I have been experimenting around with ec2-describe-instances and ec2-describe-instance-status in the EC2 command line tools with the goal of starting stopped instances. However I cannot neatly list all stopped instances. ec2-describe-instance-status only lists running instances (unless I am doing something wrong).

Is there an easier way to list stopped instances than awk-ing the hell out of ec2-describe-instances?


Use the following command to list the stopped instances.

ec2-describe-instances --filter "instance-state-name=stopped"

  • Excellent! That's half the battle won! Having that pre-filter will make awk-ing the output easier anyway. Cheers for that! – Oldtowner Sep 12 '12 at 8:14

You can use a ruby script I've written for some purposes that uses the aws gem:


require 'aws'

ec2 = AWS::EC2.new(
:access_key_id => 'AWS_KEY',
:secret_access_key => 'AWS_SECRET')

ec2.regions.each do |region|
 ec2.regions["#{region.name}"].instances.each do |line|
  if line.status.to_s=="stopped"
   puts("#{line}") #check docs for what exactly you need to output

You can modify it for your own purposes to get all the data you need. Just check the docs at https://github.com/grempe/amazon-ec2 (if I'm not wrong).

  • I would prefer if there was a stand alone solution that doesn't require additional libraries. Also, I'm not immediately familiar with Ruby, so that is another layer removed! Cheers for the link though, I now have a fall back :D – Oldtowner Sep 11 '12 at 16:58

ec2-describe-instances --filter "instance-state-name=stopped" | ec2-start-instances -

The "-" tells ec2-start-instances to read from stdin.


ec2-describe-instance-status --filter "instance-state-name=stopped"

This will only provide youlist of stopped instances.

  • This maybe something about my setup that needs debugging, but ec2-describe-instance-status only lists running instances. Is this right? should it list stopped instances? – Oldtowner Sep 11 '12 at 16:49
  • no, it also lists stopped instances as well. try this command and see yourself – Farhan Sep 11 '12 at 16:50
  • I have run the command, and as I say, stopped instances are not listed, it does list all running though. With the filtered argument, nothing is returned. – Oldtowner Sep 11 '12 at 16:54
  • 1
    ec2-describe-instance-status only lists instances in the "Running" state. See docs.amazonwebservices.com/AWSEC2/latest/CommandLineReference/… – Matt Houser Sep 11 '12 at 17:22
  • 1
    Try ec2-describe-instances --filter "instance-state-name=stopped" – Matt Houser Sep 11 '12 at 17:23

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