Best Practice to Back up VM and Datastore in VMware

Datastore is used to store all of VM data, backing up datastore in VMware seems to be necessary for VM protection. This article explains the backup procedures clearly for you.


By Crystal / Updated on March 8, 2023

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What is VMware datastore backup

Datastore is a storage container for files in VMware, including virtual machine files, templates, and ISO images. To ensure data security, it seems a good idea to backup VMware datastore - thus you can perform a complete restoration when needed. But before any operation, you should figure out what you really want to backup.

If you want to backup VM in datastore in case of unpredictable events, you need to backup vmdk files; If you want to backup all data of datastore, you need to make a full copy of machine files, templates, and ISO images. This operation includes all specific data, even the discarded files you don’t need.

backup vmware datastore

Is it possible to back up an entire datastore in VMware

If you want to backup VMware datastore entirely to keep all the data intact, you will need to create a copy of virtual machine files, templates, and ISO images. The backup process can take a lot of time, even to keep some useless files forming a huge backup package.

However, there's no official tool to backup entire datastore till now. So if your main purpose is to backup VMs in datastore, you can simply try the following methods, or use a professional software to back up virtual machines effectively.

How to back up VM in VMware datastore (3 cases)

I believe that most users when looking for how to back up VMware datastore are more concerned with how to back up VM in VMware datastore. Here, I will introduce 3 cases for VMware virtual machine backup.

Case 1. Download VM files to local file system for datastore backup

Using Datastore Browers to download your VM files to local file system is a secure way to protect data in VMware datastore. However, according to the 3-2-1 backup rule, you'd better keep some copies in other locations as well in case your local system crashes.

How to download VM files from datastore:

1. Log in vSphere client, click Storage and open Datastore Browers.

select browse datastore

2. Click the target datastore in the inventory and click the folder you want to back up.

3. You can notice the logo right above, then click Download button. Backing up the VMDK is copying the virtual disk, which is helpful to create a new virtual machine.

download files

4. Select a location folder to store the file, and click OK.

The download process may take several minutes, which depends on the size of the VM file.

5. After finishing the download, please check it in your local destination folder to see whether it is successful.

check files in local file system

Now you have successfully backup VMs in datastore.

Case 2. Back up VM files to another datastore via clone or copy

Copying a VM to a different datastore is to create a duplicate for data protection or migration, and it is also beneficial to utilize storage.

If you are available to vCenter, the Clone feature is convenient to achieve the backup in datastore. If you cannot access vCenter, Copy is also a good choice for VM backup in VMware. Please refer to the following procedures to choose the suitable method to back up VM in datastore.

Procedures to clone VM files to another datastore (requires vCenter):

1. Log in vSphere web client, and click Storage and select a VM you want to back up.

2. Right-click and select Clone, and click Clone to virtual machine to open the wizard.

back up to another datastore

3. In Edit setting page, do as follows:

✦ Select a name and folder (no more than 80 words), then click Next.

✦ Select a computer resource to run the task, then click Next.

✦ Select Same format as source and Keep existing VM storage, then select a destination datastore to store the VM file, click Next.

✦ Select Customize the operating system and Power on virtual machine after creation, then click Next.

✦ Finally, confirm the information you set for your VM backup and click Finish.

Procedures to copy VM folders from one datastore to another:

1. Navigate to the Datastores and select Datastore Browser.

2. First, go to the destination datastore and create a new directory to store the VM files.

3. Go back to find the original VM folders or files (backup .vmdk files and .vmx files), then click Copy.

copy to another datastore

4. Select the destination directory you just created, and confirm to copy the files into the new folder, then click Copy again.

After finish these steps, you will have a complete backup in another datastore. As you can see, all these methods need to operate manually, and usually you can only copy one VM at a time. If you want to back up multiple VMs in datastore, and execute the operation regularly, you can consider using a professional VMware backup software.

Case 3. Auto backup all VMs in datastore via effective tool

If you are looking for automatic and secure tool to backup VM in datastore. Here comes a professional and free VMware backup software - AOMEI Cyber Backup. It can help you schedule a flexible backup task for multiple virtual machines easily. With it, you can enjoy:

Support free ESXi: AOMEI Cyber Backup supports both paid and free versions of VMware ESXi.
Easy-to-use: backup and restore multiple virtual machines via central console without complicated configuration and reinstallation.
Automatic VM backup: Create full/incremental/differential backups to perform daily/weekly/monthly and notified by email.
Centralized management: It enables you to back up multiple VMs in the datastore from a central console agentlessly.
Restore from any point: Once something goes wrong, you can quickly restore entire VMs from any backed up history versions.

Please hit the button below to download and use AOMEI Cyber Backup for free:

Download FreewareVMware ESXi & Hyper-V
Secure Download

*You can choose to install this VM backup software on either Windows or Linux system.

Steps to back up virtual machine in datastore for free:

1. Log into the web client of AOMEI Cyber Backup, and add vCenter or Standalone ESXi host as the source device.

add device

2. In backup task page, click Create New Task to set up the customized backup plan step by step. Click VMware ESXi Backup > select the host and virtual machines you want to back up (up to 10 VMs in one task on Free Edition) > select the location for backup files (Local path or Network path).

✤ Optional features:

◇ Configure the Backup Method which includes full backup, incremental backup and differential backup.

◇ Select the Schedule Type as daily, weekly, monthly (by week) or monthly (by date).

schedule backup

3. Click Start Backup to execute the task and wait for the backup to complete.

4. You can restore a virtual machine from any selected backup version by hitting Restore >> Restore to original location.

restore VM

✍ While the Free Edition covers most of the VM backup needs, you can also upgrade to enjoy:
✦ Batch VM Backup: batch backup large numbers of VMs managed by vCenter Server or standalone ESXi hosts.
✦ Backup Cleanup: Configure retention policy to auto delete the old backup files and save storage space.
✦ Restore to new location: Easily make a clone of a virtual machine in the same or another datastore/host, without reinstalling or configuring a new VM.

Restore to new location

After finishing backup, you don’t need to worry about data-losing and insufficient storage. When there's something goes wrong with your data or VMs, you can simply restore them from any backed up versions. 


This article mainly introduces some knowledge about VMware datastore backup. According to your need, you can choose to back up an entire datastore or VM files in the datastore. Whichever backup method you take, you will ultimately achieve the goal of data protection.

In addition, if your datastore lacks of storage, you may expand VMware vmfs datastore to offer more capacity for VM running, meanwhile, it utilizes the free space of datastore properly.

Crystal · Editor
Crystal is an editor from AOMEI Technology. She mainly writes articles about virtual machine. She is a positive young lady likes to share articles with peolpe. Off work she loves travelling and cooking which is wonderful for life.