gcloud compute

The gcloud compute command-line tool enables you to easily manage your Google Compute Engine resources in a friendlier format than using the Compute Engine API.

The gcloud tool is part of the Cloud SDK and is a unified command-line tool that includes features like statement autocompletion, in-place updating, extensive man page style help, human-readable and machine-parsable output formats, and integration with Google Cloud SDK.

If you haven't already activated Google Compute Engine, follow the Sign Up steps. We also recommend that you review the Getting Started guides.

Install gcloud compute

To install gcloud compute, install the Google Cloud SDK.

Set up gcloud compute

Google Compute Engine uses OAuth2 to authenticate and authorize access. Before you can use gcloud compute, you must first authorize the Cloud SDK on your behalf to access your project and acquire an auth token.

If you are using the gcloud command-line tool for the first time, gcloud automatically uses the default configuration. For most cases, you only need the default configuration.

  1. Run gcloud init to start the authentication process. Hit enter when prompted.

    The command prints a URL and tries to open a browser window to request access to your project. If a browser window can be opened, you will see the following output:

    gcloud init
    

    Welcome! This command will take you through the configuration of gcloud.

    Your current configuration has been set to: [default]

    To continue, you must login. Would you like to login (Y/n)? y

    Your browser has been opened to visit:

    https://accounts.google.com/o/oauth2/auth?scope=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.googleapis.co%2 Fauth%2Fappengine.admin+https%3A%2F%2...

    If the Cloud SDK detects that a browser can not be opened (e.g., you are working on a remote machine) you will see the output below. Or, if you are working on a local machine and your browser doesn't automatically load the URL, then retry the gcloud init command with the --console-only flag.

    gcloud init --console-only
    

    Copy the authentication URL and paste it into a browser. Then paste the verification code back into the terminal.

    Go to the following link in your browser:

    https://accounts.google.com/o/oauth2/auth?scope=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.googleapis.co%2 Fauth%2Fappengine.admin+https%3A%2F%2...

    Enter verification code:

  2. Grant access.

    In the browser window, review the application permissions and click Accept when you are ready. If you are working on a remote machine or used the --console-only flag, copy and paste the returned code on the command line after Enter verification code:. Otherwise, the code is automatically sent to the command line tool.

  3. Choose the credentials for this configuration.

    After setting up your credentials, gcloud prompts for a default project for this configuration. Select a project ID from the list.

    After you set this property, all of your gcloud compute commands use the default project ID unless you override it with the --project flag or set the CLOUDSDK_CORE_PROJECT environment variable. If you do not set a default project or environment variable, you must include a --project flag in each gcloud compute command that you run.

When you run gcloud for the first time, it also sets a default zone and default region for you, based on the default zone and region keys in your project metadata. A zone or a region is required for working with resources that belong to a zone or a region (for example, any time you manipulate a virtual machine instance, you must specify a zone). By setting a default zone and region, gcloud can infer this information without requiring you to provide it with each request. You can always manually override or change these default settings.

For more information, read Set default properties.

Using configurations

gcloud uses the concept of configurations to help you manage your credentials for different accounts. Each configuration contains the email account to authenticate with, and specific settings like the default project ID, default zone setting, and so on. gcloud automatically comes installed with a default configuration. This is the configuration whose credentials will be used to authenticate to Google Cloud Platform services.

For most users, just using the default configuration is enough. If you have use cases that require that you switch between accounts, you can create more configurations that you can alternate between.

Read gcloud topic configurations for detailed information about using configurations.

Set default properties

Currently, when you create a project and use gcloud for the first time, Compute Engine picks a default zone and region based on information from your project metadata and sets this property for your default configuration. You can view these default properties by getting metadata information about the project:

gcloud compute project-info describe

Look for the following metadata keys:

- key: google-compute-default-region
  value: ...
- key: google-compute-default-zone
  value: ..

If you don't change or override these properties, gcloud provides them automatically for all of the gcloud requests you make. To change or override these properties, use the methods below.

Change your default zone and region in the metadata server

You can change the default zone and region in your metadata server by making a request to the metadata server. For example:

gcloud compute project-info add-metadata \
    --metadata google-compute-default-region=europe-west1,google-compute-default-zone=europe-west1-b

The gcloud command-line tool only picks up on new default zone and region changes after you rerun the gcloud init command. After updating your default metadata, run gcloud init to reinitialize your default configuration.

Set default zone and region in your local client

You can manually choose a different zone or region without updating the metadata server by setting these properties locally on your gcloud client.

First, make sure you are using the configuration for which you want this set these properties. Each configuration has its own settings; to switch between configurations, run:

gcloud config configurations activate CONFIGURATION_NAME

Next, to set a zone or region property in the client, run:

gcloud config set compute/zone ZONE
gcloud config set compute/region REGION

To remove a default property altogether, use the unset command.

gcloud config unset compute/zone
gcloud config unset compute/region

Note that removing the default property altogether will result in gcloud prompting for a zone or region for every command you run.

Set default values in environment variables

You can set environment variables that supply values to gcloud compute commands. Environment variables override default properties that you set with the gcloud config commands, but do not override explicit flags like --zone or --region.

Linux/Mac OS X
Use the export command to set the zone and region variables.
$ export CLOUDSDK_COMPUTE_ZONE=ZONE
$ export CLOUDSDK_COMPUTE_REGION=REGION
To make these environment variables permanent, include these commands in your ~/.bashrc file and restart your terminal.
Windows
Use the set command to set the zone and region variables.
C:\> set CLOUDSDK_COMPUTE_ZONE=ZONE
C:\> set CLOUDSDK_COMPUTE_REGION=REGION

You can override environment variables by including specific --zone or --region flags with your commands.

Set values on each request

You can override default properties by including specific --zone or --region flags with each of your commands. For example:

gcloud compute instances create example-instance --zone us-central1-f

These flags only work for the single command you use it with. The flags do not change any default settings you have, but simply overrides it for that request.

Order of precedence for default properties

The gcloud command-line tool evaluates default properties in the following order for each configuration:

  • If you provide an explicit --zone or --region or --project flag, it overrides all other settings for that single request.
  • If the default zone and region properties are defined only in the metadata server, the gcloud command-line tool sets your local gcloud client to these properties when you run gcloud init. For subsequent requests, the tool prompts you for the zone.
  • If the default zone and region properties are defined in both the metadata server and on the local client for that configuration, the tool uses the default properties on the local client.
  • If the default zone and region properties are defined in the metadata server, the local client, and in environment variables, the tool uses the default properties in the environment variables, regardless of which configuration you are using.

Common gcloud compute commands

Below are examples of common tasks when working with instances. For more details about working with instances in general, see Instances.

Create instances

Use the instances create command to create a new instance. For example, the following command creates an instance named "my-instance" in the "us-central1-a" zone.

gcloud compute instances create my-instance

If you omit the --zone flag, gcloud can infer your desired zone based on your default properties.

Other required instance settings, like machine type and image, if not specified in the create command, are set to default values. You can see the default values by displaying help for the create command:

gcloud compute instances create --help

List instances

There are a number of ways to list your instances using the instances list command. You can create a human-readable, tabular output with the following command:

gcloud compute instances list

You can use regular expressions to narrow the list of instances returned by name. For example, the following command returns all instances whose names start with "my-".

gcloud compute instances list --regexp my-.*

Fore more information about working with the --regexp flag and using regular expressions, see Fetching resources.

To return details about one instance, use the instances describe command. For example, the following command returns information about "my-instance".

gcloud compute instances describe my-instance --zone us-central1-a

The previous command returns results in YAML format. You can use the --format flag to change how the results are displayed. For more examples of getting and listing resources, including instances, see Fetching Resources.

Connect to instances

gcloud compute makes connecting to your instances easy. The gcloud compute ssh and gcloud compute scp commands provide wrappers around around SSH and SCP, which takes care of authentication and the mapping of instance name to IP address.

For example, to ssh in to "my-instance" in the "us-central1-a" zone, you can use:

gcloud compute ssh my-instance --zone us-central1-a

To copy the local file "file-1" to "my-instance" in the "us-central1-a" zone, you can use:

gcloud compute scp ~/file-1 my-instance:~/remote-destination --zone us-central1-a

The scp command can also be used to copy files from an instance to your local machine. For example, to create a local copy of "file-1", which is on the instance "my-instance" in the "us-central1-a" zone, you can use:

gcloud compute scp my-instance:~/file-1 ~/local-destination --zone us-central1-a

Both the gcloud compute ssh and gcloud compute scp commands, by default, use the private key file located at "~/.ssh/google_compute_engine". If you don't want to use this key file, you can specify a different key file by specifying a different location with the --ssh-key-file flag. For example, you might already have a private key you want to use, or you might want to use different private keys with different projects.

Using SSH-based programs directly

If you prefer to use ssh and scp directly, gcloud compute can generate an SSH configuration file that contains host aliases for your instances with authentication configuration. To do this, run:

gcloud compute config-ssh

Here's an example of one alias added to the SSH configuration file (~/.ssh/config):

Host my-instance.us-central1-a.myproject
HostName 107.178.220.224
IdentityFile ~/.ssh/google_compute_engine
UserKnownHostsFile=/dev/null
CheckHostIP=no
StrictHostKeyChecking=no

You can specify an alternative, per-user SSH config file by using the --ssh-config-file flag.

Every time you add or remove an instance, you should rerun the config-ssh command.

After updating your SSH config files with the config-ssh command, you can use any SSH-based program to access your instances. For example, for the instance named "my-instance", in the "us-central1-a" zone, in the project named "myproject", you can use the OpenSSH ssh client as follows:

$ ssh my-instance.us-central1-a.myproject

To make a local copy of the file "file-1" on the instance, you can use the OpenBSD scp client as follows:

$ scp my-instance.us-central1-a.myproject:~/file-1 .

Working with metadata

You can set custom metadata for an instance or project outside of the server-defined metadata. This is useful for passing in arbitrary values to your project or instance that can be queried by your code on the instance. This section shows a few common metadata operations. For more detailed information about working with metadata, see Storing and Retrieving Metadata.

Adding and removing instance metadata

You can configure instance metadata with gcloud compute when you create an instance using the create command, or with an existing instance using the add-metadata and remove-metadata commands. Metadata are specified as key/value pairs separated with an equals sign ("=") using the --metadata flag. Or, metadata can be read from a local file using the --metadata-from-file flag.

For example, to add the custom metadata keys "role", "unique-id", and "build-num" to an existing instance named "my-instance" in the "us-central1-a" zone, you can use:

gcloud compute instances add-metadata my-instance \
    --zone us-central1-a \
    --metadata role=worker unique-id=1234 build-num=4.32

To remove the custom metadata keys "role" and "unique-id", you can use:

gcloud compute instances remove-metadata my-instance \
    --zone us-central1-a \
    --keys role unique-id

After adding and removing metadata from an existing instance, you can see your changes by running:

gcloud compute instances describe my-instance --zone us-central1-a
...
metadata:
  fingerprint: eU448B6JGQw=
  items:
  - key: build-num
    value: '4.32'
  kind: compute#metadata
...

To change existing metadata or add new metadata, use the add-metadata command. Instance metadata updates are additive. This means that you need to only specify the metadata keys that you want to add or change. If you specify an existing key, then the key's value will be updated with the new value.

For images that have Google Compute Engine tools installed on them, there are two metadata keys that are reserved for startup scripting functionality:

  • startup-script: Indicates script content that is executed when the instance starts. For longer script content, you can use the --metadata-from-file flag to pass in a path to a file that contains the script content.
  • startup-script-url: Indicates that a script at the specified publicly-accessible location is executed when the instance starts.

For example, to create an instance named "my-instance" in the "us-central1-a" zone, with startup script content specified with the --metadata flag, you can use:

gcloud compute instances create my-instance --zone us-central1-a \
    --metadata startup-script="echo 'hello world'"

If you SSH in to "my-instance" and check the system log (/var/log/syslog) you will see the result of the startup script.

With an existing instance named "my-instance" you can add the following startup script from a local file using the --metadata-from-file flag:

gcloud compute instances add-metadata my-instance \
    --metadata-from-file startup-script=/local/path/to/script/startup

In this example, the startup script is run when the instance reboots, for example, when you use gcloud compute instances reset.

Adding and removing project-level metadata

Project-level metadata is accessible by all instances in a project. By default, a project has reserved project-level metadata. You can also add and remove custom project-level metadata. Like instance metadata, project metadata updates are additive. This means that you need to only specify the metadata keys that you want to add or change. If you specify an existing key, then the key's value will be updated with the new value.

To see the existing project-level metadata, use the project-info describe command:

gcloud compute project-info describe

The following command adds two pieces of project-wide metadata.

gcloud compute project-info add-metadata \
    --metadata-from-file startup-script=/local/path/to/script
    --metadata startup-id=1234

Note that the startup-script key is reserved and means that the content from the specified local file is to be run when instances start.

To remove the two pieces of metadata you just added, use:

gcloud compute project-info remove-metadata --keys startup-script startup-id

Deleting instances

To delete the instance named "my-instance" in the "us-central1-a" zone, you can use the instances delete command:

gcloud compute instances delete my-instance --zone us-central1-a

When you create an instance, a persistent disk is also created. This disk counts towards your persistent disk quota and incurs monthly persistent disk charges. The instances delete command to delete an instance, by default, removes the persistent disk associated with the instance. To override this behavior, you can:

  • Use the --keep-disks flag of the instances delete command.
  • Configure the disk to not be auto-deleted. After you create an instance, and anytime before you delete the instances, you can use the instances set-disk-auto-delete command to preserve the persistent disk. Note that the --delete-disks flag of the instances delete commmand will delete disks regardless of the auto-delete configuration.

For more information, see Setting the auto-delete state of a persistent disk.

Listing operations

Operations are a record of changes to your Google Compute Engine resources. To get a list of all operations in a project, you can use the operations list command:

gcloud compute operations list

Operations have scopes that can be used to narrow the operations returned in a list request. For example, you can use the --global, --zones, and --regions flags to refine your results. The following command returns only the operations in the "us-central1-a" and "us-central1-b" zones:

gcloud compute operations list --zones us-central1-a,us-central1-b

For more examples of getting and listing resources, including operations, see Fetching Resources.

Getting help pages

The following commands show you how to access different types of help, from general help about the gcloud computecommand, to specific help about a resource group (instances) or a command (create). Comprehensive help for all resources and commands follows this pattern:

gcloud compute --help
gcloud compute instances --help
gcloud compute instances create --help

Quick help can be obtained by using the -h flag instead of the --help flag. You can also review all of the comprehensive help at Cloud SDK Reference.

For comprehensive help with commands specifically for configuring the gcloud tool, run:

gcloud topic TOPIC

Where TOPIC is the applicable topic for which you want to get help. For a list of topics you can get help for, see gcloud topic reference documentation.

Next steps

That's it, you can now start using the gcloud compute tool on your own! Here are some ideas to get you started:

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