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Need Your Data from AWS? Tough Luck, You Can’t Have It!

By March 6, 2017September 16th, 2020Best Practices, Blog, VMWare
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I want my data back!

I recently encountered an unpleasant surprise when attempting to migrate a couple of Amazon Linux AMI instances from AWS. My goal was to download a local copy of 2 VMs and run them in VMware Workstation on my laptop for the purpose of developing them while I travel. Turns out, this isn’t just unsupported, the process is so complex it might as well be impossible.


While technically it is possible to create a snapshot of your VM , export it to S3 and download it, the process is annoyingly and unnecessarily complex. The only thing worse than this is the list of constraints. Here is a whole rulebook but let me condense it for you to just a single point:

Unless you first IMPORTED your VM into Amazon, you are NOT going to be able to export it.


There are many. Naturally you can just backup your VM and call it a day. If you’re looking to move the VM to another AWS account, you can easily share it with another account privately. What you can’t do, however, is download the VM ‘image.’ The smartest way is to download an ‘official AMI’ FIRST. For example, you can fetch an ‘Amazon Specific’ Ubuntu build from Canonical and then place it in AWS but hey, that’s hindsight 20/20.

Ultimately Nothing Works Well

For the purpose of what I needed – download an AWS-created VM onto my laptop to keep working on them while I travel – none of these solutions really work and I ended up grabbing the configuration files over SSH file transfer and re-configuring local VMs from scratch.

Hopefully you can learn from my mistake and avoid annoyance in the future.

JacobR, PEI

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