This page provides an overview of Compute Engine instances. An instance is a virtual machine (VM) hosted on Google's infrastructure. You can create an instance or create a group of managed instances by using the Google Cloud console, the Google Cloud CLI, or the Compute Engine API.
The terms Compute Engine instance, virtual machine instance , VM instance, and VM are synonymous.
They are used interchangeably in the Google Cloud console, the
tool, and the REST API.
Compute Engine instances can run the public images for Linux and Windows Server that Google provides as well as private custom images that you can create or import from your existing systems. You can also deploy Docker containers, which are automatically launched on instances running the Container-Optimized OS public image.
You can choose the machine properties of your instances, such as the number of virtual CPUs and the amount of memory, by using a set of predefined machine types or by creating your own custom machine types.
Instances and projects
Each instance belongs to a Google Cloud console project, and a project can have one or more instances. When you create an instance in a project, you specify the zone, operating system, and machine type of that instance. When you delete an instance, it is removed from the project.
Instances and storage options
By default, each Compute Engine instance has a small boot persistent disk that contains the operating system. When applications running on your instance require more storage space, you can add additional storage options to your instance.
Instances and networks
Instances and containers
Compute Engine instances support a declarative method for launching your applications using containers. When creating a VM or an instance template, you can provide a Docker image name and launch configuration. Compute Engine will take care of the rest including supplying an up-to-date Container-Optimized OS image with Docker installed and launching your container when the VM starts up. See Deploying containers on VMs and managed instance groups (MIGs) for more information.
Tools to manage instances
To create and manage instances, you can use a variety of tools, including the
Google Cloud console, the
tool, and the REST API. To configure
applications on your instances,
connect to the instance
using Secure Shell (SSH) for Linux instances or Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP)
for Windows Server instances.
Managing access to your instances
You can manage access to your instances using one of the following methods:
- Linux instances:
- Managing instance access using OS login, which allows you to associate SSH keys with your Google Account or Google Workspace account and manage admin or non-admin access to your instance through IAM roles.
- Manage your SSH keys in project or instance metadata, which uses public SSH keys stored in Compute Engine metadata to grant access to the VM. You can use SSH keys stored in project metadata to access all VMs in a project. You can use SSH keys stored in instance metadata to access individual VMs.
- If you connect to your instances using the Google Cloud CLI or SSH from the console, Compute Engine can automatically generate SSH keys for you and apply them to your Google Account or Google Workspace account.
- Windows Server instances:
- Generate credentials for Windows VMs, which associates a password with a Windows user. Windows VMs use this information to authenticate access to the VM.
- Manage your SSH keys in project or instance metadata, which uses public SSH keys stored in Compute Engine project and instance metadata to grant access to the VM.
Accessing your instances
Default time zone for VM instances
Regardless of the region where you create your VM instance, the default time for your VM instance is Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).
If you are new to Compute Engine, follow the Getting Started Guide to learn how to create an instance using the Google Cloud console.
For a more detailed guide, see Creating and starting a VM instance.
For information about features of Compute Engine instances, see:
- Machine families resource and comparison guide
- Operating system images
- Networking overview for VMs
- Choose a deployment strategy for your workload
Try it for yourself
If you're new to Google Cloud, create an account to evaluate how Compute Engine performs in real-world scenarios. New customers also get $300 in free credits to run, test, and deploy workloads.Try Compute Engine free