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About Virtual Machine Images in Azure

Updated: July 14, 2014

Images are used in Azure to provide a new virtual machine with an operating system. An image might also have one or more data disks. Images are available from several sources:

  • Azure offers a gallery of images -- recent versions of Windows Server and several distributions of the Linux operating system. Some images also contain applications, such as SQL Server. MSDN Benefit and MSDN Pay-as-You-Go subscribers have access to additional images.

  • The open source community offers images through VM Depot.

  • You can store your own images in Azure, by either capturing an existing Azure virtual machine for use as an image or uploading an image.

A newer version of image that can be used in Azure was introduced in April -- VM image. A VM image includes an operating system as well as all the disks attached to a virtual machine when the image is created. Previously, an image in Azure contained only a generalized operating system, and no additional disks. A VM image that contains only a generalized operating system is basically the same as the original type of image, the OS image.

You can create your own images, based on a virtual machine in Azure, or a virtual machine running elsewhere that you copy and upload. If you want to use an image to create more than one virtual machine, you’ll need to prepare it for use as an image by generalizing it. To create a Windows Server image, run the Sysprep command on the server to generalize it before you upload the .vhd file. For more information, see How to Use Sysprep: An Introduction. To create a Linux image, depending on the software distribution, you’ll need to run a set of commands that are specific to the distribution, as well as run the Azure Linux Agent.

You can use the Azure Management Portal to perform most of the common image tasks. To create an image, see the following articles for instructions:

You can also use the Management Portal to create an image from a .vhd file that’s already in a storage account. See “Add the Image to Your List of Custom Images” in Creating and Uploading a Virtual Hard Disk that Contains the Windows Server Operating System.

If you’d rather use a command-line for these tasks or the Service Management APIs, see these articles:

You can easily delete an image if you don’t need it as a template for creating virtual machines. If you create a virtual machine from an image, an operating system disk is created when the virtual machine is created. If you delete the image, the operating system disk is not deleted, which means you can create another image or a virtual machine from the disk. A .vhd file that you upload to create an image is not deleted when an image is deleted. You must delete an image before you can delete the .vhd file that is the source of the image.

  1. If you have not already done so, sign in to the Azure Management Portal.

  2. Click Virtual Machines, and then click Images.

  3. Select the image that you want to delete, and then click Delete Image.

The Azure Management Portal provides an easy way for you to create a virtual machine based on any of the images – those provided by Azure or through VM Depot, or images you’ve uploaded and captured. See the following articles for instructions:

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