In this article, we will explain how to sign up for an AWS free tier account and walk through the following:
- Using the AWS console to sign up for an account
- An overview of services in a free account
- Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
- The AWS pricing model
- Launching a free EC2 instance
A fear many people have about using AWS is the cost. But there is good news. With careful use, AWS can be completely free. Even with the paid features, if you use only a small amount of its resources, it can cost as little as a few dollars a month. We will dive deeper into the different plans and pricing later on in this article.
Let’s get started by first creating a free account.
Creating An AWS Account
- Let’s start by first visiting the AWS homepage and selecting “Create an AWS Account.”
- You will be prompted for an email address, and a name for your account, which you can change later. This email address will be the “Root User email address.” This means it can be used for account recovery and administrative functions. You can think of it as similar to the admin account on your desktop or laptop at home.
- Next, select “Verify email address.” You will need to enter a verification code sent to your email address, then select “Verify”. Then, create your password and select “Continue.”
Note: You can click on the images in this tutorial to view them at a larger size.
Selecting Account Type
Now we need to select the account type.
- If you are using this for business purposes, select “professional.” If you are just using this for learning purposes, select “personal.” For the purposes of this article, we will be using personal.
- After this, you must enter a phone number that can be used for validation, a country or region, and your address.
- Finally, select “check here” to indicate that you have read and agreed to the terms of the AWS customer agreement and then, “Continue.”
Payment, Billing, and Identity
The next step is payment information.
- We need to provide a credit or debit card in order to set up the account. However, we will not be charged for usage below the AWS Free-Tier limits. So, be careful to use only options listed as free-tier. We will go over these later.
- Once you have entered your card information, select “Verify and Continue.”
- The next step is to confirm your identity using a verification code. You can use a text message or receive a voice call to receive the code — whichever is best for you.
- Enter that code into the captcha text box. Then, select “Verify Code.” Once you’ve been verified, select “Continue.”
Selecting a Plan
On the next page, you can select a support plan for your business or personal account. There are five support plans available:
- Enterprise On-Ramp
For the purposes of this article, we will be choosing the free plan (Basic). You can learn more about the different plans and features available by navigating to the Compare Support Plans page.
Once you choose a plan, select “Complete sign up” to finish.
Amazing! You just finished setting up your AWS basic account.
You should see a message from AWS that says your account is being activated, after which you will get an email once it’s complete.
Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
Now that we successfully created our account, let’s set up Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA).
Multi-Factor Authentication is a simple but beneficial method that provides an additional layer of protection on top of your username and password.
With MFA enabled, when logged in to the AWS Console, you will be prompted for your username and password (the first factor is what you know), and for an authentication code from your AWS MFA device (the second factor is what you have).
Together, these two factors boost security for your AWS account settings and resources. You can enable MFA for your AWS account and for individual IAM users you have under your account. MFA can also be used to control access to AWS service APIs. AWS does not charge any additional fees for using MFA.
Setting Up Multi-Factor Authentication
Let’s set up MFA for your new account.
- From the management console page, navigate to the dropdown menu in the header where your account name is, and choose “Security credentials.”
- Select “Multi-factor authentication (MFA)”, then “Activate MFA.”
- For the purposes of this tutorial, we’ll choose “Virtual MFA device” from the list of options, and select “Continue.” However, you can choose another option if it suits you better.
- Now, choose your preferred supported authenticator application. If you don’t have one yet, you’ll first need to download and set up an account for one.
- Open your authenticator app, and add a new app.
- Select “Scan a QR code” and scan the QR code on your screen.
- In AWS, enter the two consecutive MFA codes into the fields available. If all steps were done correctly, you should get a message that says you successfully assigned virtual MFA.
Nice work! Your multi-factor authentication setup is complete.
The AWS Pricing Calculator
We have our account set up and we’re about to launch a cloud instance, but how can we be sure this won’t burn through our bank accounts? This is where the AWS Pricing Calculator comes in.
The AWS Pricing Calculator is a tool that allows us to go over AWS services and make an estimate for the cost of how we use them on AWS. We can use it to model our solutions before we actually build them, explore price options, and find the instance types and resources we need.
This tool is especially useful if you have never used AWS, or if you just want to organize or expand your AWS usage. You don’t need any prior experience to use it, and it’s completely free to use.
Using the AWS Pricing Calculator
In this section, we will use the AWS Pricing Calculator to generate an estimate for one of our AWS services. The service we will use is our EC2 instance. EC2 instances can be used to perform tasks like running a program or hosting a site. Let’s get started!
- Open the calculator by going to AWS Pricing Calculator. Then, select “Create Estimate.”
- On the Select Service page, search for “Amazon EC2”. Once we find it in the search results, let’s select “Configure.”
- Enter a Description for the estimated service. Then, select a Region. (You can select the same region you chose when you created your account).
- Select “Quick estimate.” Finally, select “Add to my estimate.”
Nice! Now we can see our estimate. The Estimate summary shows our upfront cost, monthly cost, and total 12-month cost. Also, we have the option to add a service, support, or group to our estimate. We can also clear our estimate, export it, or share it. Our services are also listed.
Our AWS account is complete. Now we can select “Go to the AWS Management Console” which will take us to a dashboard where we can use our first service to set up a simple virtual server — an Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instance.
Alternatively, you can select “Sign In” from the page header, and use the credentials from when you created the account. From there, you should be able to sign right into the AWS console.
Launch Your First Cloud Instance
Now let’s go over the basics of launching an EC2 instance. Let’s get started!
(Note: For this tutorial, we are using the New AWS Console Home.)
- First, let’s navigate to the launch EC2 page. From the AWS Management Console page, select “Services” from the header, then select “Compute.”
- Select “EC2.”
- We are now on the EC2 Dashboard page. Navigate down to “Launch instance”, and select the “Launch Instance” button.
- We are now in the launch instance wizard. The first step in this launch wizard is to choose an Amazon Machine Image (AMI). Let’s choose the default option, “Amazon Linux 2 AMI (HVM) Kernel 5.10” and hit the Select button.
- We are now on step two of the launch wizard, “Choose an Instance Type.” Let’s go ahead and select the default option, “t2 micro.” Then, select “Next: Configure Instance Details. For this tutorial, we will skip a few steps. Skip steps three, four, and five.
- We are now ready to Configure Security Group. From the choices available for Assign a security group, choose “Select an existing security group.” From the table titled Security Group ID, select the option named “default.” This is the default security group that was made for us. Now select “Review and Launch.”
- We are now back to the final step of the launch process, Review Instance Launch. We can now select “Launch” and deploy our EC2 instance. We will be greeted by a prompt that asks us to select an existing key pair, with two selection boxes. For the first box, let’s select, “Choose an existing key pair.” For the second box, named Select a Key Pair, we’ll select the default key pair that we created earlier. Now we can select “Launch Instances.”
Congratulations! You successfully created your AWS account and learned how to set it up with some of the basic services and features provided. Let’s summarize what we’ve learned and accomplished in this article. In this tutorial we:
- Created our AWS account using a free-tier plan
- Learned how to use the new AWS Console Home
- Set up payment information and billing
- Reviewed AWS support plans and key differences in features and price models
- Set up Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) for account security
- Used the AWS Pricing Calculator to create an estimate summary for our services
- Launched our first EC2 instance