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How to import existing resources under Terraform without writing Terraform configuration

Before Terraform version 1.5, if you want to import existing resources into a Terraform configuration, you must write a configuration for the resources you want to import. If you haven’t created any resource block for the resources, you cannot import the resources under Terraform cloud. you can also use Terraform Import but the configuration Is safer.

Firstly you have to write a Terraform configuration for the particular resource that you want to import and execute the import command with the resource id. Then you have to run terraform plan command to compare the configuration changes of the resource from the cloud provider to your terraform configuration file. This is like writing a Terraform configuration script from the beginning and If you want to import an infrastructure that has a lot of combined resources, it took more time and confusion to manually import and write Terraform configurations for them.

But recently Hashicorp released Terraform version 1.5 and it has a major update for the import concept. They have introduced a new resource block called import.

Using this import block we need to provide the resource id and a resource block name for the resource. Then running the import command will create a new configuration for that resource automatically and we can manage the resource from terraform cloud. Maybe it won’t be very clear to you when I say all the things here. So let’s dive into a simple demo.

That will give you an understanding of the process and  so i will explain every step for a deep understanding.

Prerequisites for Terraform Configuration

1. Before you take this demo your Windows or Linux machine must have the following tools installed

2.  AWS IAM user with the following permissions

3 Configure the AWS CLI with the above IAM user’s Access and secret keys


Create EC2 Instance and Security Group in AWS console

Open your AWS console and search for EC2 and click it. You will be redirected to the EC2 dashboard.

AWS EC2 Dashboard

Expand the Launch instance icon and click the Launch instance link like the below-mentioned picture.

AWS Launch Instance

Enter a name for your EC2 instance and scroll down to select an AMI for the server. Then select the Amazon Linux image which is eligible for the free tier for this test purpose.

selecting OS Instance

For the Instance type also leaves it as default as t2.micro and for the Key pair choose to Proceed without a key pair option. Because we don’t need to log in to the server now. And click Edit for the Network setting section.

Instance type

Do not change the VPC, Subnet, and Auto-assign Public IP options. Just leaves them as default values.

For the Firewall, select the Create security group option, enter a name for your security group, and change the description of the security group also.

AWS Security Group

Click the Launch instance button.

Launch Instance

Your instance is getting created. click on the instance id to view your instance details.

Launch Instance Initiated


Initialize Terraform configuration and Define the Import Block

Open your Visual Studio code editor in the folder in that you run your Terraform script.

Create a new file as provider.tf and paste the below code into the file.

provider "aws" {}
Run terraform init command to initialize the terraform configurations related to AWS Provider.
Terraform init
Create another file called import.tf and paste the following code into the file.
import {
  id = "instance-id"
  to = aws_instance.this

import {
  id = "security-group-id"
  to = aws_security_group.this
Change the values for instance-id and security-group-id with their respecting IDs of them like the below image.
Terraform import
You can find the Instance Id and Security group Id from your AWS console. Take the below picture for your reference.

Generating the configuration for the resources

Now we are going to generate a configuration file for our existing resources. For this, we have to use terraform plan the command with the -generate-config-out flag to generate a configuration file for the resources needed to import.

terraform plan -generate-config-out=main
Terraform import
It will throw an error like the above image. Command out the line mentioned in the below screenshot in the file named main and Rename the file to main.tf.
terraform configuration
Now open the main.tf file, you can see the configuration in the below picture.
Terraform imported file
Run terraform plan to verify that your configuration matches the current settings for the instance and security group. It shows there will be some resources that need to be imported into the state file.
Terraform Resources import
So run Terraform apply command to import the configuration.
Terraform Resources import
You have successfully imported the resources within this Terraform configuration and updated the state file. Now the manually created resources are coming under the terraform management.

Update the Resource and Test

Now we are done with the process of importing resources into terraform configuration. So it’s time to check whether the resources are really managed by Terraform or not.

Open the main.tf file in VS code editor and change the following line with the following value exactly like the below screenshot.

instance_type = "t2.nano"

Instance type

When running terraform apply command it will ask for a confirmation with the detail “1 Resource will be updated in place”.

Terraform apply

Verify the plan and enter yes to apply the changes.

Terraform apply

Once the apply completed, navigate to the AWS console and to the AWS EC2 page. Then select the instance that you have created and check the instance type. It will be changed to ‘t2.nano‘.

instance type


In this blog post, we explored the power of Terraform as an infrastructure as a code (IaC) tool for provisioning and managing cloud resources. At this place, you have an idea about the new import feature of Terraform with the configuration-generating process for existing resources. With Terraform you can manage a whole infrastructure that has a bunch of Cloud services within a single configuration file.

With this new Terraform Import Feature, you can import existing or manually created resources into Terraform configuration file without writing any Terraform configuration scripts manually, and also you can able to import multiple resources with a single command and mention them in a single configuration file.

Terraform Blogs

We hope this blog post has provided you with a solid foundation in Terraform and inspired you to further explore the capabilities of this powerful tool. With Terraform, you have the ability to create and manage infrastructure efficiently and reliably, unlocking new possibilities for your projects and driving innovation.

Remember to continue learning and experimenting with Terraform, staying updated with the latest features and best practices. The possibilities are endless, and we are excited to see what you create with Terraform as you build and manage your cloud infrastructure.

    Article written by:

    Jerin Rathnam is a proficient DevOps engineer who is dedicated to streamlining software development and deployment processes. He has extensive knowledge of cloud infrastructure, containerization, and CI/CD pipelines, which enables him to effectively connect development and operations. Jerin specializes in creating numerous Terraform modules for multi-cloud infrastructure and possesses immense expertise in configuring and managing cloud infrastructure. His profound understanding of containerization, along with his experience in orchestration tools like Docker and Kubernetes, further supports his skills as a valuable DevOps engineer.

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