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ec2-expire-snapshots – Delete expired EBS snapshots in Amazon EC2


 ec2-expire-snapshots [opts] VOLUMEID...


-h --help
Print help and exit.
-d --debug
Debug mode.
-q --quiet
Quiet mode.
-n --noaction
Don’t do it. Just say what you would have done.
--aws-access-key-id KEY
- --aws-secret-access-key SECRET
Amazon AWS access key and secret access key. Defaults to environment variables or .awssecret file contents described below.
--aws-access-key-id-file KEYFILE
- --aws-secret-access-key-file SECRETFILE
Files containing Amazon AWS access key and secret access key. Defaults to environment variables or .awssecret file contents described below.
--aws-credentials-file CREDENTIALSFILE
File containing both the Amazon AWS access key and secret access key on separate lines and in that order. Defaults to contents of $AWS_CREDENTIALS environment variable or the value $HOME/.awssecret
The instance is part of an IAM role that that has permission to create snapshots so there is no need to specify access key or secret.
--region REGION
Specify a different EC2 region like “eu-west-1”. Defaults to “us-east-1”.
--volume-id-in-tag TAGNAME
Specifies the name of a tag to look for on each EBS snapshot indicating what volume-id to associate with this snapshot, replacing the volume-id that is returned by the API. The common use is for when snapshots are copied across regions. This is so a consistent expiration schedule can be kept, without regards to the new volume-id generated each time a copy is made.
--delete-delay DELAY_IN_SECONDS
Specifies the number of seconds to wait between deleting snapshots. Allows ec2-expire-snapshots to run without hitting the AWS rate limiter.
--keep-most-recent COUNT
- --keep-first-yearly YEARCOUNT
- --keep-first-quarterly QUARTERCOUNT [NOT YET IMPLEMENTED]
- --keep-first-monthly MONTHCOUNT
- --keep-first-weekly WEEKCOUNT
- --keep-first-daily DAYCOUNT
- --keep-first-hourly HOURCOUNT
- --expiration-tag-name TAGNAME [NOT YET IMPLEMENTED]
- --expiration-tag-optional [NOT YET IMPLEMENTED]
These options identify which EBS snapshots should be preserved. See the “PRESERVATION OPTIONS” section for more details on what they mean and how to use them.
This dangerous option overrides all other default option values, EBS snapshot tag values, and normal safety measures. All EBS snapshots for the specified EBS volumes are attemped to be deleted. Even the most recent EBS snapshot is deleted. The EBS snapshots are deleted even if the EBS volume does not exist. After this option is used, you will have no EBS snapshots for the specified EBS volume, unless there was some error condition that prevented an EBS snapshot from being deleted.
This is not a normal EBS snapshot expiration strategy, but is a convenience option for use when throwing away all data associated with an EBS volume that is no longer useful for any purpose.


EBS volume ids for which EBS snapshots are to be expired (deleted). The EBS volume does not have to exist for its EBS snapshots to be found and deleted.


On Ubuntu, the ec2-expire-snapshots package can be installed directly from the PPA using the following commands:

 sudo add-apt-repository -y ppa:alestic
 sudo apt-get update
 sudo apt-get install -y ec2-expire-snapshots


This program deletes expired EBS snapshots of the specified EBS volumes on Amazon EC2. Different expiration strategies and specifications are supported.

When deciding what options to use, it’s easier to think of which EBS snapshots should be preserved instead of which should be expired and deleted.

As a general rule, all EBS snapshots that you have not requested to be preserved will be deleted.

Unless overridden, the software always preserves the most recent EBS snapshot, along with any EBS snapshots where it isn’t clear what was intended (e.g., unrecognized expiration tag values).

Please read the descriptions of the preservation options carefully. They might not mean what they look like on first glance. For example, these mean two very different things:

--keep-all-since '3 days ago' [NOT YET IMPLEMENTED]
This option asks the program to preserve every EBS snapshot that was created since the current time 3 days ago, i.e., the most recent 72 hours.
--keep-first-daily 3
This option asks the program to preserve the first completed EBS snapshot that was created on each of the last 3 calendar days including “today”, “yesterday”, and “2 days ago”, calculated in UTC. All other EBS snapshots of the EBS volume may be deleted unless there are other conditions specified to prevent that.


The following options control which EBS snapshots are preserved. If an EBS snapshot is not flagged as one to be preserved, then it is considered expired and will be deleted.

There are three basic expiration methodologies supported by this program.

1. Keep Recent
This is the simplest approach where you tell the program to preserve a specifc number of the the most recent EBS snapshots created (e.g., “10”) and/or to preserve any EBS snapshots created since a particular date/time in the past (e.g., “7 days ago”).
The specific options related to this approach include:
--keep-most-recent COUNT
The most recent COUNT completed EBS snapshots will be preserved. By default, the most recent EBS snapshot is always preserved, but this can be overridden against our recommendation by explicitly specifying “0” in this option.
The EBS snapshots that were created at or after DATETIME will be preserved. The value may be an absolute date/time or it may be relative to now.
See “DATE/TIME FORMATS” below for recommended value formats.
2. Keep One Per Calendar/Clock Cycle
This approach lets you keep many very recent copies of EBS snapshots, somewhat fewer as you go into the near-term past, and more sparse backups as you get to distant history. The time frames involved are hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly. You can specify as many or as few of these time periods as you wish, and save as many cycles of each as you wish.
The specific options related to this approach include:
--keep-first-hourly HOURCOUNT
- --keep-first-daily DAYCOUNT
- --keep-first-weekly WEEKCOUNT
- --keep-first-monthly MONTHCOUNT
- --keep-first-quarterly QUARTERCOUNT [NOT YET IMPLEMENTED]
- --keep-first-yearly YEARCOUNT
Preserve the first completed EBS snapshot created in each of the most recent COUNT hours/days/weeks/months/quarters/years, respectively, calculated in UTC. The value “all” can be used instead of a number if you wish to keep the first snapshot available in any available period.
The current hour/day/week/month/quarter/year is considered “1”. A COUNT of “all”, case insensitive, is equivalent to an infinitely high COUNT.
A single EBS snasphot may match multiple options. For example, the first EBS snapshot in a month is also going to be the first EBS snapshot for a particular day, but perhaps not the first for any particular week. There may be no completed EBS snapshots in some time periods.
The first completed EBS snapshot in a month may have been taken on a date later than the first day of the month and the dates don’t need to be the same across different months. For example, the first snapshot of the month may have been created on the 3rd. This software simply preserves the oldest completed EBS snapshot in each relevant time period.
If hourly EBS snapshots would be too many for you, you can simply not create EBS snapshots that often. For example, you could create EBS snapshots every 6 hours and then specify --keep-first-hourly 30 to preserve about 4, depending on what exactly the time stamps are on the EBS snapshots.
Specifies the first day of each week as you think of it. This is used in conjunction with --keep-first-weekly to know which EBS snapshot you prefer to keep. Supported values include “Sunday”, “Sun”, “Monday”, “Mon”, case insensitively. The default first day of the week is Monday.
3. Ask The Snapshot
This approach transfers the decision making about how long each EBS snapshot should be preserved onto some other process, perhaps the one that creates the EBS snapshots in the first place. That external process must create or add a tag to each EBS snapshot indicating how long it should be preserved or when it should expire.
This gives maximum flexibility for any system that goes beyond the simple rules understood by this program. It also allows for exceptions to be made to these rules by humans who make decisions about how long a specific EBS snapshot should be preserved.
The specific options related to this approach include:
--expiration-tag-name TAGNAME [NOT YET IMPLEMENTED]
Specifies the name of a tag to look for on each EBS snapshot indicating when that EBS snapshot is allowed to expire. The tag value can either be an absolute date/time, or a date/time offset expression that is to be calculated relative to the timestamp of the EBS snapshot’s creation. For example, Expiration: +8 days
If the calculated expiration time is in the future or is unrecognized, then the EBS volume is preserved. A tag value of “never” or “forever” will prevent an EBS snapshot from ever being expired.
If this option is specified multiple times, then each tag name is checked on each EBS snapshot, and any one of them can trigger the preservation of an EBS snapshot (even if another tag indicates that the snapshot has expired).
See “DATE/TIME FORMATS” below for recommended tag value formats.
--expiration-tag-optional [NOT YET IMPLEMENTED]
By default, if you specify one or more --expiration-tag-name options and an EBS snapshot does not have any of those tag names, then that EBS snapshot will be preserved.
Including the --expiration-tag-optional option tells the program that EBS snapshots without the expiration tags are allowed to be expired.

It is acceptable and encouraged to include options from across multiple of these strategies. This program will preserve all EBS snapshots that match any of the conditions.

For example, you may want to keep 24 hourly, 7 daily, 4 weekly, and 12 monthly EBS snapshots as a base strategy.

Then, you could add the last 3 hours of all EBS snapshots just in case you end up creating some EBS snapshots manually during a sensitive file modification procedure and you don’t want your EBS snapshots inadvertently deleted in the event you need to undo some recent work.

Then, you could add in some optional expiration tags that can be set to override normal expiration and preserve for a longer time period any special EBS snapshots that you care to flag from time to time.


The creation of EBS snapshots on EC2 is a risk reduction and safety improvement measure in a few ways:

  1. An EBS snapshot is a form of backup and disaster recovery preparedness, allowing you to restore data that may have been deleted, corrupted, or in any other way lost on the EBS volume due to hardware, system, environmental, or human error at a time after the EBS snapshot was created.
  2. EBS snapshots are available from multiple availability zones in a given EC2 region even if the availability zone for the source EBS volume is inaccessible.
  3. An EBS snapshot automatically and transparently reduces the rate of failure of the underlying EBS volume, due to the way that Amazon has designed and implemented the EBS system.
    The EBS system can automatically recover parts of a failing EBS volume from an EBS snapshot, if the blocks that are failing have not been modified since the EBS snapshot was taken. The more frequently an EBS volume is snapshotted, the lower its potential rate of failure.

With backup strategies using physical media, we normally introduce a backup rotation strategy because we have a limited amount of disk or tape to store the backups. With EC2, the available EBS snapshot space is perceived as limitless at the level a single organizion could use it.

So, why do we want to expire and delete EBS snapshots?

  1. EBS snapshots cost money to store on EC2. Even though multiple EBS snapshots share the same copies of unchanged blocks, and even though the block contents are stored in a compressed format, these charges can add up over time when you have a lot of EBS snapshots.
  2. There is a limit on the number of EBS snapshots a single EC2 account can have at any point in time. This limit can easily be increased by submitting a request to Amazon with an explanation of why you need more, but eventually you’re probably going to want to trim back on how many EBS snapshots you retain.
  3. Depending on the tools you are using to manage your AWS resources, it can get unwieldy to manage large numbers of EBS snapshots.

This program tries to help manage your EBS snapshot storage costs by deleting EBS snapshots that you believe are the least helpful to your backup needs, while preserving a select set of EBS snapshots that you believe are likely to be the most important in the near and distant future.

Just remember: When you (or this software) delete an EBS snapshot, it is gone forever and is completely irrecoverable!


This software attempts to be somewhat conservative and to protect you in a few ways:

  1. This program will exit with error unless you specify at least one of the preservation options to give this program an indication of what your expiration strategy is and what EBS snapshots should be preserved.
  2. If you use the --expiration-tag-name option and this program cannot make sense of the value for that tag on one of the EBS snapshots, then that EBS snapshot is not deleted.
  3. If you specify --expiration-tag-name and --expiration-tag-optional without any of the --keep options, and the tag name(s) are not found on any EBS snapshots, then the program exits with an error instead of deleting all your EBS snapshots.
  4. The most recent EBS snapshot for an EBS volume is always preserved unless you explicitly request it to be deleted with:

    —keep-most-recent 0

Deleting the most recent EBS snapshot reduces the reliability of the EBS volume and increases the time, IO, and cost required to create a new EBS snapshot in the future.

  1. If any of the options indicate to this program that an EBS snapshot should be preserved, then it will not be deleted. For example, even if there is an expiration tag on an EBS snapshot that indicates it should expire yesterday, it will not be deleted if it is also the first EBS snapshot of this month and you specified --keep-first-monthly greater than zero.
  2. EBS snapshots in the “pending” or other non-“completed” states are completely ignored by this program. For example, only “completed” snapshots are counted when deciding what is the first snapshot of a calendar period to preserve.
    We have no guarantee that a “pending” snapshot will ever complete successfully, but if it does complete before the next time you run this program, then it will be taken into account in the calculations and may become the new “first” EBS snapshot to be preserved for a time period.


This software supports and interprets a number of different date formats, but if you have a choice, here are some samples of recommended formats for absolute dates and times:

 "2012-01-15 14:56"
 "2015-07-22 09:23:45"

Dates specified without times are assumed to be at “00:00:00” (midnight starting that date).

This software assumes that dates and times without time zones are in UTC.

Here are some samples of recommended formats for relative time offsets for “expires in” tags on EBS snapshots:

 "+1 year"
 "+10 weeks"
 "+3 days"
 "+12 hours"

Here are some examples of recommended formats for relative time offsets for the --keep-all-since option: [NOT YET IMPLEMENTED]

 "1 year ago"
 "10 weeks ago"
 "1 day ago"
 "12 hours ago"


This simple example saves the most recent 10 snapshots:

 ec2-expire-snapshots                   \
     --keep-most-recent 10              \

This example saves the last 7 days of snapshots: [NOT YET IMPLEMENTED]

 ec2-expire-snapshots                   \
     --keep-all-since "7 days ago"     \

This example keeps one snapshot per day for the last 7 days, and one snapshot per month for the last 12 months. There is also an implicit saving of the most recent snapshot by default:

 ec2-expire-snapshots                   \
     --keep-first-daily 7               \
     --keep-first-monthly 12            \

If you always determine how long a snapshot should be saved when you take the EBS snapshot and you store this value in a specific tag named “Expiration”, then you may leave out all other “keep” options only pay attention to your tag. Any volume without the tag will be preserved forever in this example.

 ec2-expire-snapshots                   \
     --expiration-tag-name "Expiration" \

This example combines a number of preservation strategies, any one of which could trigger the preservation of a given EBS snapshot:

 ec2-expire-snapshots                   \
     --keep-most-recent 1               \
     --keep-first-hourly 24             \
     --keep-first-daily 7               \
     --keep-first-weekly 4              \
     --keep-first-monthly 12            \
     --keep-first-yearly all            \
     --expiration-tag-optional          \
     --expiration-tag-name "Expiration" \
     --expiration-tag-name "Expires"    \
     --expiration-tag-name "Keep-For"   \
     --expiration-tag-name "Keep-Until" \
     vol-55555555                       \
     vol-66666666                       \

Delete all EBS snapshots associated with an EBS volume, no matter when they were taken or what their tags say. Make sure you really want to do this. There is no way to recover.

 ec2-expire-snapshots   \
     --force-delete-all \


Default value for access key. Can be overridden by command line options.
Default value for secret access key. Can be overridden by command line options.
Default value for filename containing both access key and secret access key on separate lines and in that order. Can be overriden by the --aws-credentials command line option.


Default values for MySQL user and password are sought here in the standard format.
Default values for access key and secret access keys are sought here. Can be overridden by environment variables and command line options.


Amazon EC2
- Amazon EC2 EBS (Elastic Block Store)
- ec2-consistent-snapshot


Delete expired EBS snapshots in Amazon EC2. Install on Ubuntu with: sudo add-apt-repository -y ppa:alestic && sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install -y ec2-expire-snapshots







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