Viewing Activity Logs

Compute Engine provides activity logs that let you track certain events that affect your project, such as API calls and system events. Specifically, activity logs provide information about:

  • Compute Engine API calls - GCE_API_CALL events are API calls that change the state of a resource. For example, API calls to create a disk, update instance metadata, create an instance group, change a machine type, are recorded in activity logs. API calls that do not update a resource, such as get and list requests are not recorded.
  • Operation logs - GCE_OPERATION_DONE events are logged when an API call changes the state of a resource finishes, Compute Engine returns a completed operation event that is recorded in your activity logs.
  • System logs - GCE_SYSTEM_EVENT events are logged when Compute Engine performs a system event, it is recorded in activity logs. For example, a transparent maintenance event would be logged as a system event.

For example, with an API event, an activity log provides details such as the start and end time of an API request, the specifics of the request body, the authorized user who made the API request, and the request endpoint. You can download activity logs to search for specific API requests, or to review system events initiated by Compute Engine.

Activity logs do not provide billing or usage information about a project, such as how long a virtual machine instance has been running or how much it costs. For billing logs, see the billing export feature. For usage logs, see the usage logs.

Compute Engine activity logs are also not the same thing as audit logs.

Activity logs are provided as part of the Stackdriver Logging service. For more information about Stackdriver Logging in general, read the Stackdriver Logging documentation.

Before you begin


Viewing logs

Activity logging is enabled by default for all Compute Engine projects.

You can see your project's activity logs through the Logs Viewer in the Google Cloud Platform Console:

  1. Go to the Logging page in the Cloud Platform Console.
  2. When in the logs viewer, select Compute Engine, All resource types,.. from the first drop-down menu.
  3. Select activity_log from the All logs drop-down menu to see Compute Engine activity logs.

Exporting logs

Read Configuring Logs Export in the Stackdriver documentation to learn how to export activity logs.

Identifying log files

When you export logs into Google Cloud Storage, the log files are stored in the structure described by the Log entries in Google Cloud Storage documentation.

Compute Engine log files are stored with the following directory structure:


The following is an example log file name stored in a Google Cloud Storage bucket named my-bucket:


In BigQuery, activity logs are stored in a set of tables, one table for each log type and day, and the tables are named using the following format:


For information on how to query activity logs in BigQuery, see Log entries in Google BigQuery.

Reading activity logs

Activity logs are structured as described in the LogEntry type documentation.

Compute Engine activity logs have:

  • as value of the log field
  • metadata, which describes common information such as timestamp
  • structPayload, which contains the specific contents of the log entry

You can get more details about the common fields provide with every log entry from the LogEntry description, but the payload contents of activity log entries are specific to Compute Engine and are described below.

Payload contents

The contents of a log entry are provided in JSON object format, and are stored in the structPayload field. The structPayload field contains the following information:

Field Type Description
actor string Email of user or service account performing the operation. This is the same as the user_id.
error string Provides any error details if an error occured during this event. This is omitted if there were no errors. Errors will usually prevent a request from completing successfully. You can use this field to debug a failed request.
event_subtype string Describes the specific subtype as an API method.

For example, a request to insert a new instance appears as compute.instances.insert, and a request to delete an Address resource appears as compute.addresses.delete.

See the API reference for a comprehensive list of API methods.

event_timestamp_us timestamp The timestamp of the logged event in microseconds since standard epoch. This is the same as metadata.timestamp.
event_type string Describes the general event type.

This can be one of:

  • GCE_API_CALL: Indicates a REST API call that updated a resource.
  • GCE_OPERATION_DONE: Once an API request completes, whether successful or not, this event type is logged.
  • GCE_SYSTEM_EVENT - A system event initiated by Compute Engine.
info string An optional field with additional information if applicable. This field is omitted if there is no additional information to show.
operation string When a API request is made to update or change any resources, a corresponding operation object is created to track the request to completion. This property describes the operation object for this event, providing information such as the operation name, the zone or region of the operation, and the operation ID.

Operations can be a zone operation, a region operation, or a global operation, depending on the resource the operation is modifying.

request JSON Contains the original API request body.

resource JSON Describes the particular resource that is being modified by this event. For example, a virtual machine instance is considered a resource and an example resource property for a virtual machine would look like the following:
"resource": {
  "type": "instance",
  "name": "example-instance",
  "id": "0",
  "zone": "us-central1-f"

A list of resource types is described in detail in the API reference.

Note: If an action affects multiple resources, there may be multiple log entries with the same trace_id.

trace_id number A system-provided trace ID used to group related logs that are triggered by a single action. For example:
trace_id: "operation-1442436581415-51fe3700bd85a-7fd317e3-f1a3555e"
user_agent string Describes the client that performed this request. For example, if you used the Java client library to make a request, the user agent would be Google-API-Java-Client.
version string The current log format version indicates of the Compute Engine log schema. The current version is 1.2.

Note: The Compute Engine API versioning is separate from the log format versioning.

warning string Provides any warning details if any warnings occured during this event. A warning is informational and does not affect the request, unlike errors.

Sample log entry

For example, a sample log entries describing an API request to create a virtual machine looks like the following:

  "log": "",
  "insertId": "2015-09-16|13:49:42.532185-07||335899593",
  "metadata": {
    "severity": "INFO",
    "projectId": "835469197146",
    "serviceName": "",
    "zone": "us-central1-f",
    "timestamp": "2015-09-16T20:49:42.423637Z"
  "structPayload": {
    "version": "1.2",
    "trace_id": "operation-1442436581415-51fe3700bd85a-7fd317e3-f1a3555e",
    "event_timestamp_us": "1442436582423637",
    "event_type": "GCE_API_CALL",
    "event_subtype": "compute.instances.insert",
    "resource": {
      "type": "instance",
      "name": "example-instance",
      "id": "0",
      "zone": "us-central1-f"
    "actor": {
      "user": ""
    "ip_address": "",
    "user_agent": "apitools-client/1.0",
    "request": {
      "url": "",
      "body": "{
              \"name\":\"External NAT\",

    "operation": {
      "type": "operation",
      "name": "operation-1442436581415-51fe3700bd85a-7fd317e3-f1a3555e",
      "id": "291347737657178184",
      "zone": "us-central1-f"

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