» Migrating State from Multiple Local Workspaces

Terraform can manage multiple groups of infrastructure in one working directory by switching workspaces.

These workspaces, managed with the terraform workspace command, aren't the same thing as Terraform Cloud's workspaces. Terraform Cloud workspaces act more like completely separate working directories; CLI workspaces are just alternate state files.

If you use multiple workspaces, you'll need to migrate each one to a separate Terraform Cloud workspace.

Migrating multiple workspaces is similar to migrating a single workspace, but it requires a slightly different backend configuration.

» Step 1: Ensure Terraform ≥ 0.11.13 is Installed

To follow these instructions, you need Terraform 0.11.13 or later on the workstation where you are performing the migration. In older versions, the remote backend is either absent or only partially supported.

» Step 2: Gather Credentials, Data, and Code

Make sure you have all of the following:

  • The location of the VCS repository for the Terraform configuration in question.
  • A local working copy of the Terraform configuration in question.
  • The existing state data. The location of the state depends on which backend you've been using:
    • If you were using the local backend, your state is files on disk. You need the original working directory where you've been running Terraform, or a copy of the terraform.tfstate and terraform.tfstate.d files to copy into a fresh working directory.
    • For remote backends, you need the path to the particular storage being used (usually already included in the configuration) and access credentials (which you usually must set as an environment variable).
  • A Terraform Cloud user account.

    This account must have permission to manage workspaces for the organization. (More about permissions.)

You also need to authenticate Terraform with Terraform Cloud. If you're using Terraform 0.12.21 or later, you can use the terraform login command. Alternatively, you can create a user API token and manually configure credentials in the CLI config file.

» Step 3: Stop Terraform Runs

However you currently run Terraform to manage this infrastructure, stop. Let any current runs finish, then make sure there won't be more.

This might involve locking or deleting CI jobs, restricting access to the state backend, or just communicating very clearly with your colleagues.

» Step 4: Prepare Your Terraform Working Directory

In your shell, go to the directory with the Terraform configuration you're migrating.

  • If you've already been doing Terraform runs in this directory, you should be ready to go.
  • If you had to retrieve state files from elsewhere, copy them into the root of the working directory and run terraform init.
  • If you use a remote backend and had to check out a fresh working directory from version control, run terraform init.

» Step 5: Edit the Backend Configuration

If the Terraform configuration has an existing [backend configuration block][backend-config], delete it now.

Add a new backend block to the configuration:

terraform {
  backend "remote" {
    hostname = "app.terraform.io"
    organization = "my-org"

    workspaces {
      prefix = "my-app-"
  • Use the remote backend.
  • In the organization attribute, specify the name of your Terraform Cloud organization.
  • The hostname attribute is only necessary with Terraform Enterprise instances. You can omit it if you're using the SaaS version of Terraform Cloud.
  • In the prefix attribute in the workspaces block, specify a prefix to use when naming newly created Terraform Cloud workspaces. You'll use short workspace names on the CLI, and long workspace names with the prefix added in Terraform Cloud's UI and API. See the remote backend documentation for details.

» Step 6: Run terraform init to Migrate the Workspaces

Run terraform init.

The init command will offer to migrate each previous state to a new Terraform Cloud workspace. The prompt usually looks like this:

Initializing the backend...
Do you want to migrate all workspaces to "remote"?
  Both the existing "local" backend and the newly configured "remote" backend
  support workspaces. When migrating between backends, Terraform will copy
  all workspaces (with the same names). THIS WILL OVERWRITE any conflicting
  states in the destination.

  Terraform initialization doesn't currently migrate only select workspaces.
  If you want to migrate a select number of workspaces, you must manually
  pull and push those states.

  If you answer "yes", Terraform will migrate all states. If you answer
  "no", Terraform will abort.

  Enter a value:

Answer "yes".

Some backends, including the default local backend, allow a special default workspace that doesn't have a specific name. If you previously used a combination of named workspaces and the special default workspace, the prompt will next ask you to choose a new name for the default workspace, since Terraform Cloud doesn't support unnamed workspaces:

The "remote" backend configuration only allows named workspaces!
  Please provide a new workspace name (e.g. dev, test) that will be used
  to migrate the existing default workspace.

  Enter a value:

After both questions are answered, Terraform will migrate your state.

» Step 7: Configure the Terraform Cloud Workspaces

In Terraform Cloud's UI, make any settings changes necessary for your new workspaces.

» Step 8: Queue Runs in the New Workspaces

For each migrated workspace, either run terraform plan on the CLI or navigate to the workspace in Terraform Cloud's UI and queue a plan. Examine the results.

If all went well, each plan should result in no changes or very small changes. Terraform Cloud can now take over all Terraform runs for this infrastructure.

» Troubleshooting

  • If the plan would create an entirely new set of infrastructure resources, you probably have the wrong state file.

    In the case of a wrong state file, you can recover by fixing your local working directory and trying again. You'll need to re-set to the local backend, run terraform init, replace the state file with the correct one, change back to the atlas backend, run terraform init again, and confirm that you want to replace the remote state with the current local state.

  • If the plan recognizes the existing resources but would make unexpected changes, check whether the designated VCS branch for the workspace is the same branch you've been running Terraform on, and update it, if it is not. You can also check whether variables in the Terraform Cloud workspace have the correct values.