One of the practical advantages of CFEngine is that you can test it without the need for root or administrator privileges. This is useful if you are concerned about manipulating important system files, but naturally limits the possibilities for what CFEngine is able to do.

CFEngine operates with the notion of a work-directory. The default work directory for the root user is /var/cfengine. For any other user, the work directory lies in the user's home directory, named ~/.cfagent.

CFEngine prefers you to keep certain files here. You should not resist this too strongly or you will make unnecessary trouble for yourself. The decision to have this 'known directory' was made to simplify a lot of configuration.

To test CFEngine as an ordinary user, do the following:

Copy the binaries into the work directory:

host$ mkdir -p ~/.cfagent/inputs
host$ mkdir -p ~/.cfagent/bin
host$ cp /var/cfengine/bin/cf-* ~/.cfagent/bin
host$ cp /var/cfengine/inputs/*.cf ~/.cfagent/inputs

You can test the software and play with configuration files by editing the basic directly in the ~/.cfagent/inputs directory. For example, try the following:

host$ ~/.cfagent/bin/cf-promises
host$ ~/.cfagent/bin/cf-promises --verbose

This is always the way to start checking a configuration in CFEngine 3. If a configuration does not pass this check/test, you will not be allowed to use it, and cf-agent will look for the file failsafe.cf.