Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud
User Guide for Linux Instances

My Instance Is Booting from the Wrong Volume

In some situations, you may find that a volume other than the volume attached to /dev/xvda or /dev/sda has become the root volume of your instance. This can happen when you have attached the root volume of another instance, or a volume created from the snapshot of a root volume, to an instance with an existing root volume.

This is due to how the initial ramdisk in Linux works. It chooses the volume defined as / in the /etc/fstab, and in some distributions, including Amazon Linux, this is determined by the label attached to the volume partition. Specifically, you find that your /etc/fstab looks something like the following:

LABEL=/ / ext4 defaults,noatime 1 1 tmpfs /dev/shm tmpfs defaults 0 0 devpts /dev/pts devpts gid=5,mode=620 0 0 sysfs /sys sysfs defaults 0 0 proc /proc proc defaults 0 0

And if you were to check the label of both volumes, you would see that they both contain the / label:

[ec2-user ~]$ sudo e2label /dev/xvda1 / [ec2-user ~]$ sudo e2label /dev/xvdf1 /

In this example, you could end up having /dev/xvdf1 become the root device that your instance boots to after the initial ramdisk runs, instead of the /dev/xvda1 volume you had intended to boot from. Solving this is fairly simple; you can use the same e2label command to change the label of the attached volume that you do not want to boot from.

In some cases, specifying a UUID in /etc/fstab can resolve this. However, if both volumes come from the same snapshot, or the secondary is created from a snapshot of the primary volume, they share a UUID.

[ec2-user ~]$ sudo blkid /dev/xvda1: LABEL="/" UUID=73947a77-ddbe-4dc7-bd8f-3fe0bc840778 TYPE="ext4" PARTLABEL="Linux" PARTUUID=d55925ee-72c8-41e7-b514-7084e28f7334 /dev/xvdf1: LABEL="old/" UUID=73947a77-ddbe-4dc7-bd8f-3fe0bc840778 TYPE="ext4" PARTLABEL="Linux" PARTUUID=d55925ee-72c8-41e7-b514-7084e28f7334

To change the label of an attached volume

  1. Use the e2label command to change the label of the volume to something other than /.

    [ec2-user ~]$ sudo e2label /dev/xvdf1 old/
  2. Verify that the volume has the new label.

    [ec2-user ~]$ sudo e2label /dev/xvdf1 old/

After making this change, you should be able to reboot the instance and have the proper volume selected by the initial ramdisk when the instance boots.


If you intend to detach the volume with the new label and return it to another instance to use as the root volume, you must perform the above procedure again and change the volume label back to its original value. Otherwise, the other instance does not boot because the ramdisk is unable to find the volume with the label /.