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Elastic Compute Service:Select an image

Last Updated:Sep 06, 2023

You must select an image when you create an Elastic Compute Service (ECS) instance. This topic describes how to select an appropriate image from multiple image types and operating systems to suit your business needs.

When you select an image, you must consider the following factors:


An image is tied to a region and can be used to create instances only within the region. If you want to use an image that resides in Region A to create an instance in Region B, you must copy the image to Region B. For more information, see Copy a custom image. If you want to use an image to create an instance in the China (Beijing) region, make sure that the image resides in the China (Beijing) region. For more information about Alibaba Cloud regions, see Regions and zones.

Image type

ECS images are classified into the following categories based on the entity that manages the images: public images, custom images, shared images, community images, and Alibaba Cloud Marketplace images. For more information, see the "Image types" section in Image overview.

Image fee

You may be charged for images that you use. For more information, see Images.

Operating system

When you select an operating system, you must consider the following factors:

Operating system architecture: 32-bit or 64-bit


Applicable memory



Less than 4 GiB of memory

  • If the memory of an instance type is more than 4 GiB, you cannot use a 32-bit operating system.

  • A 32-bit Windows operating system supports up to four vCPUs.


At least 4 GiB of memory

If you want to use at least 4 GiB of memory for your applications, use a 64-bit operating system.

Operating system type: Windows, Linux, or UNIX-like

Supported operating system

Connection method




Remote Desktop Connection

A Windows public image that contains a genuine activated operating system.

  • Suitable for programs that are developed based on Windows architectures, such as .NET programs.

  • Suitable for SQL Server and other databases. You need to manually install these databases.

Linux or UNIX-like


  • A common, stable, and secure server-side operating system.

  • An open-source operating system that enables fast deployment and easy compilation of source code.

  • Used for server applications, such as high-performance web servers, and supports common programming languages such as PHP and Python.

  • Suitable for MySQL and other databases. You need to manually install these databases.

Alibaba Cloud provides a list of public images that run Windows, Linux, or UNIX-like operating systems. For more information, see Overview.

Considerations for Windows versions

We recommend that you use a recent version of Windows. Recent versions of Windows have fewer vulnerabilities than earlier versions. For example, Internet Information Services (IIS) 7.5 provides more features and a more convenient console than IIS 6.

Take note of the following considerations and select a suitable Windows version and hardware configurations based on your needs:

  • Instance types that have only one vCPU and 1 GiB of memory do not support MySQL databases.

  • Windows instances must have at least 2 GiB of memory to host websites and web environments.

  • To ensure service availability, we recommend that you select an instance type that has at least 2 GiB of memory when you use Windows 2012.

  • If you want to use Windows Server 2016, 2019, or 2022, you must select an instance type that has at least 2 GiB of memory. If your selected instance type has less than 2 GiB of memory, Windows Server 2016, 2019, or 2022 is not displayed in the public image list on the buy page.


Microsoft stopped providing support for Windows Server 2003 in July 2015, and Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 on January 14, 2020. Alibaba Cloud no longer provides technical support for ECS instances that run these operating systems. If your ECS instances use the operating systems, upgrade the operating systems to Windows Server 2012 or later at the earliest opportunity.

Considerations for Linux and UNIX-like distributions

Alibaba Cloud Linux and Unix-like public images contain the following distributions:

Alibaba Cloud Linux

Alibaba Cloud Linux is an operating system that provides a safe, stable, and high-performance runtime environment for applications on instances. Alibaba Cloud Linux 2 supports various cloud scenarios and instance types. However, Alibaba Cloud Linux 2 does not support instances of the classic network type and non-I/O optimized instances. For more information, see Overview.

Debian series

  • Debian

  • Ubuntu

The following table provides a comparison between Debian and Ubuntu.

Operating system

Software package format

Package manager







Ubuntu is built on the Debian architecture and infrastructure. Ubuntu is the enhanced version of Debian.



  • User-friendly system configurations

  • Timely software updates

  • Easy to use and learn

SUSE series

  • SUSE Linux

  • openSUSE

The following table provides a comparison between openSUSE and SUSE Linux.

Operating system




  • openSUSE is the community edition of SUSE Linux. SUSE Linux Enterprise is the enterprise edition of SUSE Linux.

  • SUSE Linux Enterprise is more mature and stable than openSUSE. However, official SUSE Linux Enterprise repositories contain less software than official openSUSE repositories.

  • openSUSE provides advanced software versions, better extensibility, which is suitable for desktops and servers, and free updates with technical support.

  • SUSE Linux Enterprise is more suitable for work and production environments, whereas openSUSE is more suitable for personal entertainment and professional purposes.

  • As of SUSE Linux 10.2, SUSE Linux is officially renamed openSUSE.

  • openSUSE uses the same kernel as SUSE Linux.

SUSE Linux


FreeBSD is a UNIX-like operating system for a variety of platforms that focus on features, speed, and stability. FreeBSD provides advanced networking, performance, security, and compatibility features that are not available in other operating systems. For more information, see the FreeBSD documentation.

Red Hat series

  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL)

  • CentOS

  • CentOS Stream

  • Rocky Linux

  • AlmaLinux

  • Fedora

  • Fedora CoreOS

The following table provides a comparison among Red Hat operating systems.

Operating system

Software package format

Package manager




Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL)




RHEL is a Fedora-based enterprise Linux distribution that is relatively stability-focused and backed by enterprise-level technical support. RHEL tends to have longer release cycles compared to some other Linux distributions.

  • They can use the same RPM package.

  • They can run the same commands.

  • CentOS is a free, community-supported and community-produced Linux distribution that is derived from the source code of Red Hat.

  • CentOS Stream is a rolling-release Linux distribution that is provided by the CentOS project.

  • Rocky Linux and AlmaLinux are clone versions of the RHEL operating system. They are built using the same source code and binary files that Red Hat provides for RHEL.

  • Fedora is upstream of RHEL and CentOS Stream. Fedora moves everything that is stable and useful for enterprises to the RHEL distribution.

  • Fedora CoreOS is a new Fedora edition that is built specifically for running containerized workloads securely and at scale.


Free of charge

CentOS is a community-supported version of RHEL that uses the same code repository as RHEL. CentOS recompiles the source code distributed by Red Hat into a usable binary version. Therefore, CentOS is similar to RHEL.

CentOS Stream

Free of charge

On December 8, 2020, the CentOS project announced that it was shifting focus from CentOS Linux to CentOS Stream. CentOS Stream is a rolling release between Fedora and Red Hat.

Rocky Linux

Free of charge

Rocky Linux is a community-driven enterprise-level Linux operating system and a downstream distribution of RHEL. Similar to CentOS, Rocky Linux offers stable releases for servers and is an alternative to CentOS that is fully compatible with CentOS.


Free of charge

AlmaLinux is a stable, community-driven Linux distribution that is developed by the CloudLinux team. AlmaLinux is 1:1 binary compatible with RHEL. You can replace the AlmaLinux operating system of an instance without the need to stop the instance.


Free of charge

Fedora is an innovative, versatile, open-source operating system that is developed by the Fedora Project and sponsored by Red Hat.

Fedora CoreOS

Free of charge

Fedora CoreOS is a Linux distribution and an automatically updating, minimal operating system that is used to run containerized workloads securely and at scale.

Note Updates are no longer provided for CoreOS Container Linux as of May 26, 2020 based on the end-of-life announcement for CoreOS Container Linux from the Fedora CoreOS community. In light of this, Alibaba Cloud has issued the following announcements:
  • As of May 26, 2020, Alibaba Cloud no longer provides technical support for ECS instances that use the CoreOS Container Linux operating system. However, you can still use existing ECS instances that run this operating system.
  • After September 30, 2020, you are unable to use CoreOS Container Linux public images provided by Alibaba Cloud to create ECS instances.
  • As of May 26, 2020, CoreOS Container Linux can continue to be used on instances on which it is already installed. However, no security patches are available because the operating system has reached its end of life. For security purposes, we recommend that you no longer use CoreOS Container Linux images.
  • Alibaba Cloud has released Fedora CoreOS public images. The Fedora CoreOS community recommends that you use Fedora CoreOS in place of CoreOS Container Linux.

Built-in software

In most cases, Alibaba Cloud Marketplace images are pre-installed with a runtime environment or software applications. You can purchase appropriate images to create ECS instances based on your needs. For more information, see Alibaba Cloud Marketplace images.

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