Virtual Machine Instances

This page provides an overview of Google Compute Engine instances. An instance is a virtual machine (VM) hosted on Google's infrastructure. You can create an instance by using the Google Cloud Platform Console or the gcloud command-line tool.


Compute Engine instances can run the public images for Linux and Windows Server that Google provides as well as any private images that you create or import to Compute Engine. You can also build and run images of other operating systems.

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 Platform 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 root 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

A project can have up to five networks, and each Compute Engine instance belongs to one network. Instances in the same network communicate with each other through a local area network protocol. An instance uses the Internet to communicate with any machine, virtual or physical, outside of its own network. See Networking and Firewalls for more information about networks and firewall rules.

Tools to manage instances

To create and manage instances, you can use a variety of tools, including the Google Cloud Platform Console, the gcloud command-line tool, and the REST API. To perform advanced configuration, connect to the instance using Secure Shell (SSH) for Linux instances or Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) for Windows instances.

Accessing instances

The creator of an instance has full root privileges on the instance. On a Linux instance, the creator has SSH capability and can use the Cloud Platform Console to grant SSH capability to other users. On a Windows instance, the creator can use the Cloud Platform Console to generate a username and password. After that, anyone who knows the username and password can connect to the instance using RDP.

After a user with administrative privileges has connected to an instance through SSH or RDP, they can add other system users with standard Linux commands or Windows User Account management.

What's next

If you are new to Compute Engine, follow the Getting Started Guide to learn how to create an instance using the Cloud Platform Console.

Getting Started Guide

For a more detailed guide, see Creating and Starting an Instance.

For information about features of Compute Engine instances, see:

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Compute Engine Documentation