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When I want to launch an instance of Ubuntu on EC2, how do I find the right one? There are thousands of public images that have "Ubuntu" in their name. I am only interested in running the Official Ubuntu images. How do I now which AMI is the right one?

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also see… – cwd Jan 17 '12 at 20:53

The success of Ubuntu as a platform and Ubuntu's commitment to refreshing AMIs means that there are literally thousands of of images on Amazon EC2 with "ubuntu"in their name. That, combined with and the lack of Ubuntu on the "Quick Start" menu makes selecting the right AMI a non-trivial task.

Some General Ubuntu Information

You already may be aware of these items, but I want to point them out for those who are just getting started with Ubuntu or EC2.

  • Ubuntu releases every 6 months. Each release has a version number and a codename. The most important thing to note here is that every 2 years a LTS (Long Term Support) release is made. If you want stability and support for 5 years, select an LTS release. If you want the newest packages, select the most recent release. See the wikipedia entry for more information.
  • At the time of this writing, there are 5 "regions" in Amazon EC2. Each region represents a geographical location. Each region has its own AMI ids. Inside each region there are 2 architectures (x86_64, i386) and 2 "root store" types (EBS or instance). That means that for each build Ubuntu releases, we generate 20 ami ids.

Easiest: Find AMIs From Your Web Browser

You can choose your interface for selecting images. Go to either:


    At the bottom of this page, you can select the region, release, arch or root-store. You're only shown the most recent releases here. When you've made your selection, you can copy and paste the ami number, or just click on it to go right to the EC2 console launch page for that AMI.


    • Select Your release by number or code-name
    • Select 'release/': We keep historical builds around for debugging, but the 'release/' directory will always be the latest.
    • Select your AMI from the table and click to launch in the console or copy and paste a command line.

Search through the Amazon EC2 Console

The EC2 Console is a graphical way to sort through AMIs and select one to launch. To Launch an Official Ubuntu Image here, follow the steps below.

  • Select the region you want in the top left, under 'Navigation' Example: "Us East (Virginia)"
  • Click "AMIs" Do not click "Launch Instance" [see note below]
  • for 'Viewing', select "All Images"
  • Limit the results to Ubuntu Stable Release images by typing ubuntu-images/

    You should expand the 'AMI Name' field as wide as possible (maybe shrink the others).

  • Limit the results to a specific release by appending '.*'.

    For example: ubuntu-images/.*10.04

  • Limit the results to a given arch by appending '.*i386' or '.*amd64'

    Note: If you want to run a m1.small or c1.medium, you need 'i386'. If you want to run a t1.micro, you will need to select an 'ebs' image.

  • Sort your results by AMI Name and make selection

    By sorting by AMI name, you can more easily see the newest AMI for a given set. Each AMI ends with a number in the format YYYYMMDD (year,month,day). You want the most recent one.

  • Verify the Owner is 099720109477!

    Any user can register an AMI under any name. Nothing prevents a malicious user from registering an AMI that would match the search above. So, in order to be safe, you need to verify that the owner of the ami is '099720109477'.

  • If "Owner" is not a column for you, click "Show/Hide" at the top right and select "Owner" to be shown.
  • Click on the AMI name, then Click 'Launch'


  • HTTPS Access: Of the options above, right now is the only one that provides data over https. This may be important to you if you are concerned about potential "Man in the Middle" attacks when finding a AMI id. I've requested Ahmed [kim0 in irc] to support https access to .

  • Web Console 'Launch Instance' dialog: I saw no way in the 'Launch Instance' dialog to see the Owner ID. Because if this, I suggest not using that dialog to find "Community AMIs". There is simply no way you can reliably know who the owner of the image is from within the console. For advanced users, I will blog sometime soon on a way to find AMIs programmatically [Hint].


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Here's another example. I just wrote this to fetch the latest trusty AMI id. It uses the aws cli tool to query the API, using the fact that the names sort in date order to get the latest.

    aws --region us-west-2 ec2 describe-images --owners 099720109477 \
        --filters Name=root-device-type,Values=ebs \
            Name=architecture,Values=x86_64 \
            Name=name,Values='*hvm-ssd/ubuntu-trusty-14.04*' \
    | awk -F ': ' '/"Name"/ { print $2 | "sort" }' \
    | tr -d '",' | tail -1)

    aws --region us-west-2 ec2 describe-images --owners 099720109477 \
        --filters Name=name,Values="$name" \
    | awk -F ': ' '/"ImageId"/ { print $2 }' | tr -d '",')

It works in 2 parts. The first part gets all the AMIs for ubuntu trusty that meet the various criterion (ebs, x86_64, and the name pattern). It pulls out the Name and sorts by it. The names are formatted so that sorting them sorts by date so the last one will be the newest one. This name is then assigned to the 'name' variable.

The second part uses that name to request the AMI ID for the AMI with that name. It parses out just the id and assigns it to 'ami_id'.

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Can you please explain what this does? – Kaz Wolfe Oct 8 '14 at 8:03
Added the explanation to the answer. – John Eikenberry Dec 23 '14 at 5:23
This should accomplish something similar, but using a JMESPath query expression: aws --region us-west-2 ec2 describe-images --owners 099720109477 --filters Name=root-device-type,Values=ebs Name=architecture,Values=x86_64 Name=name,Values='*hvm-ssd/ubuntu-trusty-14.04*' --query 'sort_by(Images, &Name)[-1].ImageId' – dnlbrky Apr 19 '15 at 19:00

using ruby aws-sdk, you can programatically discover the latest Ubuntu AMI like this

    ec2 =

    root_device_type = "ebs"
    ami_owner = '099720109477'
    ami_name = "*ubuntu/images/#{root_device_type}/ubuntu-precise-12.04*"  # hardcoded to ubuntu 12.04. You can apply your own criteria here.

    AWS.memoize do
      linux_ami = ec2.images.with_owner(ami_owner).
        filter("root-device-type", root_device_type).
        filter("architecture", "x86_64").        # use 'i386' for 32 bit and 'x86_64' for 64 bit
        filter("name", ami_name)
        # this only makes one request due to memoization
        return linux_ami.to_a.sort_by(&:name).last
        abort red "Error discovering latest AMI. Terminating."
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There is a comprehensive list of available Official AMIs on the Ubuntu Cloud Portal. You an find additional resources regarding Canonical's Official EC2 AMI releases in the Ubuntu Help: EC2 Starts Guide and a raw directory of all the AMIs released by Canonical in Ubuntu EC2 Images

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