By Crystal / Last Updated September 5, 2022

Why should you add external hard drive to VM

External hard drive is a device that you plug into a computer port which is nestled firmly outside your computer unlike an internal hard drive. It is used to be the storage device that provides additional space for data.

Installing VM or storing VM files on a computer takes up a lot of disk space. For those who want to run multiple virtual machines on a single computer, connecting an external hard drive to the virtual machine seems necessary.

  • It ensures the safe operation of the physical computer and the virtual machines since virtual machines does not take up too much internal disk space of the computer.
  • You can store your private data in a very safe space, free from the threat of system crashes or virus intrusion. For example, backup VM to external hard drive.
  • The virtual machine in the external hard disk is mobile and portable.

external hard drive

Next, I will explain in detail how to connect external hard drive to VM in VMware and Hyper-V.

How to connect external hard drive to VM

This section focuses on how to connect an external USB drive to a virtual machine in VMware Workstation. If you are running ESXi virtual machines, you can go to VM >> Edit Settings to add hardware which contributes to copy ESXi VM to USB hard drive.

Steps to connect external hard drive to VM:

1. Verify the USB controller is present. Go to VM >> Settings >> Add Hardware >> USB Controller >> Finish.

2. Plug the USB device into the USB port of the physical computer.

3. Access to VMware Workstation and click VM >> Removable devices >> your external hard drive, then click Connect.

connect external hard drive to vm

4. If you want to access to the content in USB device, please go to This PC, right-click the hard drive to look through the content.

You can use the external hard drive to store the data of virtual machines or run virtual machines off it.

How to connect Hyper-V VM to external hard drive

Basically, there are 3 ways to connect USB to Hyper-V VM.

  • Take the USB disk offline and attach to a Hyper-V VM
  • Access USB device in Hyper-V VM in Enhanced Session Mode
  • Enable Hyper-V USB passthrough via Remote Desktop Protocol

In this section. I will explain how to attach a USB hard drive to a Hyper-V virtual machine.

1. Type diskmgmt.msc in Disk Management console.

2. Right-click the USB disk and select Offline.

Take the usb disk offline

3. Access to Hyper-V manager. Right-click a virtual machine and select Settings.

Tips: You don’t need to power off the virtual machine.

4. Select SCSI Controller >> Hard Drive >> Add.

Hyper-V VM add hard drive

Tips: If you do not have an SCSI controller yet, you need to first select Add Hardware at the top of the navigation pane and add an SCSI Controller to your virtual machine.

5. Click the Hard Drive >> Physical hard disk. Then select the offline USB hard drive.

After connecting external hard drive to Hyper-V VM, you can back up virtual machines to USB directly.

How to backup VM to external hard drive (free way)

With external hard drive, you are able to backup virtual machines to the new location conveniently that saves the internal disk space. An external drive that has higher storage capacity that scales to your lab would be the most optimal.

For VMware Workstation backup, you can plug the .vmdk files into USB hard drive or export virtual machine to it. For VMware ESXi, there are 3 methods to back up VM to external hard drive such as downloading VM files from datastore, exporting VM as OVF/OVA template or a third-party tool.

For user with large amounts of virtual machines, it is wiser to back up VM to external hard drive with use a professional and free virtual machine backup software such as AOMEI Cyber Backup. It can back up multiple virtual machines to external hard drive within several clicks and create a scheduled backup task to reduce the human errors.

Procedures to back up VM to external hard drive for free:

1. Click the button below to download and enjoy this perpetual free edition of AOMEI Cyber Backup:

Download FreewareVMware ESXi & Hyper-V
Secure Download

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

2. After adding ESXi/Hyper-V device, click Backup Task >> Create New Task.

3. Select one or more virtual machines in the backup task. Then go to specify the location for backup files, locate the USB hard drive and select it.

backup VM to evternal hard drive

4. Schedule the backup task with flexible strategies.

schedule backup

5. After setting up an automatic backup plan, you can Restore the entire VM from any history backup versions easily.

Restore to

✎While the Free Edition has covered most of VM backup needs, you can also upgrade to use:
Backup cleanup: Set up a retention policy to auto delete old backup files and save your storage space.
Restore to new location: Create an identical VM in the same or another datastore/host from the backup. Thus you can restore VM backup from external hard drive to another location as you need.

restore VM

Within a few clicks, you can perform a complete VMware image backup and restore.

Summary

Whether you are running a virtual machine in VMware or Hyper-V, external hard drive can provide its convenience to your virtual environment. In this article, I have shared the methods of how to connect external hard drive to VM.

However, using external hard drive may lose some speed and performance for virtual machine. If you want to save the cost of an SSD, you can also try copying files to network location.