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Is it possible to create a hardware virtual machine (HVM) AMI from an existing paravirtual (PV) AMI.

My initially thought was to start a new PV instance and use the ec2-create-image command to create a new image while specifying HVM as the virutalization type. However, ec2-create-image does not have a command line parameter to specify the virtualization type.

Is there another way to go about doing this?

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2 Answers 2


AWS has enabled this feature in the EC2 API. It is available as the --virtualization-type option to aws ec2 register-image in the new Boto based awscli.

Original answer

Yes! Unfortunately, there is not a direct way to do so. Also, some PV instances may need kernel and bootloader modifications.

  1. Create a volume from your existing PV AMI. If it was your own PV AMI, you can make a volume from the snapshot. If it is a 3rd party AMI, you will need to launch an instance and take a snapshot.
  2. Launch an HVM instance with any AMI.
  3. Stop that HVM instance.
  4. Detach the root volume from that instance.
  5. Attach the PV volume as the root volume(/dev/sda1 or /dev/sda if it was partitioned) to the HVM instance.
  6. Run ec2-create-image on the HVM instance.
  7. Launch other instances with your new HVM AMI.

If that doesn't work, then before step 5, you will need to attach that volume to a running instance, set up a chroot, and install a kernel and bootloader for your distribution. You may also want to clear logs and any cloud-init cache.

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ec2-register -a x86_64 -d '3.15.7-200.fc20.x86_64' -n 'Fedora_20_HVM_AMI'  --sriov simple --virtualization-type hvm -s snap-b44feb18 --root-device-name /dev/sda1 

Detailed steps:

Answering further based upon Jeff Strunk's response to simplify the steps and giving a bit more details on the ec2 register image:

  1. Create Instance using PV Image. Make / update any changes you want.

  2. Create Image from the above instance.

  3. Find the snapshot id used by the above AMI under EC2 > Elastic Block Store > Snapshot in EC2 Console.

    or if you have the ec2 api tools setup:

    ec2-describe-images ami-id_of_above_created_ami

    and find the snapshot id for the ami

    .. Assumptions for further steps: Your ec2 keys and api tools are set and ready to use:

  4. Register a new HVM AMI using the above snapshot: example:

ec2-register -a x86_64 -d '3.15.7-200.fc20.x86_64' -n 'Fedora_20_HVM_AMI' --sriov simple --virtualization-type hvm -s snap-b44feb18 --root-device-name /dev/sda1


  • -d is AMI description
  • -n is AMI name
  • -s is snapshot id from step 3.
  • -a is architecture
  • --virtualization-type is required for making it hvm
  • --sriov is for enabling enhanced networking , though it might be redundant, not sure.

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Unless I'm doing something wrong, this will not work for marketplace AMIs that restrict instance types. Tried converting the official MongoDB paravirtual AMI to HVM, and while I could create the HVM AMI, it wouldn't launch an HVM-instance with it. –  Matt Beckman Aug 25 '14 at 17:46
@MattBeckman I think its about the underlying kernel/bootloader support rather than AMI restriction. Above works for fedora but not for amazon linux. There you have to go the way as suggested by Jeff Strunk originaly. –  Anshu Prateek Sep 1 '14 at 3:40

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