AWS Instance – EBS Volume Delete on Termination

Updated post here.

When creating an Amazon Machine Image (AMI) where there are additional volumes added, these volumes are typically not set to delete on termination. This means that after you spin through 5-10 instances based on this AMI there will remain a large number of volumes left over that were not deleted when the instances were terminated. This may result in higher usage costs and a more difficult time managing images as there will be large number of volumes to sort and filter through.

The following procedure describes how to resolve this issue through setting the deleteOnTermination flag on the AWS instnace prior to creating an AMI so that all volumes will be cleaned up properly.

Note that the operations here should be performed on a running instance either before the AMI is first cut or an instance that is spun up based on the AMI in question. This instance will then be used to create an AMI that will be used for future operations.


– Setup command line environment to work with EC2/AWS without the need for password prompts and any authentication. This requires the installation of the ec2-api-tools and related keys and environment variables.


1. List volumes associated with instance:

ec2-describe-instance-attribute -v -b instanceid

BLOCKDEVICE     /dev/sda1       vol-XXXXXXXX    2011-06-06T14:59:20.000Z
BLOCKDEVICE     xvdg    vol-XXXXXXXX    2011-06-06T16:58:13.000Z
BLOCKDEVICE     xvdm    vol-XXXXXXXX    2011-06-06T16:59:07.000Z
BLOCKDEVICE     xvdl    vol-XXXXXXXX    2011-06-06T16:59:24.000Z
BLOCKDEVICE     xvdf    vol-XXXXXXXX    2011-06-06T16:59:39.000Z

# For each device above, modify the device attributes to set delete on termination:

ec2-modify-instance-attribute -b xvdg=vol-XXXXXXXX:true instanceid
ec2-modify-instance-attribute -b xvdm=vol-XXXXXXXX:true instanceid
ec2-modify-instance-attribute -b xvdl=vol-XXXXXXXX:true instanceid
ec2-modify-instance-attribute -b xvdf=vol-XXXXXXXX:true instanceid

I received an error each time I ran this command that turned out successful anyway, which is why the verification step below.

Unexpected error:
java.lang.ClassCastException: cannot be cast to

# Verify that all volumes are setup correctly:

ec2-describe-instance-attribute -v -b instanceid  | egrep deleteOnTermination

Why would somebody be worried about this issue:

When working with continuous integration, the intent is to automate everything. Part of that automation process with the work I have been doing lately is to create AMIs for each machine/server/instance function that will be programattically deployed and configured to remove any human intervention from the process.

Ideally this entire process would be based on Amazon official AMIs but that is further down the road. At this point I am creating and maintaining custom AMIs for each machine function.






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