
  • Password for all users is also test1234.


Do not run with this data loaded in production environment. The default user accounts are created with weak passwords and should only be used for testing purposes. If you do decide to use the test data, delete the user accounts created at minimum.