How to Take a Screenshot of Your Google Cloud Virtual Machine

When issues pop up with your virtual machines (VMs) in Google Cloud, you may desperately need visibility into what‘s happening under the hood. Rather than flying blind or trying to access stubborn VMs, screenshots provide an invaluable window into your Cloud VMs.

According to a recent survey from Enterprise Management Associates, over 46% of organizations cite troubleshooting and root cause identification as a top challenge in cloud computing. Not being able to peek into your VMs certainly doesn‘t help!

With Google Cloud Platform‘s (GCP) screenshot feature, you can easily snap high-fidelity images of your Cloud VMs right from the console. Instead of wondering "What did that boot screen say?" or "Did the memory leak cause an exception?" screenshots deliver the answers.

This inside view saves tons of time debugging issues. Just imagine how much easier troubleshooting PaaS and serverless resources could be!

Let‘s dig into everything you need to know to start snapping pics of your GCP virtual machines…

What Exactly is a Virtual Machine Screenshot?

A VM screenshot captures the current display output from a running cloud virtual machine instance. It takes a picture of whatever login screen, error message, or application UI is being rendered and saves it as an image file.

For Windows VMs, it will show the full desktop. Linux screenshots display the visible terminal viewport.

This differs from VM snapshots which record the disk state for backup or cloning.

Key Benefits of Google Cloud VM Screenshots

Why use VM screenshots versus just accessing the VMs remotely?

  • Visibility: View VMs that you can‘t SSH/RDP into
  • Efficiency: Faster than accessing multiple VMs individually
  • Persistence: Images remain attached to the VM forever
  • Portability: Easy to share screenshots with teammates
  • Compatibility: Works seamlessly across GCP console and APIs

Most importantly, you gain visibility even for unreachable VMs experiencing issues. The screenshot arrives like a carrier pigeon delivering clues to debug problems!

When to Use Virtual Machine Screenshots

First, a few examples of cases where VM screenshots come in very handy:

  • Troubleshooting failed boots or blue/black screens of death
  • Debugging software crashes or freeze-ups
  • Documenting upgrade changes and new configurations
  • Sharing UI behaviour during testing/development
  • Spotting resource contention symptoms like OOM errors

And some statistics revealing common scenarios where screenshots provide value:

  • 72% of unplanned cloud outages caused by changes/human error [1]
  • 65% of organizations struggle with visibility across cloud environments [2]
  • 57% of companies lack proper cloud cost optimization solutions [3]

Anytime you need a visual record of your cloud VMs, screenshots can save the day!

Enabling Google Cloud VM Screenshots

Snapshots are off by default, so you need to enable the display device first:

  1. Stop the target GCP VM instance
  2. Edit VM configuration
  3. Toggle Display Device to On under Device Options
  4. Save changes and restart the VM
  5. Navigate to Screenshots tab for the VM

Then you can start taking screenshots through the console or via CLI/API calls. Pretty painless overall!

Cloud VM Instance Sizes & Screen Resolution

Screenshot image dimensions vary based on the VM‘s allocated resources:

VM Type Resolution
Small (1 vCPU) 640 x 480 px
Medium (2 vCPUs) 1024 x 768 px
Large (4+ vCPUs) 1280 x 1024 px

Matching the machine type to your workload requirements allows tuning the screenshot quality.

How Long Do Google Cloud VM Screenshots Persist?

Unlike ephemeral remote desktop sessions, screenshots stick around. They live alongside the VM instance until explicitly deleted.

Images remain available through the VM details view, even if you delete the virtual machine itself. Of course, screenshots get removed automatically with the parent VM instance if you run gcloud compute instances delete --delete-disks=all.

In other words, screenshots persist indefinitely, so you have an immutable visual record. Just beware of storing sensitive data!

Pricing: What‘s the Cost for VM Screenshots?

The good news is Google Cloud VM screenshots themselves are totally free! You only pay normal cloud storage rates for retaining the images long-term:

  • Standard storage: $0.020/GB/month in multi-region
  • Nearline storage: $0.010/GB/month
  • Coldline storage: $0.007/GB/month

So storing 100 GB of screenshots for a year in standard tier would cost $24. Capturing text-based console output could keep costs down versus high-res GUI images.

The only other expense is a minor instance usage bump from stopping/starting VMs and maybe extra snapshot egress fees. But overall VM screenshots deliver tons of value for almost no cost!

Automating Google Cloud VM Screenshots

Manually taking one-off screenshots is handy for troubleshooting. But for continuous systems monitoring, you can automate capture by using:

  • Cloud Workflows to schedule recurring screenshots
  • Cloud Functions to trigger screenshots from events
  • Cloud Build to embed screenshots into deploy logs

Automation unlocksusing screenshots for historical change tracking and advanced machine learning analytics too!

What About Other Cloud Providers?

How does Google Cloud compare to other platforms regarding VM screenshots?


Amazon EC2 instances support one-time screenshots but lack built-in persistence or automation options.

Microsoft Azure

Similarly, Azure VMs can trigger boot diagnostics screenshots however they aren‘t stored or exposed after-the-fact.

Google Cloud

Google Cloud leads with first-class screenshot support directly through native console, CLI, and APIs. Plus images are archived forever alongside the VM!

Key Takeaways and Best Practices

Leveraging screenshots for your Google Cloud VMs enables easier troubleshooting, change tracking, and resource optimization.

  • Enable screenshots before problems occur, not just when issues arise!
  • Automate frequent screenshots with Cloud Workflows for monitoring.
  • Follow least-privilege principles for permissions.
  • Store business-critical screenshots with geo-redundancy.
  • Delete screenshots containing sensitive data when no longer needed.

With great visibility comes great responsibility! Use VM screenshots judiciously to improve reliability while also being mindful of security and compliance policies.

Learn More About Google Cloud Screenshots and VMs

For additional details on GCP virtual machine screenshots, please consult these expert resources:

We‘ve only scratched the surface of VM visibility. Hopefully you now feel empowered to put screenshots to work debugging your cloud workloads! Let me know if you have any other questions.