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Linux - October 23, 2013

Create EBS AMI from Instance Store

So you’ve created an Instance Store backed AMI and now you’d like to change it into an EBS backed AMI.

I spent days looking trying to do this and pieced together several tutorials on how to accomplish this and came up with a simple tutorial.

What you will need:

  • Linux terminal
  • AWS command line tools, secret key, and private key (In my previous post I covered on how to set it up here is the link:
  • Your own custom AMI already created (I currently do not have a tutorial on this yet).

First launch an instance using your Instance Store AMI and then SSH into it.

Note: the reason why I prefer using my own custom AMI and not the default AWS ones is my own AMI has it’s own SSH/rc.local configuration. I don’t want to have to change all my configuration files in a default AMI.

Create a volume of 10GB and attach it. While I usually prefer using the command line tools in general for this I’ve actually just used the GUI.

Note: I used a separate terminal where I already had the AWS tools setup. You can set them up on the instance if you wanted to but that would also mean you’d have them setup in the AMI.

Here are the commands to create and attach a volume:

$ec2-create-volume --size 10 --availability-zone ZONE

$ec2-attach-volume VOLUME-ID --instance INSTANCE-ID --device /dev/sdf

Note: even though you specify /dev/sdf the volume will actually be /dev/xvdX. I know, it confused me as well.

Run $df -h to view your new volume and see how it was labeled. It should be /dev/xvdSOMETHING

Format the new volume:

$mkfs.ext4 /dev/xvdX

Create a new mount point:

$mkdir /mnt/ebs/

Mount the new volume to the new mount point:

$mount -t ext4 /dev/xvdX /mnt/ebs

Sync the root and dev directories to the new volume:

$rsync -avHx / /mnt/ebs

$rsync -avHx /dev/ /mnt/ebs

Label the disk, this is what I was missing originally. AWS has an unofficial tutorial that does not include this step.

$tune2fs -L '/' /dev/xvdX

Edit /mnt/ebs/fstab replace it with:

/dev/xvda1 / ext4 defaults 1 1

Edit /mnt/ebs/boot/grub.conf and change the root=label on the kernel line to:


Note: I am not sure if the last two steps are needed. When I was creating my EBS AMI I had done this anyway, I have yet to test if it’s actually required. If it’s not feel free to let me know.

Flush all writes and unmount:


$umount /mnt/ebs/

Detach the volume, again you can do this via command line or GUI. Command line method:

$ec2-detach-volume VOLUME-ID --instance INSTANCE-ID

Create a snapshot of the volume; this will generate a snapshot ID. You will need it to register it as a new AMI.:

$ec2-create-snapshot VOLUME-ID --description "Description of EBS"

Delete the volume:

$ec2-delete-volume VOLUME-ID

Register the new AMI:

$ec2-register --block-device-mapping /dev/sda1=snap-shot-ID::true --name "Name of AMI" --description "Description of AMI" --architecture x86_64 --kernel KERNEL-ID

It will give you your brand new AMI-ID.

Note: If you’d like the root partition to have more than 10GB in ec2-register command you can add the amount “snap-shot-ID::true“, such as:


This will give the root partition 150GB. But you will then need to manually resize that volume using resize2fs /dev/xvda1. Always use df -h before and after to check your results.

And that’s it. Go ahead and launch a new instance using your brand new EBS AMI.

Final notes:

If you do not label your drive using tune2fs then your new instance will not be able to start up. Checking the logs you will receive an error /dev/disk-by/label not found. It was a pain to figure out why but I’m glad I did it.

Once again if you have suggestions or comments feel free to leave them.

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