Scenario / Questions

I would like to run some scripts on hosts which are EC2 instances but I don’t know how to be sure that the host is really an EC2 instance.

I have made some tests, but this is not sufficient:

  • Test that binary ec2_userdata is available (but this will not always be true)
  • Test availability of “” (but will this be always true ? and what is this “magical IP” ?)

Find below all possible solutions or suggestions for the above questions..

Suggestion: 1

Well actually, there is a very simple way to detect if the host is an EC2 instance: check the reverse lookup of your public IP. The EC2 reverses are quite hard to miss.

Also, if you did not modify it, the hostname should be your reverse, making it further easy to spot it.

You might also use the “magical IP” you talked about, as it is indeed the standard way to get EC2 Instance tags, however, if you are not on a EC2 network, you will have to wait for a timeout, which is generally not desirable…

If these methods are not enough, just do a whois of your IP and check if you are within and Amazon EC2 IP block.

EDIT: You may use this small shell bit:

LOCAL_HOSTNAME=$(hostname -d)
if [[ ${LOCAL_HOSTNAME} =~ .*\.amazonaws\.com ]]
        echo "This is an EC2 instance"
        echo "This is not an EC2 instance, or a reverse-customized one"

Careful though, [[ is a bashism. You may also use a Python or Perl uniline, YMMV.

Suggestion: 2

Changed Hannes’ answer to avoid error messages and include example usage in script:

if [ -f /sys/hypervisor/uuid ] && [ `head -c 3 /sys/hypervisor/uuid` == ec2 ]; then
    echo yes
    echo no

This doesn’t work in Windows instances. Advantage over curl is that it’s close to instantaneous on both EC2 and non-EC2.

Suggestion: 3

First, I felt the need to post a new answer because of the following subtle problems with the existing answers, and after receiving a question about my comment on @qwertzguy’s answer. Here are the problems with the current answers:

  1. The accepted answer from @MatthieuCerda definitely does not work reliably, at least not on any VPC instances I checked against. (On my instances, I get a VPC name for hostname -d, which is used for internal DNS, not anything with “” in it.)
  2. The highest-voted answer from @qwertzguy does not work on new m5 or c5 instances, which do not have this file. Amazon neglects to document this behavior change AFAIK, although the doc page on this subject does say “… If /sys/hypervisor/uuid exists …”. I asked AWS support whether this change was intentional, see below †.
  3. The answer from @Jer does not necessarily work everywhere because the instance-data.ec2.internal DNS lookup may not work. On an Ubuntu EC2 VPC instance I just tested on, I see:
    $ curl http://instance-data.ec2.internal
    curl: (6) Could not resolve host: instance-data.ec2.internal

    which would cause code relying on this method to falsely conclude it is not on EC2!
  4. The answer to use dmidecode from @tamale may work, but relies on you a.) having dmidecode available on your instance, and b.) having root or sudo password-less ability from within your code.
  5. The answer to check /sys/devices/virtual/dmi/id/bios_version from @spkane is dangerously misleading! I checked one Ubuntu 14.04 m5 instance, and got a bios_version of 1.0. This file is not documented at all on Amazon’s doc, so I would really not rely on it.
  6. The first part of the answer from @Chris-Montanaro to check an unreliable 3rd-party URL and use whois on the result is problematic on several levels. Note the URL suggested in that answer is a 404 page right now! Even if you did find a 3rd-party service that did work, it would be comparatively very slow (compared to checking a file locally) and possibly run into rate-limiting issues or network issues, or possibly your EC2 instance doesn’t even have outside network access.
  7. The second suggestion in the answer from @Chris-Montanaro to check is a little better, but another commenter notes that other cloud providers make this instance metadata URL available, so you have to be careful to avoid false positives. Also it will still be much slower than a local file, I have seen this check be especially slow (several seconds to return) on heavily loaded instances. Also, you should remember to pass a -m or --max-time argument to curl to avoid it hanging for a very long time, especially on a non-EC2 instance where this address may lead to nowhere and hang (as in @algal’s answer).

Also, I don’t see that anyone has mentioned Amazon’s documented fallback of checking for the (possible) file /sys/devices/virtual/dmi/id/product_uuid.

Who knew that determining whether you are running on EC2 could be so complicated?! OK, now that we have (most) of the problems with listed approaches listed, here is a suggested bash snippet to check whether you are running on EC2. I think this should work generally on almost any Linux instances, Windows instances are an exercise for the reader.


# This first, simple check will work for many older instance types.
if [ -f /sys/hypervisor/uuid ]; then
  # File should be readable by non-root users.
  if [ `head -c 3 /sys/hypervisor/uuid` == "ec2" ]; then
    echo yes
    echo no

# This check will work on newer m5/c5 instances, but only if you have root!
elif [ -r /sys/devices/virtual/dmi/id/product_uuid ]; then
  # If the file exists AND is readable by us, we can rely on it.
  if [ `head -c 3 /sys/devices/virtual/dmi/id/product_uuid` == "EC2" ]; then
    echo yes
    echo no

  # Fallback check of If we wanted to be REALLY
  # authoritative, we could follow Amazon's suggestions for cryptographically
  # verifying their signature, see here:
  # but this is almost certainly overkill for this purpose (and the above
  # checks of "EC2" prefixes have a higher false positive potential, anyway).
  if $(curl -s -m 5 | grep -q availabilityZone) ; then
    echo yes
    echo no


Obviously, you could expand this with even more fallback checks, and include paranoia about handling e.g. a false positive from /sys/hypervisor/uuid happening to start with “ec2” by chance and so on. But this is a good-enough solution for illustration purposes and probably nearly all non-pathological use-cases.

[†] Got back this explanation from AWS support about the change for c5/m5 instances:

The C5 and M5 instances use a new hypervisor stack and the associated kernel drivers do not create files in sysfs (which is mounted at /sys) as the Xen drivers used by the other/older instance types do. The best way to detect whether the operating system is running on an EC2 instance is to account for the different possibilities listed in the documentation you linked.

Suggestion: 4

Look for the metadata by the EC2 internal domain name instead of IP, which will return a fast DNS failure if you’re not on EC2, and avoids IP conflicts or routing issues:

curl -s http://instance-data.ec2.internal && echo "EC2 instance!" || echo "Non EC2 instance!"

On some distros, very basic systems, or very early at installion stages curl is not available. Using wget instead:

wget -q http://instance-data.ec2.internal && echo "EC2 instance!" || echo "Non EC2 instance!"

Suggestion: 5

If the goal is to tell if it’s an EC2 instance OR another kind of cloud instance, like google, then dmidecode works very nicely and no networking is required. I like this vs some of the other approaches because the metadata url path is different for EC2 and GCE.

# From a google compute VM
$ sudo dmidecode -s bios-version

# From an amazon ec2 VM
$ sudo dmidecode -s bios-version

Suggestion: 6

Hostnames are likely to change, run a whois against your public IP:

if [[ ! -z $(whois $(curl -s | grep -i amazon) ]]; then 
  echo "I'm Amazon"
  echo "I'm not Amazon"

or hit the AWS meta-data url

if [[ ! -z $(curl -s ]]; then 
  echo "I'm Amazon"
  echo "I'm not Amazon"

Suggestion: 7

This also works well for Linux hosts in ec2 and does not require the network and any related timeouts:

grep -q amazon /sys/devices/virtual/dmi/id/bios_version

This works, because Amazon defines this entry like so:

$ cat /sys/devices/virtual/dmi/id/bios_version

Suggestion: 8
test -f /sys/hypervisor/uuid -a `head -c 3 /sys/hypervisor/uuid` == ec2 && echo yes

but I don’t know how portable this is across distributions.

Suggestion: 9

Quick answer:

if [[ -f /sys/devices/virtual/dmi/id/product_uuid ]] && \
    grep -q "^EC2" /sys/devices/virtual/dmi/id/product_uuid
    echo "IS EC2"
    echo "NOT EC2"

I had been using one of the answers posted here for over a year – but it doesn’t work on the new ‘c5’ instance types (I’m working on upgrading from ‘c4’ now).

I like this solution because it seems like the least likely to break in the future.

On the older instance types, and the newer ones, this file is present and starts with ‘EC2’. I checked on Ubuntu running on VirtualBox (that I also need to support) and it contains the string ‘VirtualBox’.

As a previous poster noted (but it was easy to miss) – there is Amazon documentation on ways to do this – which include my answer.

Suggestion: 10

Perhaps you can use “facter”:

“Facter is a cross-platform library for retrieving simple operating system facts, like operating system, linux distribution, or MAC address.”

For example, if we take a look to the ec2 fact (facter-1.6.12/lib/facter/ec2.rb):

require 'facter/util/ec2'
require 'open-uri'

def metadata(id = "")
    split("\n").each do |o|
    key = "#{id}#{o.gsub(/\=.*$/, '/')}"
    if key[-1..-1] != '/'
      value = open("{key}").read.
      symbol = "ec2_#{key.gsub(/\-|\//, '_')}".to_sym
      Facter.add(symbol) { setcode { value.join(',') } }

def userdata()
    value = open("").read.split
    Facter.add(:ec2_userdata) { setcode { value } }
  rescue OpenURI::HTTPError

if (Facter::Util::EC2.has_euca_mac? || Facter::Util::EC2.has_openstack_mac? ||
    Facter::Util::EC2.has_ec2_arp?) && Facter::Util::EC2.can_connect?

  Facter.debug "Not an EC2 host"

Suggestion: 11

If you have curl installed, this command will return 0 if you are running within EC2 and non-zero if you are not:

curl --max-time 3 2>/dev/null 1>/dev/null`

It tries to pull the EC2 metadata declaring the AMI-ID. If this does not succeed after 3 seconds, it assumes it is not running in EC2.

Suggestion: 12

A bit late to this party, however I came across this post and then found this AWS documentation:

For a definitive and cryptographically verified method of identifying an EC2 instance, check the instance identity document, including its signature. These documents are available on every EC2 instance at the local, non-routable address

This, of course, requires the network overhead though you can set the curl timeout like so:

curl -s --connect-timeout 5

That sets the timeout to 5s.