Skip to main content

Initializing Working Directories

OpenTofu expects to be invoked from a working directory that contains configuration files written in the OpenTofu language. OpenTofu uses configuration content from this directory, and also uses the directory to store settings, cached plugins and modules, and sometimes state data.

A working directory must be initialized before OpenTofu can perform any operations in it (like provisioning infrastructure or modifying state).

Working Directory Contents

A OpenTofu working directory typically contains:

  • A OpenTofu configuration describing resources OpenTofu should manage. This configuration is expected to change over time.
  • A hidden .terraform directory, which OpenTofu uses to manage cached provider plugins and modules, record which workspace is currently active, and record the last known backend configuration in case it needs to migrate state on the next run. This directory is automatically managed by OpenTofu, and is created during initialization.
  • State data, if the configuration uses the default local backend. This is managed by OpenTofu in a terraform.tfstate file (if the directory only uses the default workspace) or a terraform.tfstate.d directory (if the directory uses multiple workspaces).


Run the tofu init command to initialize a working directory that contains a OpenTofu configuration. After initialization, you will be able to perform other commands, like tofu plan and tofu apply.

If you try to run a command that relies on initialization without first initializing, the command will fail with an error and explain that you need to run init.

Initialization performs several tasks to prepare a directory, including accessing state in the configured backend, downloading and installing provider plugins, and downloading modules. Under some conditions (usually when changing from one backend to another), it might ask the user for guidance or confirmation.

For details, see the tofu init command.


Certain types of changes to a OpenTofu configuration can require reinitialization before normal operations can continue. This includes changes to provider requirements, module sources or version constraints, and backend configurations.

You can reinitialize a directory by running tofu init again. In fact, you can reinitialize at any time; the init command is idempotent, and will have no effect if no changes are required.

If reinitialization is required, any commands that rely on initialization will fail with an error and tell you so.

Reinitializing Only Modules

The tofu get command will download modules referenced in the configuration, but will not perform the other required initialization tasks. This command is only useful for niche workflows, and most OpenTofu users can ignore it in favor of tofu init.