Updating AMIs - AWS Systems Manager

Updating AMIs

The following tutorials explain how to update Amazon Machine Image (AMIs) to include the latest patches.

Update a Linux AMI (AWS CLI)

This AWS Systems Manager Automation walkthrough shows you how to use the AWS Command Line Interface (AWS CLI) and the Systems Manager AWS-UpdateLinuxAmi runbook to automatically patch a Linux Amazon Machine Image (AMI) with the latest versions of packages that you specify. Automation is a capability of AWS Systems Manager. The AWS-UpdateLinuxAmi runbook also automates the installation of additional site-specific packages and configurations. You can update a variety of Linux distributions using this walkthrough, including Ubuntu Server, CentOS, RHEL, SLES, or Amazon Linux AMIs. For a full list of supported Linux versions, see Patch Manager prerequisites.

The AWS-UpdateLinuxAmi runbook enables you to automate image-maintenance tasks without having to author the runbook in JSON or YAML. You can use the AWS-UpdateLinuxAmi runbook to perform the following types of tasks.

  • Upgrade all distribution packages and Amazon software on an Amazon Linux, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Ubuntu Server, SLES, or Cent OS Amazon Machine Image (AMI). This is the default runbook behavior.

  • Install AWS Systems Manager SSM Agent on an existing image to enable Systems Manager capabilities, such as running remote commands using AWS Systems Manager Run Command or software inventory collection using Inventory.

  • Install additional software packages.

Before you begin

Before you begin working with runbooks, configure roles and, optionally, EventBridge for Automation. For more information, see Setting up Automation. This walkthrough also requires that you specify the name of an AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) instance profile. For more information about creating an IAM instance profile, see Configure instance permissions required for Systems Manager.

The AWS-UpdateLinuxAmi runbook accepts the following input parameters.

Parameter Type Description



(Required) The source AMI ID. You can automatically reference the latest ID of an Amazon EC2 AMI for Linux by using a AWS Systems Manager Parameter Store public parameter. For more information, see Query for the latest Amazon Linux AMI IDs using AWS Systems Manager Parameter Store.



(Required) The name of the IAM instance profile role you created in Configure instance permissions required for Systems Manager. The instance profile role gives Automation permission to perform actions on your instances, such as running commands or starting and stopping services. The runbook uses only the name of the instance profile role.



(Required) The name of the IAM service role you created in Setting up Automation. The service role (also called an assume role) gives Automation permission to assume your IAM role and perform actions on your behalf. For example, the service role allows Automation to create a new AMI when running the aws:createImage action in a runbook. For this parameter, the complete ARN must be specified.



(Optional) The name of the new AMI after it is created. The default name is a system-generated string that includes the source AMI ID, and the creation time and date.



(Optional) The type of instance to launch as the workspace host. Instance types vary by Region. The default type is t2.micro.



(Optional) URL of a script to run before updates are applied. Default (\"none\") is to not run a script.



(Optional) URL of a script to run after package updates are applied. Default (\"none\") is to not run a script.



(Optional) Only update these named packages. By default (\"all\"), all available updates are applied.



(Optional) Names of packages to hold back from updates, under all conditions. By default (\"none\"), no package is excluded.

Automation Steps

The AWS-UpdateLinuxAmi runbook includes the following steps, by default.

Step 1: launchInstance (aws:runInstances action)

This step launches an instance using Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) user data and an IAM instance profile role. User data installs the appropriate SSM Agent, based on the operating system. Installing SSM Agent enables you to utilize Systems Manager capabilities such as Run Command, State Manager, and Inventory.

Step 2: updateOSSoftware (aws:runCommand action)

This step runs the following commands on the launched instance:

  • Downloads an update script from Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3).

  • Runs an optional pre-update script.

  • Updates distribution packages and Amazon software.

  • Runs an optional post-update script.

The execution log is stored in the /tmp folder for the user to view later.

If you want to upgrade a specific set of packages, you can supply the list using the IncludePackages parameter. When provided, the system attempts to update only these packages and their dependencies. No other updates are performed. By default, when no include packages are specified, the program updates all available packages.

If you want to exclude upgrading a specific set of packages, you can supply the list to the ExcludePackages parameter. If provided, these packages remain at their current version, independent of any other options specified. By default, when no exclude packages are specified, no packages are excluded.

Step 3: stopInstance (aws:changeInstanceState action)

This step stops the updated instance.

Step 4: createImage (aws:createImage action)

This step creates a new AMI with a descriptive name that links it to the source ID and creation time. For example: “AMI Generated by EC2 Automation on {{global:DATE_TIME}} from {{SourceAmiId}}” where DATE_TIME and SourceID represent Automation variables.

Step 5: terminateInstance (aws:changeInstanceState action)

This step cleans up the automation by terminating the running instance.


The automation returns the new AMI ID as output.


By default, when Automation runs the AWS-UpdateLinuxAmi runbook, the system creates a temporary instance in the default VPC ( If you deleted the default VPC, you will receive the following error:

VPC not defined 400

To solve this problem, you must make a copy of the AWS-UpdateLinuxAmi runbook and specify a subnet ID. For more information, see VPC not defined 400.

To create a patched AMI using Automation
  1. Install and configure the AWS Command Line Interface (AWS CLI), if you haven't already.

    For information, see Installing or updating the latest version of the AWS CLI.

  2. Run the following command to run the AWS-UpdateLinuxAmi runbook. Replace each example resource placeholder with your own information.

    aws ssm start-automation-execution \ --document-name "AWS-UpdateLinuxAmi" \ --parameters \ SourceAmiId=AMI ID, \ IamInstanceProfileName=IAM instance profile, \ AutomationAssumeRole='arn:aws:iam::{{global:ACCOUNT_ID}}:role/AutomationServiceRole'

    The command returns an execution ID. Copy this ID to the clipboard. You will use this ID to view the status of the automation.

    { "AutomationExecutionId": "automation execution ID" }
  3. To view the automation using the AWS CLI, run the following command:

    aws ssm describe-automation-executions
  4. To view details about the automation progress, run the following command. Replace automation execution ID with your own information.

    aws ssm get-automation-execution --automation-execution-id automation execution ID

    The update process can take 30 minutes or more to complete.


    You can also monitor the status of the automation in the console. In the list, choose the automation you just ran and then choose the Steps tab. This tab shows you the status of the automation actions.

After the automation finishes, launch a test instance from the updated AMI to verify changes.


If any step in the automation fails, information about the failure is listed on the Automation Executions page. The automation is designed to terminate the temporary instance after successfully completing all tasks. If a step fails, the system might not terminate the instance. So if a step fails, manually terminate the temporary instance.