Exporting an Instance as a VM Using VM Import/Export - VM Import/Export

Exporting an Instance as a VM Using VM Import/Export

Exporting a VM is useful when you want to deploy a copy of an Amazon EC2 instance in your on-site virtualization environment. You can export most EC2 instances to Citrix Xen, Microsoft Hyper-V, or VMware vSphere.


If you're using VMware vSphere, you can alternatively use the AWS Connector for vCenter to export a VM from Amazon EC2. For more information, see Exporting a Migrated Amazon EC2 Instance in the AWS Management Portal for vCenter User Guide.

When you export an instance, you are charged the standard Amazon S3 rates for the bucket where the exported VM is stored. In addition, there might be a small charge for the temporary use of an Amazon EBS snapshot. For more information about Amazon S3 pricing, see Amazon Simple Storage Service Pricing.


To export a VM from Amazon EC2, first meet the following prerequisites.

  • Install the AWS CLI on the instance. For more information, see the AWS Command Line Interface User Guide.

  • Create an Amazon S3 bucket for storing the exported instances or choose an existing bucket. For more information, see the Amazon Simple Storage Service Console User Guide.

  • Attach an access control list (ACL) to your S3 bucket containing the following grants. For more information, see Managing Access with ACLs in the Amazon Simple Storage Service Developer Guide.

    • For Grantee, provide the appropriate Region-specific canonical account ID:

      Middle East (Bahrain)


      Asia Pacific (Hong Kong)


      China (Beijing)


      AWS GovCloud (US-West)


      All other Regions


    • READ_ACP permission

    • WRITE permission

Considerations for Instance Export

Exporting instances and volumes is subject to the following limitations:

  • You cannot export a VM if it contains third-party software provided by AWS. For example, VM Export cannot export Windows or SQL Server instances, or any instance created from an image in the AWS Marketplace.

  • You must export your instances and volumes to one of the following image formats that your virtualization environment supports:

    • Open Virtual Appliance (OVA), which is compatible with VMware vSphere versions 4, 5, and 6.

    • Virtual Hard Disk (VHD), which is compatible with Citrix Xen and Microsoft Hyper-V virtualization products.

    • Stream-optimized ESX Virtual Machine Disk (VMDK), which is compatible with VMware ESX and VMware vSphere versions 4, 5, and 6.

  • You can't export Amazon EBS data volumes.

  • You can't export an instance that has more than one virtual disk.

  • You can't export an instance that has more than one network interface.

  • You can't export an instance from Amazon EC2 if you've shared it from another AWS account.

  • You can't have more than 20 conversion tasks per Region in progress at the same time.

  • VMs with volumes larger than 1 TiB are not supported.

  • You can export a volume to either an unencrypted S3 bucket or to a bucket encrypted using SSE-S3. You cannot export to an S3 bucket encrypted using SSE-KMS.

Start an Instance Export Task

To export your instance, use the create-instance-export-task command. The exported file is written to the specified S3 bucket in the following S3 key: prefixexport-i-xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.format (for example, my-export-bucket/vms/export-i-1234567890abcdef0.ova).

aws ec2 create-instance-export-task --instance-id instance-id --target-environment vmware --export-to-s3-task file://C:\file.json

The file file.json is a JSON document that contains the required information.

{ "ContainerFormat": "ova", "DiskImageFormat": "VMDK", "S3Bucket": "my-export-bucket", "S3Prefix": "vms/" }

Monitor an Instance Export Task

To monitor the export of your instance, use the following describe-export-tasks command:

aws ec2 describe-export-tasks --export-task-ids export-i-1234567890abcdef0

Cancel an Instance Export Task

If you need to, you can use the following cancel-export-task command to cancel the export of an instance that is in progress.

aws ec2 cancel-export-task --export-task-id export-i-1234567890abcdef0

This command removes all artifacts of the export, including any partially created Amazon S3 objects. If the export task is complete or is in the process of transferring the final disk image, the command fails and returns an error.