Troubleshooting CloudFormation - AWS CloudFormation

Troubleshooting CloudFormation

When you use AWS CloudFormation, you might encounter issues when you create, update, or delete CloudFormation stacks. The following sections can help you troubleshoot some common issues that you might encounter.

For general questions about CloudFormation, see the AWS CloudFormation FAQs. You can also search for answers and post questions in the AWS CloudFormation forums.

Troubleshooting guide

If AWS CloudFormation fails to create, update, or delete your stack, you can view error messages or logs to help you learn more about the issue. The following tasks describe general methods for troubleshooting a CloudFormation issue. For information about specific errors and solutions, see the Troubleshooting errors section.

  • Use the CloudFormation console to view the status of your stack. In the console, you can view a list of stack events while your stack is being created, updated, or deleted. From this list, find the failure event and then view the status reason for that event. The status reason might contain an error message from AWS CloudFormation or from a particular service that can help you troubleshoot your problem. For more information about viewing stack events, see Viewing AWS CloudFormation stack data and resources on the AWS Management Console.

  • For Amazon EC2 issues, view the cloud-init and cfn logs. These logs are published on the Amazon EC2 instance in the /var/log/ directory. These logs capture processes and command outputs while AWS CloudFormation is setting up your instance. For Windows, view the EC2Configure service and cfn logs in %ProgramFiles%\Amazon\EC2ConfigService and C:\cfn\log.

    You can also configure your AWS CloudFormation template so that the logs are published to Amazon CloudWatch, which displays logs in the AWS Management Console so you don't have to connect to your Amazon EC2 instance. For more information, see View CloudFormation logs in the console in the Application Management Blog.

Troubleshooting errors

When you come across the following errors with your AWS CloudFormation stack, you can use the following solutions to help you find the source of the problems and fix them.

Delete stack fails

To resolve this situation, try the following:

  • Some resources must be empty before they can be deleted. For example, you must delete all objects in an Amazon S3 bucket or remove all instances in an Amazon EC2 security group before you can delete the bucket or security group.

  • Ensure that you have the necessary IAM permissions to delete the resources in the stack. In addition to AWS CloudFormation permissions, you must be allowed to use the underlying services, such as Amazon S3 or Amazon EC2.

  • When stacks are in the DELETE_FAILED state because AWS CloudFormation couldn't delete a resource, rerun the deletion with the RetainResources parameter and specify the resource that AWS CloudFormation can't delete. AWS CloudFormation deletes the stack without deleting the retained resource. Retaining resources is useful when you can't delete a resource, such as an S3 bucket that contains objects that you want to keep, but you still want to delete the stack.

    After you delete the stack, you can manually delete retained resources by using their associated AWS service.

  • You can't delete stacks that have termination protection enabled. If you attempt to delete a stack with termination protection enabled, the deletion fails and the stack--including its status--remains unchanged. Disable termination protection on the stack, then perform the delete operation again.

    This includes nested stacks whose root stacks have termination protection enabled. Deactivate termination protection on the root stack, then perform the delete operation again. It's strongly recommended that you don't delete nested stacks directly, but only delete them as part of deleting the root stack and all its resources.

    For more information, see Protecting a stack from being deleted.

  • For all other issues, if you have AWS Support, you can create a AWS Support case. See Contacting support.

Dependency error

To resolve a dependency error, add a DependsOn attribute to resources that depend on other resources in your template. In some cases, you must explicitly declare dependencies so that AWS CloudFormation can create or delete resources in the correct order. For example, if you create an Elastic IP and a VPC with an Internet gateway in the same stack, the Elastic IP must depend on the Internet gateway attachment. For additional information, see DependsOn attribute.

Error parsing parameter when passing a list

When you use the AWS Command Line Interface or AWS CloudFormation to pass in a list, add the escape character (\) before each comma. The following sample shows how you specify an input parameter when using the AWS CLI.


Insufficient IAM permissions

When you work with an AWS CloudFormation stack, you not only need permissions to use AWS CloudFormation, you must also have permission to use the underlying services that are described in your template. For example, if you're creating an Amazon S3 bucket or starting an Amazon EC2 instance, you need permissions to Amazon S3 or Amazon EC2. Review your IAM policy and verify that you have the necessary permissions before you work with AWS CloudFormation stacks. For more information see, Controlling access with AWS Identity and Access Management.

Invalid value or unsupported resource property

When you create or update an AWS CloudFormation stack, your stack can fail due to invalid input parameters, unsupported resource property names, or unsupported resource property values. For input parameters, verify that the resource exists. For example, when you specify an Amazon EC2 key pair or VPC ID, the resource must exist in your account and in the region in which you are creating or updating your stack. You can use AWS-specific parameter types to ensure that you use valid values.

For resource property names and values, update your template to use valid names and values. For a list of all the resources and their property names, see AWS resource and property types reference.

Limit exceeded

Verify that you didn't reach a resource limit. For example, the default maximum number of Amazon EC2 instances that you can launch is 20. If try to create more Amazon EC2 instances than your account limit, the instance creation fails and you receive the error Status=start_failed. To view the default AWS limits by service, see AWS service limits in the AWS General Reference.

For AWS CloudFormation limits and tweaking strategies, see AWS CloudFormation quotas.

Also, during an update, if a resource is replaced, AWS CloudFormation creates new resource before it deletes the old one. This replacement might put your account over the resource limit, which would cause your update to fail. You can delete excess resources or request a limit increase.


A nested stack failed to roll back. Because of potential resource dependencies between nested stacks, AWS CloudFormation doesn't start cleaning up nested stack resources until all nested stacks have been updated or have rolled back. When a nested stack fails to roll back, AWS CloudFormation cancels all operations, regardless of the state that the other nested stacks are in. A nested stack that completed updating or rolling back but didn't receive a signal from AWS CloudFormation to start cleaning up because another nested failed to roll back is in an UPDATE_COMPLETE_CLEANUP_IN_PROGRESS or UPDATE_ROLLBACK_COMPLETE_CLEANUP_IN_PROGRESS state. A nested stack that failed to update but didn't receive a signal to start rolling back is in an UPDATE_ROLLBACK_IN_PROGRESS state.

A nested stack might fail to roll back because of changes that were made outside of AWS CloudFormation, when the stack template doesn't accurately reflect the state of the stack. A nested stack might also fail if an Auto Scaling group in a nested stack had an insufficient resource signal timeout period when the group was created or updated.

To fix the stack, contact AWS Support.

No updates to perform

To update an AWS CloudFormation stack, you must submit template or parameter value changes to AWS CloudFormation. However, AWS CloudFormation won't recognize some template changes as an update, such as changes to a deletion policy, update policy, condition declaration, or output declaration. If you need to make such changes without making any other change, you can add or modify a metadata attribute for any of your resources.

For more information about modifying templates during an update, see Modifying a stack template.

Resource failed to stabilize during a create, update, or delete stack operation

A resource didn't respond because the operation exceeded the AWS CloudFormation timeout period or an AWS service was interrupted. For service interruptions, check that the relevant AWS service is running, and then retry the stack operation.

If the AWS services have been running successfully, check if your stack contains one of the following resources:

  • AWS::AutoScaling::AutoScalingGroup for create, update, and delete operations

  • AWS::CertificateManager::Certificate for create operations

  • AWS::CloudFormation::Stack for create, update, and delete operations

  • AWS::ElasticSearch::Domain for update operations

  • AWS::RDS::DBCluster for create and update operations

  • AWS::RDS::DBInstance for create, update, and delete operations

  • AWS::Redshift::Cluster for update operations

Operations for these resources might take longer than the default timeout period. The timeout period depends on the resource and credentials that you use. To extend the timeout period, specify a service role when you perform the stack operation. If you're already using a service role, or if your stack contains a resource that isn't listed, contact AWS Support.

If your stack is in the UPDATE_ROLLBACK_FAILED state, see Update Rollback Failed.

Security group does not exist in VPC

Verify that the security group exists in the VPC that you specified. If the security group exists, ensure that you specify the security group ID and not the security group name. For example, the AWS::EC2::SecurityGroupIngress resource has a SourceSecurityGroupName and SourceSecurityGroupId properties. For VPC security groups, you must use the SourceSecurityGroupId property and specify the security group ID.

Update rollback failed

A dependent resource can't return to its original state, causing the rollback to fail (UPDATE_ROLLBACK_FAILED state). For example, you might have a stack that's rolling back to an old database instance that was deleted outside of AWS CloudFormation. Because AWS CloudFormation doesn't know the database was deleted, it assumes that the database instance still exists and attempts to roll back to it, causing the update rollback to fail.

Depending on the cause of the failure, you can manually fix the error and continue the rollback. By continuing the rollback, you can return your stack to a working state (the UPDATE_ROLLBACK_COMPLETE state), and then try to update the stack again. The following list describes solutions to common errors that cause update rollback failures:

  • Failed to receive the required number of signals

    Use the signal-resource command to manually send the required number of successful signals to the resource that's waiting for them, and then continue rolling back the update. For example, during an update rollback, instances in an Auto Scaling group might fail to signal success within the specified timeout duration. Manually send success signals to the Auto Scaling group. When you continue the update rollback, AWS CloudFormation sees your signals and proceeds with the rollback.

  • Changes to a resource were made outside of AWS CloudFormation

    Manually sync resources so that they match the original stack's template, and then continue rolling back the update. For example, if you manually deleted a resource that AWS CloudFormation is attempting to roll back to, you must manually create that resource with the same name and properties it had in the original stack.

  • Insufficient permissions

    Check that you have sufficient IAM permissions to modify resources, and then continue the update rollback. For example, your IAM policy might allow you to create an S3 bucket, but not modify the bucket. Add the modify actions to your policy.

  • Invalid security token

    AWS CloudFormation requires a new set of credentials. No change is required. Continue rolling back the update, which refreshes the credentials.

  • Limitation error

    Delete resources that you don't need or request a quota increase, and then continue rolling back the update. For example, if your account limit for the number of EC2 instances is 20 and the update rollback exceeds that limit, it will fail.

  • Resource didn't stabilize

    A resource didn't respond because the operation might have exceeded the AWS CloudFormation timeout period or an AWS service might have been interrupted. No change is required. After the resource operation is complete or the AWS service is back in operation, continue rolling back the update.

To continue rolling back an update, you can use the AWS CloudFormation console or AWS command line interface (AWS CLI). For more information, see Continue rolling back an update.

If none of these solutions work, you can skip the resources that AWS CloudFormation can't successfully roll back. For more information, see the ResourcesToSkip parameter for the ContinueUpdateRollback operation in the AWS CloudFormation API Reference. AWS CloudFormation sets the status of the specified resources to UPDATE_COMPLETE and continues to roll back the stack. After the rollback is complete, the state of the skipped resources will be inconsistent with the state of the resources in the stack template. Before you perform another stack update, you must modify the resources or update the stack to be consistent with each other. If you don't, subsequent stack updates might fail and make your stack unrecoverable.

Wait condition didn't receive the required number of signals from an Amazon EC2 instance

To resolve this situation, try the following:

  • Ensure that the AMI you're using has the AWS CloudFormation helper scripts installed. If the AMI doesn't include the helper scripts, you can also download them to your instance. For more information, see CloudFormation helper scripts reference.

  • Verify that the cfn-signal command was successfully run on the instance. You can view logs, such as /var/log/cloud-init.log or /var/log/cfn-init.log, to help you debug the instance launch. You can retrieve the logs by logging in to your instance, but you must disable rollback on failure or else AWS CloudFormation deletes the instance after your stack fails to create. You can also publish the logs to Amazon CloudWatch. For Windows, you can view cfn logs in C:\cfn\log and EC2Config service logs in %ProgramFiles%\Amazon\EC2ConfigService.

  • Verify that the instance has a connection to the Internet. If the instance is in a VPC, the instance should be able to connect to the Internet through a NAT device if it's is in a private subnet or through an Internet gateway if it's in a public subnet. To test the instance's Internet connection, try to access a public web page, such as For example, you can run the following command on the instance. It should return an HTTP 200 status code.

    curl -I

    For information about configuring a NAT device, see NAT in the Amazon VPC User Guide.

Resource removed from stack but not deleted

During a stack update, CloudFormation has removed a resource from a stack but not deleted the resource. The resource still exists, but is no longer accessible through CloudFormation. This may occur during stack updates where:

  • CloudFormation needs to replace an existing resource, so it first creates a new resource, then attempts to delete the old resource.

  • You have removed the resource from the stack template, so CloudFormation attempts to delete the resource from the stack.

However, there may be cases where CloudFormation can't delete the resource. For example, if the user doesn't have permissions to delete a resource of a given type.

CloudFormation attempts to delete the old resource three times. If CloudFormation can't delete the old resource, it removes the old resource from the stack and continues updating the stack. When the stack update is complete, CloudFormation issues an UPDATE_COMPLETE stack event, but includes a StatusReason that states that one or more resources couldn't be deleted. CloudFormation also issues a DELETE_FAILED event for the specific resource, with a corresponding StatusReason providing more detail on why CloudFormation failed to delete the resource.

To resolve this situation, delete the resource directly using the console or API for the underlying service.

Contacting support

If you have AWS Support, you can create a technical support case at Before you contact support, gather the following information:

  • The ID of the stack. You can find the stack ID in the Overview tab of the AWS CloudFormation console. For more information, see Viewing AWS CloudFormation stack data and resources on the AWS Management Console.


    Don't make changes to the stack outside of AWS CloudFormation. Making changes to your stack outside of AWS CloudFormation might put your stack in an unrecoverable state.

  • Any stack error messages. For information about viewing stack error messages, see the Troubleshooting guide section.

  • For Amazon EC2 issues, gather the cloud-init and cfn logs. These logs are published on the Amazon EC2 instance in the /var/log/ directory. These logs capture processes and command outputs while your instance is setting up. For Windows, gather the EC2Configure service and cfn logs in %ProgramFiles%\Amazon\EC2ConfigService and C:\cfn\log.

You can also search for answers and post questions in the AWS CloudFormation forums.