By Alison / Last Updated April 24, 2022

Can you export snapshot on VMware products?

 

Case: Copy VM Snapshot to a new VM Environment

We have 2 separate VMWare environments, one is the main environment which has hundreds of virtual machines across lots of sites. The other is a much smaller one installed on one server, just for archiving old systems. What I would like to do is take a snapshot of the current state of one of our live VMs, and use that to copy to the other VMWare environment and create a new machine there, using that as the archive of that system. Is this going to be possible/easy?

- Question from Serverfault.com

Starting from Windows Server 2012 R2, you can export checkpoints on Hyper-V, but there is still no such an option on VMware products.

Basically, in most VMware backup solutions, you need to power off the VM and commit all the snapshots before you begin. For example, if you export the VM with multiple snapshots, when importing, you will get a VM with only the last snapshot.

If you manually manipulating individual subdisks or any snapshot profile, you may compromise the disk chain, and result in data loss. That’s why VMware does not recommend manually modifying the disk chain. However, when you are performing complex testing or trouble shooting, there are actual needs of saving the particular state of the VM. So, is there any way to achieve that?

Actually, there still are workarounds you can export snapshots on VMware ESXi and Workstation without losing data. For example, you can manually copy all the files of the ESXi VM, including the snapshots, or make a clone from the Workstation snapshot.

In this article, I will introduce the detailed steps to achieve them.

VMware Logo

How to export snapshot on VMware Workstation

If you are using VMware workstation, you can export snapshot by making a clone from it. But please note that you can only make a clone from snapshots taken when the VM is powered off.

If the target snapshot is taken when the VM is running, when you are trying to make a clone from it, you will receive an 'you cannot make a clone of a virtual machine or snapshot that is powered on or suspended' alert.

Cannot clone from snapshot taken when powered on

How to clone a new VM from VMware Workstation snapshot

1. Launch VMware Workstation, and power off the original VM. Right-click on the VM name and select Snapshot > Snapshot Manager.

open Snapshot Manager on VMware Workstation

2. In the pop-up Snapshot Manager, select the target snapshot and click Clone to open the Clone Virtual Machine Wizard. Click Next to start.

Clone from snapshot

3. Select to clone from An existing snapshot (powered off only), you can change the target snapshot here. Then click Next.

Select clone source

4. Select to Create a linked clone, or Create a full clone. Here I select Create a full clone and click Next.

Note:
Linked clone: A linked clone is a reference to the original VM and requires less disk space to store. However, it cannot run without access to the original VM.
Full clone: A full clone is a complete copy of the original VM at its current state. This VM is fully independent, but requires more disk space to store.

Select clone type

5. Provide a Name, and click Browse… to select a destination location for the new VM. They should be different from the original VM.

Provide a name and location for new VM

6. Click Finish to start. The progress will show on the wizard.

How to export snapshot on VMware ESXi

On VMware ESXi, there is neither a snapshot export option, nor a make clone from the snapshot option.

If you want to save the snapshots, you can manually copy all the files of the VM to create an exact same VM, and then optionally revert one of the VM to a previous state. Here are the specific steps.

Secure way for VM protection or restoration to another host

For those managing multiple virtual machines, copying VM folders to create a new virtual machine with snapshots seems to be troublesome. Also, snapshots are not secure for data protection which rely on the parent disk and easy to be damaged. So, what should you do to protect data security?

As we mentioned before, there is no in-built feature to export snapshots in ESXi, so you could only use a third-party tool to achieve data protection or restore VM to another host conveniently. In this part, I will use a backup software called AOMEI Cyber Backup to perform VM backup.

Convenient management for multiple VMs: It allows you to back up numerous VMs at the same time.

Fast Backup & Recovery: It improves the speed for backup and recovery. While restoring, you can easily choose to restore to original/new location.

Schedule automatic backup: You can schedule backup tasks to back up VMs automatically, which also offers the regular recovery points.

Secure backup: It provides a more secure and stable backup than snapshot.
 
Easy to operate: You can create a backup task with several clicks without installed any agents.

Download Free TrialVMware ESXi 6.0 & later versions
Secure Download

3 steps to back up VMs with snapshots

1. Download AOMEI Cyber Backup and add devices.

2. Click Create New Task to set up a backup task.

  • Select virtual machines and destination for backup.

    select target

     

  • Schedule the backup task and choose the retention period for each backup.

schedule backup

3. Click Start Backup.

On the Version page, you can notice the regular backup files. You are able to restore the VM from any point, and it is also convenient to create a new VM in another virtual environment by clicking Restore to New Location.

restore vm

How to manually copy the VM folder along with all snapshots

If you want to directly copy VM files to create a same VM with snapshots, please refer to the following steps.

1. Access vSphere Web Client, click Storage in the left inventory, and click Datastore browser on the right page.

Open Datastore browser

2. Click Create directory in the pop-up window, and provide a Directory name for the new VM. Click Create Directory to confirm.

Create directory

3. Back to the Datastore browser, find the folder of the original VM and click Copy on the toolbar to copy all files in it to the new folder you just created.

Copy VM files in Datastore

4. Close Datastore browser, and click Virtual Machines in the left inventory. Click Create/Register VM on toolbar to open the wizard.

Create/Register VM

5. On Select creation type page, select Register an existing virtual machine and click Next.

Register an existing VM

6. On Select VMs for registration page, click Select one or more virtual machines, a datastore or a directory, and select the newly created folder. Click Next.

Select VMs for rigistration

7. On Ready to complete page, click Finish to close the wizard.

8. Back to Virtual Machines, now you can see the newly copied VM with the same name as the old one, that’s because the name comes from the .vmx file in the folder. You can right-click on the VM name and Rename it.

9. Power on the new VM you just copied, select I copied it and click Answer in the pop-up window.

Exporting snapshots manually takes more time and is likely to fail if the snapshot size is too large.

Summary

VMware products currently provide no snapshot export option. But you can use a professional software to offer regular recovery points like snapshots.

In this article I introduced the specific steps of how to manually copy all of the ESXi VM files and how to make a clone from snapshot on Workstation as well as how to achieve automatic backup task for data security.