Virtual machine instances

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 by using the Google Cloud Console, the gcloud command-line tool, or the Compute Engine 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

Each network interface of a Compute Engine instance is associated with a subnet of a unique VPC network. For more information about VPCs, see VPC network overview and VPC quotas.

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 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 gcloud command-line 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:

Accessing your instances

After you configure access to your instances, you can connect to your instances using one of several options.

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).

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 Console.

Getting started guide

For a more detailed guide, see Creating and starting an instance.

For information about features of Compute Engine instances, see:

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