It seems like this should be straightforward, but I don't see it in the console nor did I notice anything in "describe-instances" for it. Given some alert e-mails are getting tied to the machine name finding out quickly which instance it is would be most helpful. Some way to dump a list of all the instance names to machine name mappings for my account would be ideal.

UPDATE: I've tried opening up the ports from another EC2 host 135-139 to see if I can use NetBios to get the name. I ran:

ping -a <ip>
nbtstat -a <ip>

Neither returned the machine name for the remote ip. With the local IP both do.


2 Answers 2


We had the same issue. We build a lot of EC2 instances from CloudFormation automatically every day and needed a way to easily identify them individually in the console based on their hosthame.

Currently all the automatically built servers have the same name which is a fixed string in the cloud formation template.

We already had a "user data" based boot-strapping mechanism whereby the automatically created instances would run some PowerShell code when they first booted.

Therefore to get the hostname to show in the AWS console I figured the easiest way was to change the "name" tag, appending the hostname to the existing tag.

I added the following code to the bootstrap:

function Get-NameTagValue()

        [parameter(Mandatory)] [string] $InstanceId

$filter1 = New-Object -TypeName Amazon.EC2.Model.Filter -Property @{
    Name   = 'resource-id'
    Values = $InstanceId

$filter2 = New-Object -TypeName Amazon.EC2.Model.Filter -Property @{
    Name   = 'key'
    Values = 'Name'

$filters = $filter1, $filter2
$tag = Get-EC2Tag `
        -Region $Region `
        -ProfileName $ProfileName `
        -Filter $filters
#Output the tag value


function Set-InstanceNameTag()
    $instanceId = (Invoke-RestMethod -Method Get -Uri

    #Get the current value of the name tag
    $currentNameTagValue = Get-NameTagValue -InstanceId $instanceId
    $newNameTagValue = "$currentNameTagValue - $env:COMPUTERNAME"

    Remove-EC2Tag `
        -Resource $instanceId `
        -Tag @{ Key="Name" } `
        -Region $Region `
        -ProfileName $ProfileName `

    New-EC2Tag `
        -Resource $instanceId `
        -Tag @{ Key="Name"; Value=$newNameTagValue } `
        -Region $Region `
        -ProfileName $ProfileName `


The code first gets the isnance id from the meta data, then using this id it finds the existing Name tag, removes it and adds a new Name tag containing the existing value followed by the hostname.

These two functions are contained within our Bootstrap script which has parameters for $Region and $ProfileName which are used in the functions.

We then just call the function Set-InstanceNameTag from the main script and voilà, you have the existing Name tag followed by a hyphen and the hostname.

In order to make this work, the EC2 instance need to have a role that has permissions to: CreateTags, DeleteTags and DescribeTags.

You can achieve this using the following policy:

    "Version": "2012-10-17",
    "Statement": [
            "Effect": "Allow",
            "Action": [
            "Resource": [

Hope that helps someone.



The best way to know the machine name is to run the relevant command on the machine ('hostname' from the command line).

You could run a script that loops over the instances in your account and runs a remote command to each of name to get its hostname. You can then add a tag to each of the instances with its actual hostname. (Using the create-tags command: http://docs.aws.amazon.com/AWSEC2/latest/CommandLineReference/ApiReference-cmd-CreateTags.html)

You can remote execute the command using powershell if you have the password for the remote machine. Instructions for remote execution with powershell are available here: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/10237083/how-to-programmatically-remotely-execute-a-program-in-ec2-windows-instance/13284313#13284313

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