By Alison / Last Updated April 2, 2022

Can you copy ESXi VM files to USB drive

When talking about backups, there is a golden 3-2-1 principle: keep 3 copies of data, store on 2 types of media, and keep at least 1 offsite. This explains well the importance of storing backups offsite.

Therefore, you may be wondering, can you copy a VMware ESXi VM or files inside the VM to USB drive?

The answer is YES. However, backing up an entire VM is not the same operation as backing up some of the files inside the VM.

VMware ESXi logo

Available ways for copying ESXi VM to USB device 

Basically, there are 3 ways to copy an entire VM (image-level) to USB drive.

And there are 2 ways to copy the files inside a ESXi VM (file-level) to USB device.

In this article, I will introduce the specific steps of these ways, and you can click on the anchor text to jump to the section you need.

Note: please do not use a regular USB flash drive to store your VMs, as the USB controllers and flash cells cannot afford the constant reads and writes.

How to copy entire ESXi VM to USB drive

If you want to copy an entire VM which can be restored to an instantly usable new VM, what you are doing is performing image-level backups.

And in this section, I will demonstrate 2 different ways to back up an entire ESXi VM to USB drive at image level.

Manually download VM files to USB drive

1. Access VMware ESXi web client, and power off the VM you want to backup.

Power off the running VM

2. Navigate to Storage > Datastore browser.

Open Datastore browser

3. Find and open the folder of the VM you want to copy, select the files and click Download.

Download the VM files

4. In the pop-up window, specify the USB drive as the destination storage, click Save to download.

Save VMware ESXi file to external hard drive

Export ESXi VM to OVF and save in USB

1. Access the VMware ESXi web client, and navigate to Virtual Machines. Power off the VM you want to backup.

2. Right-click on the VM name and select Export.

Select Export option

3. Click OK to download the .ovf file and .vmdk file respectively.

Confirm download the OVF file

4. In the pop-up window, specify the USB drive as the destination storage, and click Save.

Save the OVF file to external hard drive

Backup ESXi VM to USB using AOMEI Cyber Backup

1. Access the AOMEI Cyber Backup web client, navigate to Source Device > VMware ESXi > + Add VMware ESXi.

Provide the credentials including IP address, username and password, and click Confirm to add the ESXi host. Then click button next to the host name and select Bind Device for authorization.

Note: You only need to do this step when you first bind the device.

Add VMware ESXi host

2. Navigate to Backup Task, and click + Create New Task.

Create a VMware ESXi backup task

3. In the pop-up window, click Select + next to Device Name to specify the ESXi host and the VMs you want to back up. Click OK to confirm.

Select ESXi VMs to backup

4. Click Select + next to Target and specify the USB drive as the destination storage.

Select USB drive to store ESXi backup

5. You can also specify Schedule and Backup Cleanup for this task.

If you only want to perform full backup for once, turn off Enable Schedule and Backup Cleanup option and click OK to save.

Backup schedule

6. Now you can click Start Backup to back up these ESXi VMs to USB drive.

Start Backup VMware ESXi VMs

How to copy files or folders inside ESXi VM to USB device

If you just want to transfer files from VM to USB drive, the most convenient way is accessing USB drive directly from the VM. Luckily, ESXi USB passthrough allows you to do that with simple steps.

In addition, by installing a backup agent on VMs, you can even backup VMs as they were physical machines.

Copy files from VM to USB device via ESXi USB passthrough

1. Access the VMware ESXi web client, navigate to Virtual Machines and right-click on the VM name, select Edit Settings.

ESXi VM Edit settings

2. In the pop-up window, Virtual Hardware tab, click Add other device > USB device.

Then a New USB device column will be added in the device list.

ESXi VM add other device

3. Click on New USB device to specify the USB device from the dropping menu. Click Save.

Specify new USB device

Backup files or drives inside VM via AOMEI Centralized Backupper

1. Launch AOMEI Centralized Backupper, navigate to Computers > Uncontrolled Computers, check your VM (with a static IP) and click Request Control.

It will pop up a request window on the VM. Once you are authorized you can perform backups whenever you like without request again.

Request Control

2. Navigate to Tasks, click New Task > File Backup to create a file backup task.

File backup

3. Follow the 3 steps to specify the VM, the files you want to backup, and a share folder on the USB device to store the backup.

File backup 3 steps

Note: Click Settings you can also encrypt or compress the backup.

Compression levels

4. Click Start Backup, the task will be listed separately for later manage or restore.

Start backup

Summary

Keeping at least 1 VM backup offsite protects VM data from unexpected local drive corruptions. You can either backup VM to Synology NAS, to cloud, or to external USB devices.

In this article, I demonstrated 2 ways to copy ESXi VMs to USB drive, and 2 ways to transfer files from ESXi VM to USB. You can choose a suitable way according to how much data you need to backup.