An API key is similar to a password—it’s a string of text used to authenticate (identify yourself) with to our systems and allow the system to authorize that you have access to the action you’re attempting to take. When using our APIs

IonQ uses API keys to manage access to our systems. Users must provide a valid key when using APIs both directly or through an SDK.

Creating API keys

API keys are created in the IonQ Quantum Cloud application under the API Keys page found in the top menu (pictured above.) On that page, you can also see a list of currently active keys, see when they were last used, and revoke (delete) any that are no longer needed.

IonQ Quantum Cloud - API Keys

Manage your keys from the IonQ Quantum Cloud application

Storing Keys

The value of the key is only visible at the time of creation, so we highly recommend storing it securely. One approach is to use a password manager (e.g. LastPass, 1Password, or similar) which can be useful if you find yourself moving from machine to machine often, as these tools can sync between devices.

You can also store your key locally as an environment variable, making it easy to access from software you’re running locally.

On Windows


Open the System Properties Control Panel

Press Windows + R to open the Run prompt, type in sysdm.cpl and click OK.


Add your environment variable

Open the Advanced tab and click on the Environment Variables button in the System Properties window.

Click on the New... button to open the New User Variable box, where you can add your variable.

Give your variable a suitable and paste in the value provided by the IonQ application.


Using your environment variable

Once added, variables are accessible from the Windows Command Line by referencing %IONQ_API_KEY%. In your Python code, you can use os.getenv('IONQ_API_KEY') function to retrieve the stored value.

Alternately, variables can be set from the command line with the setx command, like so:

setx [IONQ_API_KEY] "<your_api_key>"
Note: You’ll need to restart the Command Prompt for the changes to take effect, as it reads the local environment variables into memory when opened.

On Mac or Linux

In both Mac and Linux environments, environment variables are added using the export command in the command line, like so:

export IONQ_API_KEY="<your_api_key>"

To add this variable to your environment permanently, add it to the “profile” configuration file of your shell. If you’re on a (modern) Mac, that file will be called .zshrc (for zsh), while most Linux distributions use .bashrc (for bash). Once added, all new shell sessions (i.e. terminal windows) will have access to these variables.

You’ll find your profile in your user directory, which can be referenced with the ~ keyword. For example, to open a zsh profile in the editor nano, you could run nano ~/.zshrc.

Once added, variables are accessible from the command line by referencing $IONQ_API_KEY. In your Python code, you can use os.getenv('IONQ_API_KEY') function to retrieve the stored value.

Best Practices

  • Keys are a type of password. Keep them as safe and secure them as you would any other password.
  • When presenting on a video call, be aware of what’s in your code. If you’re hardcoding your key in to a script, it will be visible. Use an environment variable instead.
  • Keys are still active even if you’re no longer using them. If a key is no longer needed, delete it.
  • Keys are free! If you need to delete one and replace it with a new one because you’re concerned that it was compromised, go for it.

Need help?

Having trouble? Seeing something you don’t expect? Have other questions? Reach out to [email protected] or submit a ticket on