Create machine images

Use a machine image to store all the configuration, metadata, permissions, and data from multiple disks for a VM instance running on Compute Engine. The VM instance that you use to create a machine image is referred to as a source VM instance.

For information about when and how to use machine images, see Machine images.

This document describes the steps for creating a machine image from a source VM instance.

Before you begin

  • If you haven't already, set up authentication. Authentication is the process by which your identity is verified for access to Google Cloud services and APIs. To run code or samples from a local development environment, you can authenticate to Compute Engine as follows.

    Select the tab for how you plan to use the samples on this page:


    When you use the Google Cloud console to access Google Cloud services and APIs, you don't need to set up authentication.


    1. Install the Google Cloud CLI, then initialize it by running the following command:

      gcloud init
    2. Set a default region and zone.


    To use the REST API samples on this page in a local development environment, you use the credentials you provide to the gcloud CLI.

      Install the Google Cloud CLI, then initialize it by running the following command:

      gcloud init

    For more information, see Authenticate for using REST in the Google Cloud authentication documentation.

Limitations and restrictions

  • You can create a machine image at most once every 10 minutes. If you want to issue a burst of requests for creating multiple machine images from an instance, you can issue at most 6 requests in 60 minutes.
  • You can protect a machine image by using either Cloud Key Management Service (Cloud KMS) or a customer-supplied encryption key (CSEK). The encryption key protects the content of the disks. However, metadata isn't protected.
  • If you use a CSEK to protect your machine image, a full copy of all disk data is stored during the generation of the machine image. In all other scenarios disk data is stored in differential copies.
  • You can't create machine images from source VMs that:

    • Have greater than 200 TB of disks attached.
    • Don't have any attached disks.
    • Have any attached Hyperdisk Extreme disks.
    • Use a C3D, H3, A3, or Z3 machine type

Instance and disk properties not supported by machine image

When you create machine images from VM instances or create VM instances from machine images, the following instance and disk properties are not preserved or restored:

  • disks.architecture
  • disks.description
  • disks.labels
  • disks.locked
  • disks.multiWriter
  • disks.onUpdateAction
  • disks.provisionedIops
  • disks.shieldedInstanceInitialState
  • disks.sourceImage
  • disks.sourceImageEncryptionKey
  • disks.sourceInstantSnapshot
  • disks.sourceSnapshot
  • disks.sourceSnapshotEncryptionKey
  • privateIpv6GoogleAccess
  • resourceManagerTags
  • resourcePolicies
  • secure_tag
  • shieldedInstanceConfig

Creating a machine image from a VM

You can create machine images using either the Google Cloud console, the Google Cloud CLI, or REST.

To create a machine image, you need the following information:

  • A name for the machine image that you want to create.
  • The name of the source VM instance.
  • The zone that the source VM instance is located in.
  • An optional description.
  • An optional storageLocation. If you don't specify a location, the default storage location is the multiregional Cloud Storage location of the source VM instance.
  • An optional encryption key. You can choose between a Google-managed key, a Cloud Key Management Service (Cloud KMS) key or a customer-supplied encryption (CSEK) key. If no encryption key is specified, machine images are encrypted using a Google-managed key.
  • If you want to use a machine image for instance cloning and snapshotting, remove the OS and app information that is unique to the instance before generating the machine image from an instance. For example, for Windows VM instances, use GCESysprep to prepare the system for replication.


  1. In the Google Cloud console, go to the Machine images page.

    Go to Machine images

  2. Click Create Machine image.

  3. Specify a Name for your machine image.

  4. Optional: Provide a Description.

  5. Select the Source VM instance.

  6. Optional: Specify where to store the machine image. Choose between Multi-regional or Regional storage. For more information about location, see Machine image storage location.

  7. Optional: Select an Encryption method.

  8. Click Create.


Use the gcloud compute machine-images create command to create a machine image from an instance.

gcloud compute machine-images create MACHINE_IMAGE_NAME \

Replace the following:

  • MACHINE_IMAGE_NAME: name of the machine image that you want to create.
  • SOURCE_VM_NAME: name of the source VM instance that you want to create the image from.


For example, you can use the following gcloud command to create a machine image called my-machine-image from a source instance called my-instance:

gcloud compute machine-images create my-machine-image  \

The process takes a few minutes. When the machine image is created, you get an output that resembles the following:

Created [].
NAME               STATUS
my-machine-image   READY


In the API, construct a POST request to the machineimages.insert method. In the request body, include the following POST request:


  "sourceInstance": "SOURCE_INSTANCE_URL"

Replace the following:

  • PROJECT_ID: project ID.
  • MACHINE_IMAGE_NAME: name of the machine image that you want to create.
  • SOURCE_INSTANCE_URL: full or partial URL of the source VM instance that you want to use to create the machine image. For example, if you have a source instance called my-instance in a project called myProject. The following URLs are valid:

    • projects/myProject/global/instances/my-instance
    • global/instances/my-instance

What's next?