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How the Terraform state file is created

Mujtaba Jamil Malik


  • In the IT field, infrastructure as a code helps maintain an application’s underlying infrastructure by using programming.
  • Terraform is a coding tool aligned with this practice which allows us to define cloud and local resources in formatted configuration files that we can reuse and share.
  • When we build infrastructure in Terraform configuration, a state file gets created in the local workspace directory named terraform.tfstate.

The state file

  • The state file is a JSON containing the definition of our infrastructure. The file works with the Terraform code to define the “desired state” that we’ll like to achieve.
  • Whenever we change the configuration file, it automatically determines which part of our configuration is already created and which needs to be changed with the help of this file.
  • The state file helps provide a reference to Terraform to identify if a resource is present and stop it from being created again.
  • The following code executes the Terraform infrastructure for a simple hello state .tf file and displays the state file.
resource "local_file" "hello_state_file" {
   content = "Hello terraform state!"
   filename =  "${path.module}/hello_state.txt"


In the above code, we initialize a Terraform module using terraform init, and then create a Terraform state file using terraform apply -auto-approve.

We see that terraform.tfstate file is created using ls.

We can also see the content of terraform.tfstate file using cat terraform.tfstate.



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