VM Import/Export
User Guide

Importing a VM as an Image Using VM Import/Export

You can use VM Import/Export to import virtual machine (VM) images from your virtualization environment to Amazon EC2 as Amazon Machine Images (AMI), which you can use to launch instances. Subsequently, you can export the VM images from an instance back to your virtualization environment. This enables you to leverage your investments in the VMs that you have built to meet your IT security, configuration management, and compliance requirements by bringing them into Amazon EC2.


You can import or export a VM using the AWS CLI. If you have not already installed the AWS CLI, see the AWS Command Line Interface User Guide.

Before you begin, you must be aware of the operating systems and image formats that VM Import/Export supports, and understand the limitations on importing instances and volumes.

Operating Systems

The following operating systems can be imported to and exported from Amazon EC2.

Windows (32- and 64-bit)

  • Microsoft Windows Server 2003 (Standard, Datacenter, Enterprise) with Service Pack 1 (SP1) or later (32- and 64-bit)

  • Microsoft Windows Server 2003 R2 (Standard, Datacenter, Enterprise) (32- and 64-bit)

  • Microsoft Windows Server 2008 (Standard, Datacenter, Enterprise) (32- and 64-bit)

  • Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 (Standard, Datacenter, Enterprise) (64-bit only)

  • Microsoft Windows Server 2012 (Standard, Datacenter) (64-bit only)

  • Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 (Standard, Datacenter) (64-bit only)

  • Microsoft Windows Server 2016 (Standard, Datacenter) (64-bit only)

  • Microsoft Windows 7 (Professional, Enterprise, Ultimate) (US English) (32- and 64-bit)

  • Microsoft Windows 8 (Professional, Enterprise) (US English) (32- and 64-bit)

  • Microsoft Windows 8.1 (Professional, Enterprise) (US English) (64-bit only)

  • Microsoft Windows 10 (Professional, Enterprise, Education) (US English) (64-bit only)

Linux/Unix (64-bit)

  • Ubuntu 12.04, 12.10, 13.04, 13.10, 14.04, 14.10, 15.04

  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5.1-5.11, 6.1-6.6, 7.0-7.1 (6.0 lacks required drivers)

  • SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11

    • Service Pack 1 -

    • Service Pack 2 - 3.0.13-0.27

    • Service Pack 3 - 3.0.76-0.11, 3.0.101-0.8, and 3.0.101-0.15

    • Service Pack 4 - 3.0.101-63

  • SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 12

    • 3.12.28-4

    • Service Pack 1 - 3.12.49-11

  • CentOS 5.1-5.11, 6.1-6.6, 7.0-7.2 (6.0 lacks required drivers)

  • Debian 6.0.0-6.0.8, 7.0.0-7.8.0, 8.0.0

  • Oracle Linux 6.1-6.6, 7.0-7.1

  • Fedora Server 19-21

Image Formats

VM Import/Export supports the following image formats for importing both disks and VMs:

  • Open Virtual Appliance (OVA) image format, which supports importing images with multiple hard disks.

  • Stream-optimized ESX Virtual Machine Disk (VMDK) image format, which is compatible with VMware ESX and VMware vSphere virtualization products. Note that you can only import VMDK files into Amazon EC2 that were created through the OVF export process in VMware.

  • Fixed and Dynamic Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) image formats, which are compatible with Microsoft Hyper-V and Citrix Xen virtualization products. Note that VHDX images are not supported, and you must export dynamic VHDs instead of fixed VHDs.

  • Raw format for importing disks and VMs.

Instance Types

VM Import/Export supports importing Windows instances into most instance types. For more information about using Windows and other Microsoft products within AWS, including "bring your own license" (BYOL), see Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Frequently Asked Questions.

Linux instances can be imported into the following instance types:

  • General purpose: t2.micro | t2.small | t2.medium | m3.medium | m3.large | m3.xlarge | m3.2xlarge

  • Compute optimized: c3.large | c3.xlarge | c3.2xlarge | c3.4xlarge | c3.8xlarge | cc1.4xlarge

  • Memory optimized: r3.large | r3.xlarge | r3.2xlarge | r3.4xlarge | r3.8xlarge

  • Storage optimized: i2.xlarge | i2.2xlarge | i2.4xlarge | i2.8xlarge

Volume Types and File Systems

VM Import/Export supports importing Windows and Linux instances with the following file systems:

Windows (32- and 64-bit)

MBR-partitioned volumes that are formatted using the NTFS file system. GUID Partition Table (GPT) partitioned volumes are not supported.

Linux/Unix (64-bit)

MBR-partitioned volumes that are formatted using the ext2, ext3, ext4, Btrfs, JFS, or XFS file system. GUID Partition Table (GPT) partitioned volumes are not supported.


Importing AMIs and snapshots is subject to the following limitations:

  • GPT partitions are not supported by Amazon EC2, which means that imported system volumes must have an MBR to boot.

  • You can have up to 20 import image or snapshots tasks per region in progress at the same time. To request an increase to this limit, contact AWS Support. Tasks must complete within 7 days of the start date.

  • VM Import creates AMIs that use Hardware Virtual Machine (HVM) virtualization. VM Import can't create AMIs that use Paravirtual (PV) virtualization. Linux PVHVM drivers are supported within imported VMs.

  • Imported Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) VMs must use Cloud Access (BYOL) licenses. For more information, see Red Hat Cloud Access on the Red Hat website.

  • Imported SUSE Linux Enterprise Server VMs must use SUSE Public Cloud Program (BYOS) licenses. For more information, see SUSE Public Cloud Program—Bring Your Own Subscription.

  • Imported Linux VMs must use 64-bit images. Importing 32-bit Linux images is not supported.

  • Imported Linux VMs should use default kernels for best results. VMs that use custom Linux kernels might not import successfully.

  • Typically, you import a compressed version of a disk image. The expanded disk image can't exceed 2 TiB because of an MBR limitation.

  • Make sure that you have at least 250 MB of available disk space for installing drivers and other software on any VM you want to import into an Amazon EC2 AMI running Microsoft Windows or Linux.

  • Multiple network interfaces are not currently supported. When converted and imported, your VM will have a single virtual network interface that uses DHCP to assign addresses. Your instance receives a private IP address.

  • A VM imported into a VPC does not receive a public IP address, regardless of the auto-assign public IP setting for the subnet. Instead, you can allocate an Elastic IP address to your account and associate it with your instance.

  • Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) IP addresses are not supported.

  • For vCenter 4.0 and vSphere 4.0 users, remove any attached CD-ROM images or ISOs from the virtual machine.

  • VMs that are created as the result of a P2V conversion are not supported. A P2V conversion occurs when a disk image is created by performing a Linux or Windows installation process on a physical machine and then importing a copy of that Linux or Windows installation to a VM.

  • VM Import/Export does not install the single root I/O virtualization (SR-IOV) drivers except with imports of Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 VMs. These drivers are not required unless you plan to use enhanced networking, which provides higher performance (packets per second), lower latency, and lower jitter. For Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 VMs, SR-IOV drivers are automatically installed as a part of the import process.

  • When you use your own Microsoft licenses, such as through MSDN or Windows Software Assurance Per User, to run Microsoft Software on AWS through a bring your own license (BYOL) model, the following apply:

    • Your BYOL instances will be priced at the prevailing Amazon EC2 Linux instance pricing, provided that you (a) run on a Dedicated Instance (Dedicated Instances); (b) launch from VMs sourced from software binaries provided by you using VM Import/Export, which will be subject to the then-current terms and abilities of VM Import/Export; (c) designate the instances as BYOL instances; (d) run the instances within your designated AWS regions, and where AWS offers the BYOL model; and (e) activate using Microsoft keys that you provide or are used in your Key Management System.

    • You must account for the fact that when you start an Amazon EC2 instance, it can run on any one of many servers within an Availability Zone. This means that each time you start an Amazon EC2 instance (including a stop/start), it may run on a different server within an Availability Zone. You must account for this fact in light of the limitations on license reassignment as described in the Microsoft Volume Licensing Product Use Rights (PUR)/Product Terms (PT) available at Volume Licensing for Microsoft Products and Online Services, or consult your specific use rights to determine if your rights are consistent with this usage.

    • You must be eligible to use the BYOL program for the applicable Microsoft software under your agreement(s) with Microsoft, for example, under your MSDN user rights or under your Windows Software Assurance Per User Rights. You are solely responsible for obtaining all required licenses and for complying with all applicable Microsoft licensing requirements, including the PUR/PT. Further, you must have accepted Microsoft's End User License Agreement (Microsoft EULA), and by using the Microsoft Software under the BYOL program, you agree to the Microsoft EULA.

    • AWS recommends that you consult with your own legal and other advisers to understand and comply with the applicable Microsoft licensing requirements. Usage of the Services (including usage of the licenseType parameter and BYOL flag) in violation of your agreement(s) with Microsoft is not authorized or permitted.

Required Permissions for IAM Users

If you're logged on as an AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) user, you'll need the following permissions in your IAM policy to use VM Import/Export:

  "Version": "2012-10-17",
  "Statement": [
      "Effect": "Allow",
      "Action": [
      "Resource": "*"
      "Effect": "Allow",
      "Action": [
      "Resource": ["arn:aws:s3:::mys3bucket","arn:aws:s3:::mys3bucket/*"]
      "Effect": "Allow",
      "Action": [
      "Resource": "*"
      "Effect": "Allow",
      "Action": [
      "Resource": "*"