By Alison / Last Updated December 20, 2021

Why Backup VMware Workstation Virtual Machine?

Since the purposes we use virtual machine are different, the reasons why we need to back up virtual machine are also different. Such as

  • Back up virtual machine before operating risky tests.
  • Back up for restoring virtual machine backup to physical computer, or converting vm into physical computer.
  • Back up for avoiding unexpected error in vm data performance tests.

And as VMware Workstation is being widely used now, backing up the virtual machine from VMware Workstation is of great importance. No matter what reason causes you want to back up them, the ultimate purpose has always been protecting your data.


How to Backup VMware Workstation Virtual Machine

Basically, there are 2 approaches to back up your virtual machine: taking image-based backups, or backing up virtual machines as physical machines.

Image-based backups: Creating a independent and complete image of your virtual machine, containing vm disk files (end with .vmdk), configuration files (end with .vmx), log files (end with .log), and so on. You can create new vm with image-based backups without original vm.

  • Advantages: Quickly make copies and move. No need to use other softwares.
  • Disadvantages: Take up spaces. When restoring you can only restore the full backup.

Backup as physical machines: Since the guest operating system on virtual machines works exactly the same as the physical machines (except for the virtualization environment), you can also back up virtual machines just as physical machines. Normally you need professional backup software to accomplish this.

  • Advantages: Can exclude non-essential applications and data from backups to reduce size. Besides. Using AOMEI Centralized Backupper you can back up without shut down, and are able to back up multiple virtual or physical machines on one centrally controlling computer.
  • Disadvantages: Cannot directly restore the full virtualized environment.

How to Create Image-based Backups and Snapshots

Generally there are 3 methods to perform image-based backups. Each of them has different principles and restrictions. Except for backups, vmware snapshot can also be used to protect your vm. You can use snapshots in combination with backups.

Here I will introduce them as follow, and you can just click on these anchor texts to jump to the specific steps.

  • Method 1. Manually Copy Virtual Machine Disk Files: Manually copy virtual machine disk files in local host disk, and then save them to the destination location, is probably the most direct way to backup virtual machine.
  • Method 2. Export Virtual Machine to OVF Template: OVF is a file format that supports exchange of virtual appliances across products and platforms. Exporting OVF templates allows you to create virtual appliances that can be imported by other users. You can also choose this way to back up your vm to a network path.
  • Method 3. Clone Your Virtual Machine: Clone is a convenient way for you to create multiple same virtual machines, even on other computers. However, there are 2 kinds of clone, a linked clone relies greatly on parent clone, while a full clone takes longer time.
  • Take a Snapshot of Virtual Machine: A snapshot can capture the entire current state of virtual machine, including memory state, settings state, and disk state. In this way, you can return to the same state of your vm repeatedly. But it also requires large disk space, and may bring serious performance penalty. It’s a short-term copy, you shouldn’t take it as a primary solution.

Method 1: Manually Copy Virtual Machine Disk Files

1. Launch VMware Workstation, move the cursor to the name of the virtual machine you want to backup. There will be a box showing the folder path where the virtual disk files and configuration files of this system are stored.

Virtual Machine Path

2. Come to the folder, and then copy all files or the whole folder to the destination location where you want to store the backup.

Copy Files

Note: In this way, you need to copy and save your vm data regularly, to keep the backup always new.

Method 2: Export Virtual Machine to OVF Template

1. Launch VMware Workstation, select the vm you want to backup, then click File on the upper bar, select Export to OVF…

Export to OVF

2. In the prompt window, select a path where you want to save the OVF template file, then click Save.

Select Export Path

3. Wait for the Export process. The more software you installed in this system, the more time this process will cost.


When it’s accomplished, you will find 3 files in destination location. The manifest file ends with .mf, the OVF file which provides a complete specification of the virtual machine, and the virtual disk file ends with .vmdk.

Virtual Machine Files

Method 3: Clone Your Virtual Machine

1. Launch VMware Workstation, select the vm you want to clone. Then click VM on the upper bar, and select Manage > Clone…to open Clone Virtual Machine Wizard. Click Next in the prompt window.


2. Designate Clone Source. You can select to clone from the current state in the virtual machine, or from an existing snapshot (powered off only).

If you select the upper one, workstation will create a snapshot before cloning it.

If you don’t have a usable snapshot, the second choice will be unselectable.

Click Next.

Clone From

3. Designate Clone Type. You can create a linked clone, or create a full clone.

● Linked clone: A linked clone is created via parent virtual machine and shared virtual disks, and thus relies on it completely. Although it's fast and space-saving to create linked clone, the performance of cloned virtual machine will degrade. And if the parent vm corrupted or snapshot lost, the linked clone will also not be usable. Besides, if the parent vm moved, you also need to reassign the parent vm location of linked clone.
● Full clone: A full clone is completely separated from the parent vm. But the cloning will take longer since it doesn’t share virtual disks.

Clone Type

4. Fill in the name and storage path of your clone. Then click Finish.

Take a Snapshot of Virtual Machine

1. Launch VMware Workstation, select the vm you want to backup, then click the Snapshot button on the upper bar.

Snapshot Button

2. In the pop-up window, fill in the name and description of this snapshot. Then click Take Snapshot.

Snapshot Settings

● You can take snapshot whether your vm is powered on, off, or suspended. But better when it’s off, for snapshot restore may fail if you took it when your vm is still working. Besides, a shutdown snapshot takes less space.
● Use Snapshot Manager you can check and operate all the snapshots.

Clone Settings

One Method to Backup Virtual Machine as Physical Machine

Above methods introduced are all image-based approaches, and using them you can only back up the virtual machines on one single computer. But if you want to back up virtual machines as physical computers while running workstation, or centrally back up multiple computers on one controlling computer, I recommend you AOMEI Centralized Backupper (ACB).

ACB is a professional backup software which can back up all windows system, so you can just use the regular system backup method to back up a virtual machine, in which way you can exclude insignificant applications and data from backups, which can reduce the size.

Besides, as a centralized backup software, you can also manage backups of multiple virtual or physical machines, for all windows PCs, workstations, and servers within LAN, on one central controlling computer. For enterprises, it can greatly promote effectiveness.

Here is a 30-day free trial for you:

Download Free Trial Win 10/8.1/8/7/XP
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To properly using AOMEI Centralized Backupper to back up virtual or physical machines of multiple endpoints, you need follow these steps:

Attach an IP (better static) to the virtual machine you want to back up.

Launch ACB, and install ACB Agent remotely or manually on virtual or physical machines by clicking Computers > Install Client Program.

Install Client Program

For the computers with client programs installed manually, you still need to Request Control over them for the further operation.

Click Computers > Uncontrolled Computers to find the correct IP of virtual or physical machines, then click Request Control on the upper bar. A prompt window will show on their interface, once all permission received you can start to back up them whenever you like.

Request Control

How to Backup Multiple Virtual or Physical Machines on ACB

1. Click Tasks on the upper bar, click New Task and select System Backup to create a new backup task. Follow the 2 steps in the prompt window.

System Backup

2. Step 1, click Add Computers to find the correct IP of the virtual or physical machines you want to backup, you can select multiple of them. click OK.

Add Computers

3. Step 2, select a location as the destination path. you can click Add Storage in the prompt window to add a Share or NAS Device as a storage end. 

Choose Destination

Besides, click Settings you can set Encryption, Compression level, Splitting, Intelligent Sector, and VSS in the prompt window.


Click Schedule, you can manage the time and frequency to automatically back up virtual or physical machines.


Click Scheme, the oldest backup will be automatically deleted once a new one is created, which is space saving.


4. Then click Start Backup, you can choose Only create this task, or Create and execute the tasks.

Start Backup

Once created, tasks will show on Tasks page separately. You can Edit Backup or Restore by clicking Advanced on the upper right of the task. To learn how you can view this article: Manage Backup Tasks


Backup your virtual machines regularly is a critical work no matter what purpose persuades you to use them. Hope these 4 methods I shared could literally help you.

But if you want to backup virtual machine as physical computer without shut down, or centrally operate backups of multiple virtual or physical machines within LAN on one computer, AOMEI Centralized Backupper will be a very effective tool.

Except for that, as a professional backup software, ACB has many other features such as: Disk Backup, Partition Backup, File Backup and SQL Server Backup, Basic Sync, Real-Time Sync, and Mirror Sync. All is easy to operate