Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud
User Guide for Windows Instances

Amazon Machine Images (AMI)

An Amazon Machine Image (AMI) provides the information required to launch an instance, which is a virtual server in the cloud. You specify an AMI when you launch an instance, and you can launch as many instances from the AMI as you need. You can also launch instances from as many different AMIs as you need.

An AMI includes the following:

  • A template for the root volume for the instance (for example, an operating system, an application server, and applications)

  • Launch permissions that control which AWS accounts can use the AMI to launch instances

  • A block device mapping that specifies the volumes to attach to the instance when it's launched

Using an AMI

The following diagram summarizes the AMI lifecycle. After you create and register an AMI, you can use it to launch new instances. (You can also launch instances from an AMI if the AMI owner grants you launch permissions.) You can copy an AMI to the same region or to different regions. When you are finished launching instance from an AMI, you can deregister the AMI.

The AMI lifecycle (create, register, launch, copy, deregister).

You can search for an AMI that meets the criteria for your instance. You can search for AMIs provided by AWS or AMIs provided by the community. For more information, see AMI Types and Finding a Windows AMI.

When you are connected to an instance, you can use it just like you use any other server. For information about launching, connecting, and using your instance, see Amazon EC2 Instances.

Creating Your Own AMI

You can customize the instance that you launch from a public AMI and then save that configuration as a custom AMI for your own use. Instances that you launch from your AMI use all the customizations that you've made.

The root storage device of the instance determines the process you follow to create an AMI. The root volume of an instance is either an Amazon EBS volume or an instance store volume. For information, see Root Device Volume.

To create an Amazon EBS-backed AMI, see Creating an Amazon EBS-Backed Windows AMI. To create an instance store-backed AMI, see Creating an Instance Store-Backed Windows AMI.

To help categorize and manage your AMIs, you can assign custom tags to them. For more information, see Tagging Your Amazon EC2 Resources.

Buying, Sharing, and Selling AMIs

After you create an AMI, you can keep it private so that only you can use it, or you can share it with a specified list of AWS accounts. You can also make your custom AMI public so that the community can use it. Building a safe, secure, usable AMI for public consumption is a fairly straightforward process, if you follow a few simple guidelines. For information about how to create and use shared AMIs, see Shared AMIs.

You can purchase an AMIs from a third party, including AMIs that come with service contracts from organizations such as Red Hat. You can also create an AMI and sell it to other Amazon EC2 users. For more information about buying or selling AMIs, see Paid AMIs.

Deregistering Your AMI

You can deregister an AMI when you have finished with it. After you deregister an AMI, you can't use it to launch new instances. For more information, see Deregistering Your AMI.

AWS Windows AMIs

AWS provides a set of publicly available AMIs that contain software configurations specific to the Windows platform. Using these AMIs, you can quickly start building and deploying your applications using Amazon EC2. First choose the AMI that meets your specific requirements, and then launch an instance using that AMI. You retrieve the password for the administrator account and then log in to the instance using Remote Desktop Connection, just as you would with any other Windows server. The name of the administrator account depends on the language of the operating system. For example, for English, it's Administrator, for French it's Administrateur, and for Portuguese it's Administrador. For more information, see Localized Names for Administrator Account in Windows in the Microsoft TechNet Wiki.

Selecting an Initial Windows AMI

To view the Windows AMIs provided by AWS using the Amazon EC2 console, click this link to filter the list of public AMIs: Windows AMIs. If you launch an instance using the Amazon EC2 console, the first page of the wizard includes a Quick Start tab that lists some of the most popular AMIs provided by AWS, including AMIs that are eligible for the free tier.

AWS currently provides AMIs based on the following versions of Windows:

  • Microsoft Windows Server 2016 (64-bit)

  • Windows Server 2012 R2 (64-bit)

  • Windows Server 2012 (64-bit)

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 (64-bit)

  • Windows Server 2008 (64-bit)

  • Windows Server 2008 (32-bit)

  • Windows Server 2003 R2 (64-bit)

  • Windows Server 2003 R2 (32-bit)

Some of these AMIs also include an edition of Microsoft SQL Server (SQL Enterprise Edition, SQL Server Standard, SQL Server Express, or SQL Server Web). Launching an instance from an AWS Windows AMI with Microsoft SQL Server enables you to run the instance as a database server. Alternatively, you can launch an instance from any Windows AMI and then install the database software that you need on the instance. To view Windows Server AMIs with SQL Server, see Windows AMIs on the AWS Marketplace.

Some AMIs come with Internet Information Services (IIS) and ASP.NET already configured, to help you get started quickly. Alternatively, you can launch an instance from any Windows AMI and then install IIS and ASP.NET. For step-by-step directions, see Configure Your EC2 Instance in Getting Started with AWS: Hosting a .NET Web App.

In addition to the public AMIs provided by AWS, AMIs published by the AWS developer community are available for your use. We highly recommend that you use only those Windows AMIs that AWS or other reputable sources provide. To learn how to find a list of Windows AMIs approved by Amazon, see Finding a Windows AMI.

You can also create an AMI from your own Windows computer. For more information, see the VM Import/Export User Guide.

Keeping Your AMIs Up-to-Date

AWS provides updated, fully-patched Windows AMIs within five business days of Microsoft's patch Tuesday (the second Tuesday of each month). For more information, see Details About AWS Windows AMI Versions.

At their initial launch, your Windows instances contain all the latest security updates. We recommend that you run the Windows Update service as a first step after you launch a Windows, and before you create an AMI. After you launch an instance or create an AMI, you are responsible for keeping them up-to-date. You can use the Windows Update service, or the Automatic Updates tool available on your instance to deploy Microsoft updates to your instance. You must also keep any other software that you deploy to your instance up-to-date using whatever mechanism is appropriate for that software. After you update your Windows instance, you can create an AMI that replaces any previous AMIs that you created. For more information, see Updating Your Windows Instance.