icgc-get User Guide


ICGC data resides in many data repositories and compute clouds around the world. These data repositories each have their own environment (public cloud, private cloud, on-premise file systems, etc.), access controls (DACO, OAuth, asymmetric keys, IP filtering), data download clients and configuration mechanisms. Thus, there is much for a user to learn and perform before actually acquiring the data. This is compounded by the fact that the number of environments are increasing over time and their characteristics are frequently changing. A coordinated mechanism to bootstrap and streamline the data access process is highly desirable. This is the problem the icgc-get tool helps to solve.

Please note: Pre-requisites for accessing the different repositories, as described in the Data Download Guide, still apply. Most notably, that access to AWS-Virginia requires icgc-get to be run from an EC2 instance launched in AWS-Virginia.

As depicted in the figure below, downloading data with icgc-get is a three easy-step process:

  • Select data of interest using the ICGC Data Repository browser in the ICGC Data Portal. These files can belong to multiple repositories.
  • Obtain a icgc-get manifest ID for this dataset by clicking on 'Generate icgc-get ID' button from the 'Download Files' dialog.
  • Execute on the computer you want to download data the icgc-get’s downloadcommand with your manifest ID as parameter.

icgc-get will then download the requested data files from repositories you have access to in a configurable order of preferences. As simple as that! More details and advanced features are described in sections below.


Operating System

icgc-get is supported on MacOS and Linux environments. Windows is currently unsupported.


Docker is required to use the pre-packaged download clients of the various respositories. To install Docker, please see the installation guide.

If not using Docker, it is expected that the user will have installed each of the data download clients for different repositories required to access repositories of interest. Information for installing the download clients can be found as follows:


The icgc-get client may be downloaded from the Software Download page

To install the latest version on Linux, issue the following in a terminal:

curl https://dcc.icgc.org/api/v1/ui/software/icgc-get/linux/latest -o icgc-get.latest.zip -L

unzip icgc-get.latest.zip

This will extract the icgc-get executable in the current directory. It can be run as:



After installing icgc-get, you will need to configure some of the essential usage parameters, such as your access credentials, usage mode and output directory. The simplest way to do this is to invoke the command:

./icgc-get configure

and then follow the instructions of the prompts. The information you provided will be kept in a configuration file saved to ~/.icgc-get/config.yaml.

Please note:, if you wish to use Dockerized download clients so you don't need to install them locally, please ensure Docker is installed and response with true to the follow prompt:

Enter true or false if you wish to use a docker container to download and run all download clients
docker []: true

Repository Precedence

Usually the same file exists in multiple repositories, it is recommended to specify a common list of repositories in your preferred order of precedence. When downloading a file, the tool will first try to find the file on the first specified repository, then the second, etc.

Please use the following format to define your repositories in the configuration file.

 - collaboratory
 - ega
 - pdc

Valid repositories are:

Code Repository
collaboratory Cancer Genome Collaboratory
aws-virginia Amazon Web Services
ega European Genome Archive
gdc Genomic Data Commons
pdc Bionimbus Protected Data Cloud

Data Access Tokens / Credentials

Different repositories use different mechanisms to authenticate their users and authorize data access.

  • ICGC and GDC use pre-generated tokens with specific scope of privileges. Details about generating ICGC token is described here. For GDC tokens, check here.

  • EGA uses username / password combination. You will have them set up when you create your EGA account. For support, contact helpdesk@ega-archive.org.

  • PDC uses access keys (a pair of access key ID and secret access key). Follow the Login from NIH button on this page you will be directed to login via NIH iTrust. Upon successful login at NIH, you will be redirected back to PDC where you can now create access keys.

Example Configuration File

By default configuration file exists at ~/.icgc-get/config.yaml. Below is an example. You can manually edit the file as needed.

# Location of the log file that icgc-get will log to.
logfile: /home/ubuntu/.icgc-get/icgc_get.log

# Location for the destination directory for downloaded files.
output: /my_icgc_files

# Use docker container for the storage clients, rather than providing your own client.
# If set to 'False', you will need to install needed download client and
# set the full path to it for each repository.
docker: True

# Repositories to use and their precedence.
- collaboratory
- aws-virginia
- pdc

  token: <your_icgc_download_token>
  #path: /path/to/icgc/score/client  # full path to locally installed score-client

 username: <username>
 password: <password>
 #path: /path/to/ega/client  # full path to locally installed EGA download client

 token: <gdc_token>
 #path: /path/to/gdc/client   # full path to locally installed GDC download client

  key: <pdc_key>
  secret: <pdc_secret>
  #path: /path/to/pdc/client  # full path to locally installed aws cli client


General usage of the icgc-get tool:


Available commands include: configure, check, report, download, version.

All commands share the --config, --logfile --verbose/-v and the --docker options.

Universal Option Description
--config Path to configuration file
--logfile Path to log file
--verbose -v Flag that increases tool verbosity
-d, --docker Boolean option whether to use in docker or not

Please note: if configured to use Docker (with docker: True in the configuration file), it may take a few minutes when first time invoking an icgc-get command while the icgc-get Docker image is being pulled.

Configure Command

This command will start a series of prompts for you to enter application paths, access credentials, output directories and logfile locations. Any of these prompts can be bypassed by immediately pressing the enter key if the parameter is not relevant for your planned use of icgc-get. By default, configure will write to the default config file, but the destination can be overwritten with the -c tag.

Option Description
-c, --config Destination for new or exisiting config file

Check Command

This command will test the provided credentials for each repository specified.

Due to the security protocols of each client, there are two ways in which this access check can occur. For PDC and GDC icgc-get is only capable of determining if you have access to the specific files targeted for download, not the state of your permissions for the repository as a whole. When performing an access check for these repositories, you must provide a manifest id or list of files using the same formatting as the download command. For more detailed information about your permissions on these repositories contact their respective support departments.

For the AWS, Collaboratory, and EGA repositories, the access check will determine if you have access to the entire repository or not. These checks will occur even if file prioritization leads to no files being downloaded from any of these repositories.

Option Description
IDS Specify FI ids to check access to. Only required for PDC and GDC
-r, --repos Repeatable option used to specify repositories to download from
-o, --override Flag used to override warning messages
--no-ssl-verify Flag used to disable ssl verification. Not recommended

To do a status check on the same files used in the examples above:

./icgc-get check FI99996 FI99990 FI250134 -r collaboratory -r gdc

Sample output:

Valid access to the Collaboratory.
Valid access to the GDC files.

Report Command

Another useful subcommand is report. This takes the same primary inputs as download, but instead of downloading the specified files, it will provide a list of all files that are about to be downloaded, including their size, data type, name and the repository they are hosted on.

Option Description
-f, --table-format Controls output format. Valid options are json and tsv
-t, --data-type Controls output type. Valid argument is summary
-r, --repos Repeatable option used to specify repositories to download from
-o, --override Flag used to override warning messages
--no-ssl-verify Flag used to disable ssl verification. Not recommended

By default the command outputs a table, but the output can be altered to json via -f json or tsv

via -f tsv. Should you find file by file output too granular for a particularly large download, the option -t summary can be used to switch to a summarized version of the table. If an output directory is specified, then the command will search that directory to determine of any of the files are already present, and add a downloaded column that marks these files.

Example invocations of the report commands:

./icgc-get report FI99996 FI99990 FI250134 -r collaboratory -r gdc

Example invocations of the report commands:

./icgc-get report FI99996 FI99990 FI250134 -r collaboratory -r gdc -t summary

Sample output:

│          │   Size │ Unit   │ File Format   │ Data Type     │ Repo          │
│ FI99996  │   3.52 │ GB     │ BAM           │ Aligned Reads │ gdc           │
│ FI99990  │  435.7 │ MB     │ BAM           │ Aligned Reads │ gdc           │
│ FI250134 │ 197.44 │ KB     │ VCF           │ StGV          │ collaboratory │
│                      │   Size │ Unit   │   File Count │   Donor_Count │
│ collaboratory        │ 197.44 │ KB     │            1 │             1 │
│ collaboratory: StGV  │ 197.44 │ KB     │            1 │             1 │
│ gdc                  │   3.94 │ GB     │            2 │             2 │
│ gdc: Aligned Reads   │   3.94 │ GB     │            2 │             2 │
│ Total                │   3.94 │ GB     │            3 │             3 │
│ Total: Aligned Reads │   3.94 │ GB     │            2 │             2 │
│ Total: StGV          │ 197.44 │ KB     │            1 │             1 │

Download Command

The two syntax for performing a download using icgc-get are:

./icgc-get --config [CONFIG] --docker [true|false] download <file-ids> [REPO] [OPTIONS]
./icgc-get --config [CONFIG] --docker [true|false] download -m <manifest-id> [REPO] [OPTIONS]
Option Description
-m, --manifest Flag used to specify that a manifest id has been passed
-r, --repos Repeatable option used to specify repositories to download from
-o, --override Flag used to override warning messages
--no-ssl-verify Flag used to disable ssl verification. Not recommended

Download using FI IDs

To download files using their FI IDs, the required argument is one or more File IDs of files you wish to download.

Using this command requires you to specify the repository or repositories that are being targeted for download, eg, -r aws-virginia -r ega if you have not set repository preferences in the configuration file. The order that the repositories are listed is important: files will be downloaded from the first specified repository if possible, and subsequent repositories only if the file was not found on any previous repository.

The download command comes with an automatic prompt that warns the user if the projected download size approaches the total available space in the download directory. It is possible to suppress this warning using the -o flag.

Sample invocation of the download command using FI ID:

./icgc-get download FI378424 -r collaboratory -r ega

Please check the output directory you configured earlier for the downloaded files.

Download using manifest ID

From the ICGC Portal Data Repositories, user can search for files of her interest, then in the "Downlaod Files" dialog, click on "Generate icgc-get ID" to generate a manifest UUID that can be used by icgc-get download -m option.

With this option, user chooses the download repository preferences at the ICGC data portal, then when running icgc-get with the generated manifest ID there is no need to choose repository.

Sample invocation of the download command using manifest ID:

./icgc-get download -m c904ee8d-f0ea-4b94-aa85-e65fc1eb4940

Version Command

This is an informative command that displays the version of all clients used by icgc-get. This command will check the version of clients that have their tool paths are specified in the config file provided.

./icgc-get version

Sample output:

ICGC-Get Version: 0.6.0
 AWS CLI Version:             1.16.60
 EGA Client Version:          2.2.2
 GDC Client Version:          1.3.0
 ICGC Storage Client Version: 1.4.0