How to create an image of a virtual machine or VHD

To create multiple copies of a virtual machine (VM) to use in Azure, capture an image of the VM or the OS VHD. To create an image, you need remove personal account information which makes it safer to deploy multiple times. In the following steps you deprovision an existing VM, deallocate and create an image. You can use this image to create VMs across any resource group within your subscription.

If you want to create a copy of your existing Linux VM for backup or debugging, or upload a specialized Linux VHD from an on-premises VM, see Upload and create a Linux VM from custom disk image.

You can also use Packer to create your custom configuration. For more information on using Packer, see How to use Packer to create Linux virtual machine images in Azure.

Before you begin

Ensure that you meet the following prerequisites:

  • You need an Azure VM created in the Resource Manager deployment model using managed disks. If you haven't created a Linux VM, you can use the portal, the Azure CLI, or Resource Manager templates. Configure the VM as needed. For example, add data disks, apply updates, and install applications.

  • You also need to have the latest Azure CLI 2.0 installed and be logged in to an Azure account using az login.

Quick commands

For a simplified version of this topic, for testing, evaluating or learning about VMs in Azure, see Create a custom image of an Azure VM using the CLI.

Step 1: Deprovision the VM

You deprovision the VM, using the Azure VM agent, to delete machine specific files and data. Use the waagent command with the -deprovision+user parameter on your source Linux VM. For more information, see the Azure Linux Agent user guide.

  1. Connect to your Linux VM using an SSH client.
  2. In the SSH window, type the following command:

    sudo waagent -deprovision+user


    Only run this command on a VM that you intend to capture as an image. It does not guarantee that the image is cleared of all sensitive information or is suitable for redistribution. The +user parameter also removes the last provisioned user account. If you want to keep account credentials in the VM, just use -deprovision to leave the user account in place.

  3. Type y to continue. You can add the -force parameter to avoid this confirmation step.

  4. After the command completes, type exit. This step closes the SSH client.

Step 2: Create VM image

Use the Azure CLI 2.0 to mark the VM as generalized and capture the image. In the following examples, replace example parameter names with your own values. Example parameter names include myResourceGroup, myVnet, and myVM.

  1. Deallocate the VM that you deprovisioned with az vm deallocate. The following example deallocates the VM named myVM in the resource group named myResourceGroup:

    az vm deallocate \
      --resource-group myResourceGroup \
      --name myVM
  2. Mark the VM as generalized with az vm generalize. The following example marks the the VM named myVM in the resource group named myResourceGroup as generalized:

    az vm generalize \
      --resource-group myResourceGroup \
      --name myVM
  3. Now create an image of the VM resource with az image create. The following example creates an image named myImage in the resource group named myResourceGroup using the VM resource named myVM:

    az image create \
      --resource-group myResourceGroup \
      --name myImage --source myVM

    The image is created in the same resource group as your source VM. You can create VMs in any resource group within your subscription from this image. From a management perspective, you may wish to create a specific resource group for your VM resources and images.

Step 3: Create a VM from the captured image

Create a VM using the image you created with az vm create. The following example creates a VM named myVMDeployed from the image named myImage:

az vm create \
   --resource-group myResourceGroup \
   --name myVMDeployed \
   --image myImage\
   --admin-username azureuser \
   --ssh-key-value ~/.ssh/

Creating the VM in another resource group

You can create VMs from an image in any resource group within your subscription. To create a VM in a different resource group than the image, specify the full resource ID to your image. Use az image list to view a list of images. The output is similar to the following example:

"id": "/subscriptions/guid/resourceGroups/MYRESOURCEGROUP/providers/Microsoft.Compute/images/myImage",
   "location": "westus",
   "name": "myImage",

The following example uses az vm create to create a VM in a different resource group than the source image by specifying the image resource ID:

az vm create \
   --resource-group myOtherResourceGroup \
   --name myOtherVMDeployed \
   --image "/subscriptions/guid/resourceGroups/MYRESOURCEGROUP/providers/Microsoft.Compute/images/myImage" \
   --admin-username azureuser \
   --ssh-key-value ~/.ssh/

Step 4: Verify the deployment

Now SSH to the virtual machine you created to verify the deployment and start using the new VM. To connect via SSH, find the IP address or FQDN of your VM with az vm show:

az vm show \
   --resource-group myResourceGroup \
   --name myVMDeployed \

Next steps

You can create multiple VMs from your source VM image. If you need to make changes to your image:

  • Create a VM from your image.
  • Make any updates or configuration changes.
  • Follow the steps again to deprovision, deallocate, generalize, and create an image.
  • Use this new image for future deployments. If desired, delete the original image.

For more information on managing your VMs with the CLI, see Azure CLI 2.0.