Can't connect to Windows EC2 instance built by Packer via SSM Agent

I’m using Packer to set up a Windows VM on the free tier of AWS EC2. The image is properly set up and I’m able to launch it, but I can’t connect to it with SSM. Here’s my Packer template:

  "variables": {
    "aws_access_key": null,
    "aws_secret_key": null
  "builders": [
      "name": "windows",
      "type": "amazon-ebs",
      "access_key": "{{user `aws_access_key`}}",
      "secret_key": "{{user `aws_secret_key`}}",
      "region": "us-east-1",
      "source_ami_filter": {
        "filters": {
          "virtualization-type": "hvm",
          "name": "Windows_Server-2019-English-Full-Base-2020.11.11",
          "root-device-type": "ebs"
        "owners": "amazon",
        "most_recent": true
      "instance_type": "t2.micro",
      "ami_name": "build-runner-windows {{timestamp}}",
      "communicator": "winrm",
      "force_deregister": true,
      "winrm_insecure": true,
      "winrm_username": "Administrator",
      "winrm_use_ssl": true,
      "user_data_file": "./windows_bootstrap.txt"

No provisioners yet, I’m just trying to get the thing working.

Here’s the content of ./windows_bootstrap.txt, as given in the official documentation:

write-output "Running User Data Script"
write-host "(host) Running User Data Script"

Set-ExecutionPolicy Unrestricted -Scope LocalMachine -Force -ErrorAction Ignore

# Don't set this before Set-ExecutionPolicy as it throws an error
$ErrorActionPreference = "stop"

# Remove HTTP listener
Remove-Item -Path WSMan:\Localhost\listener\listener* -Recurse

# Create a self-signed certificate to let ssl work
$Cert = New-SelfSignedCertificate -CertstoreLocation Cert:\LocalMachine\My -DnsName "packer"
New-Item -Path WSMan:\LocalHost\Listener -Transport HTTPS -Address * -CertificateThumbPrint $Cert.Thumbprint -Force

# WinRM
write-output "Setting up WinRM"
write-host "(host) setting up WinRM"

cmd.exe /c winrm quickconfig -q
cmd.exe /c winrm set "winrm/config" '@{MaxTimeoutms="1800000"}'
cmd.exe /c winrm set "winrm/config/winrs" '@{MaxMemoryPerShellMB="1024"}'
cmd.exe /c winrm set "winrm/config/service" '@{AllowUnencrypted="true"}'
cmd.exe /c winrm set "winrm/config/client" '@{AllowUnencrypted="true"}'
cmd.exe /c winrm set "winrm/config/service/auth" '@{Basic="true"}'
cmd.exe /c winrm set "winrm/config/client/auth" '@{Basic="true"}'
cmd.exe /c winrm set "winrm/config/service/auth" '@{CredSSP="true"}'
cmd.exe /c winrm set "winrm/config/listener?Address=*+Transport=HTTPS" "@{Port=`"5986`";Hostname=`"packer`";CertificateThumbprint=`"$($Cert.Thumbprint)`"}"
cmd.exe /c netsh advfirewall firewall set rule group="remote administration" new enable=yes
cmd.exe /c netsh firewall add portopening TCP 5986 "Port 5986"
cmd.exe /c net stop winrm
cmd.exe /c sc config winrm start= auto
cmd.exe /c net start winrm


And here’s the output of me creating an image from it. So far so good.

PS C:\Users\Jesse\Infrastructure> packer build -var-file="template-vars.json" minimal.json
windows: output will be in this color.

==> windows: Force Deregister flag found, skipping prevalidating AMI Name
    windows: Found Image ID: ami-02b5cd5aa444bee23
==> windows: Creating temporary keypair: <redacted>
==> windows: Creating temporary security group for this instance: packer_5fb7fe2a-14c6-e0e1-feb5-1eae06766ef3
==> windows: Authorizing access to port 5986 from [] in the temporary security groups...
==> windows: Launching a source AWS instance...
==> windows: Adding tags to source instance
    windows: Adding tag: "Name": "Packer Builder"
    windows: Instance ID: <redacted>
==> windows: Waiting for instance (<redacted>) to become ready...
==> windows: Waiting for auto-generated password for instance...
    windows: It is normal for this process to take up to 15 minutes,
    windows: but it usually takes around 5. Please wait.
    windows: Password retrieved!
==> windows: Using winrm communicator to connect: <redacted>
==> windows: Waiting for WinRM to become available...
    windows: WinRM connected.
==> windows: #< CLIXML
==> windows: <Objs Version="" xmlns=""><Obj S="progress" RefId="0"><TN RefId="0"><T>System.Management.Automation.PSCustomObject</T><T>System.Object</T></TN><MS><I64 N="SourceId">1</I64><PR N="Record"><AV>Preparing modules for first use.</AV><AI>0</AI><Nil /><PI>-1</PI><PC>-1</PC><T>Completed</T><SR>-1</SR><SD> </SD></PR></MS></Obj><Obj S="progress" RefId="1"><TNRef RefId="0" /><MS><I64 N="SourceId">1</I64><PR N="Record"><AV>Preparing modules for first use.</AV><AI>0</AI><Nil /><PI>-1</PI><PC>-1</PC><T>Completed</T><SR>-1</SR><SD> </SD></PR></MS></Obj></Objs>
==> windows: Connected to WinRM!
==> windows: Stopping the source instance...
    windows: Stopping instance
==> windows: Waiting for the instance to stop...
==> windows: Creating AMI build-runner-windows 1605893672 from instance <redacted>
    windows: AMI: ami-08986fa2707bad0dd
==> windows: Waiting for AMI to become ready...
==> windows: Terminating the source AWS instance...
==> windows: Cleaning up any extra volumes...
==> windows: No volumes to clean up, skipping
==> windows: Deleting temporary security group...
==> windows: Deleting temporary keypair...
Build 'windows' finished after 5 minutes 31 seconds.

==> Wait completed after 5 minutes 31 seconds

==> Builds finished. The artifacts of successful builds are:
--> windows: AMIs were created:
us-east-1: ami-08986fa2707bad0dd

PS C:\Users\Jesse\Infrastructure>

Here’s where the trouble starts. When trying to connect through the AWS control panel, I get this error message:

AWS EC2 error message

The problem is:

  • My Packer image is based on a built-in Windows image that should have SSM Agent included.
  • My IAM should have SSM access enabled (although I actually don’t know what I’m doing).
  • I followed all required steps of the Session Manager setup.

Here’s what my currently-running instance looks like, as described by aws ec2 describe-instances:

    "Reservations": [
            "Groups": [],
            "Instances": [
                    "AmiLaunchIndex": 0,
                    "ImageId": "ami-08986fa2707bad0dd",
                    "InstanceId": "<redacted>",
                    "InstanceType": "t2.micro",
                    "KeyName": "test",
                    "LaunchTime": "2020-11-20T17:44:50+00:00",
                    "Monitoring": {
                        "State": "disabled"
                    "Placement": {
                        "AvailabilityZone": "us-east-1a",
                        "GroupName": "",
                        "Tenancy": "default"
                    "Platform": "windows",
                    "PrivateDnsName": "<redacted>",
                    "PrivateIpAddress": "<redacted>",
                    "ProductCodes": [],
                    "PublicDnsName": "<redacted>",
                    "PublicIpAddress": "<redacted>",
                    "State": {
                        "Code": 16,
                        "Name": "running"
                    "StateTransitionReason": "",
                    "SubnetId": "<redacted>",
                    "VpcId": "<redacted>",
                    "Architecture": "x86_64",
                    "BlockDeviceMappings": [
                            "DeviceName": "/dev/sda1",
                            "Ebs": {
                                "AttachTime": "2020-11-20T17:44:51+00:00",
                                "DeleteOnTermination": true,
                                "Status": "attached",
                                "VolumeId": "<redacted>"
                    "ClientToken": "",
                    "EbsOptimized": false,
                    "EnaSupport": true,
                    "Hypervisor": "xen",
                    "IamInstanceProfile": {
                        "Arn": "<redacted>",
                        "Id": "<redacted>"
                    "NetworkInterfaces": [
                            "Association": {
                                "IpOwnerId": "amazon",
                                "PublicDnsName": "<redacted>",
                                "PublicIp": "<redacted>"
                            "Attachment": {
                                "AttachTime": "2020-11-20T17:44:50+00:00",
                                "AttachmentId": "<redacted>",
                                "DeleteOnTermination": true,
                                "DeviceIndex": 0,
                                "Status": "attached",
                                "NetworkCardIndex": 0
                            "Description": "",
                            "Groups": [
                                    "GroupName": "<redacted>",
                                    "GroupId": "<redacted>"
                            "Ipv6Addresses": [],
                            "MacAddress": "<redacted>",
                            "NetworkInterfaceId": "<redacted>",
                            "OwnerId": "<redacted>",
                            "PrivateDnsName": "<redacted>",
                            "PrivateIpAddress": "<redacted>",
                            "PrivateIpAddresses": [
                                    "Association": {
                                        "IpOwnerId": "amazon",
                                        "PublicDnsName": "<redacted>",
                                        "PublicIp": "<redacted>"
                                    "Primary": true,
                                    "PrivateDnsName": "<redacted>",
                                    "PrivateIpAddress": "<redacted>"
                            "SourceDestCheck": true,
                            "Status": "in-use",
                            "SubnetId": "<redacted>",
                            "VpcId": "<redacted>",
                            "InterfaceType": "interface"
                    "RootDeviceName": "/dev/sda1",
                    "RootDeviceType": "ebs",
                    "SecurityGroups": [
                            "GroupName": "<redacted>",
                            "GroupId": "<redacted>"
                    "SourceDestCheck": true,
                    "VirtualizationType": "hvm",
                    "CpuOptions": {
                        "CoreCount": 1,
                        "ThreadsPerCore": 1
                    "CapacityReservationSpecification": {
                        "CapacityReservationPreference": "open"
                    "HibernationOptions": {
                        "Configured": false
                    "MetadataOptions": {
                        "State": "applied",
                        "HttpTokens": "optional",
                        "HttpPutResponseHopLimit": 1,
                        "HttpEndpoint": "enabled"
                    "EnclaveOptions": {
                        "Enabled": false
            "OwnerId": "<redacted>",
            "ReservationId": "<redacted>"

What am I doing wrong?

+1, hitting same problem.
The Logs I have looked at have SSM starting then;
Trying to get instance ID (metedata), failing.
Trying to get serial port and has a null pointer error.
AWS support said it may be anti-virus but that is off and still same errors.

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