How to Restore Entire VM for Fast Disaster Recovery | 2+1 Ways

If you want to restore entire VM, instead of some of its files or applications installed on it, there are 3 common ways that suit different cases.


By Crystal / Updated on March 8, 2023

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The necessity to restore entire VM

Virtual machine backup is the most basic measure of VM data protection. Periodic backups can keep the backed up data up to date, thus when a VM fails, you can easily restore it from the backup file.

But as you know, there are different methods for VM backup. If you back up a virutal machine as a physical machine and perform file-based backup on it, you can probably recover certain files quickly when they get lost or corrupted. But if this VM system has crashed, such a recovery is not a true cure.

For virtual machines loaded with critical data or business, more downtime means more loss. So in practical, you may need the ability to quickly restore a whole VM after disaster strikes. On the one hand, you can make the original VM back to usable state in-place; On the other hand , you may restore the entire VM out of space, which means to create a separate and identical VM in a new location.

How to restore entire VM

Available methods to restore entire virtual machine

How to restore VMs depends on how you backed them up. If you want to restore a whole VM that is instantly usable, you need to perform an image-level backup that contains the operating system, configuration files, and all data on disk, including applications, empty disk blocks, system state, etc.

Basically,  you can try these ways for full VM recovery.

Accordingly, I will take VMware ESXi as an example, to introduce how to restore virtual machine in VMware ESXi.

How to restore entire VM in 2 ESXi built-in ways

If you have only a few VMs to backup and restore, it may be more convenient and affordable to use the built-in ways.

In this section, I will introduce how to restore virtual machine in VMware ESXi built-in ways.

Way 1. How to restore a whole VM from downloaded VM files

Pre-requisites: Manually download VM files

1. Access the VMware ESXi web client, navigate to Storage page and click Datastore browser.

Open Datastore browser

2. In the pop-up window, click Create directory to create a folder for the new VM.

Create directory

3. Click Upload and specify the VM files to this folder.

Upload files to datastore

4. Click Close the Datastore browser window, and then click Register a VM to open the wizard.

Register a VM

5. In the pop-up window, navigate to the newly created folder, select the VMX file and click Register.

Register VM

6. Navigate to Virtual Machines, and Refresh the VM list.

Now you can see the new VM with the same name as the VMX file. You can right-click on its name and Rename it.

Rename VM

7. Power on the restored VM. There will be pop-up window, select I Moved It and click Answer.

I Moved It

Way 2. How to import OVF template as a new VM

Pre-requisites: Export VM as OVF template

1. Access VMware ESXi web client and navigate to Virtual Machines page.

Click Create/ Register VM to open the wizard.

Create/Register VM

2. On Select creation type tab, select Deploy a virtual machine from an OVF or OVA file, then click Next.

Deploy a virtual machine from an OVF or OVA file

3. On Select OVF and VMDK files tab, provide a name (up to 80 characters) for the new VM, and then click the blank to specify the OVF/OVA file you exported. Click Next to continue.

Select OVF and VMDK files

4. On Select storage tab, specify a datastore to store the VM files, then click Next.

Select storage

5. On Deployment options page, select the Network mappings, Disk provisioning, and Power on automatically or not. Click Next to continue.

Deploy options

6. On Ready to complete page, review the settings and click Finish to start. You can see the progress in Recent tasks.

Ready to complete

Effectively restore an entire VM from image-based backup (Free)

Options such as downloading virtual machine files and exporting virtual machines, while available, are not really image-based backups. They can hardly meet some common backup needs for enterprise, such as backing up multiple VMs, creating VMware backup schedule, etc.

Therefore, many IT staffs prefer to peform full VM recovery from image-based backup created by dedicated backup tools. Here I introduce you to AOMEI Cyber Backup, the free virtual machine backup software to restore VM from backup. It offers you the following benefits:

Image-Based Backup: create independent image-level backup for VMware ESXi and Hyper-V VMs agentlessly.
Automated Backup: create backup schedules to automate virtual machine protection.
Restore Entire VM: restore immediately available VMs from any selected restore points.
Perpetual Free: you can use AOMEI Cyber Backup Free Edition with no time limit.

AOMEI Cyber Backup supports both paid and free versions of VMware ESXi 6.0 and later versions, as well as Hyper-V in Windows 8/8.1/10/11, Windows Server/Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2012 R2 and later versions.

Next, I will demonstrate how to restore VM from backup via AOMEI Cyber Backup. The steps are even simpler than VM backup. You can click the following button to download the freeware.

Download FreewareVMware ESXi & Hyper-V
Secure Download

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

Before recovery, you need to create backup task with the software. The steps are simplified as: Add and bind VMware & Hyper-V device -> Configure the source data/schedule/destination -> Start the backup. 

Create VM Backup

How to perform full VM recovery via AOMEI Cyber Backup

1. Access AOMEI Cyber Backup web client, and Navigate to the backup task you want to restore, click ... > Restore to open the wizard.

Or you can click Backup Management > History Versions. Specify a VM and select a restore point from the left list.

Restire from backup task

2. Choose to Restore to original location. And click Start Restore to recover the virtual machine in place.

Select restore target

While the Free Edition covers most VM backup needs, you can also upgrade to enjoy more:
Backup cleanup: Configure a retention policy to auto delete old backup files and save storage space.
Batch VM backup & restore: batch backup and restore large numbers of VMs managed by vCenter Server or standalone ESXi hosts.
Restore to new location: Create a new VM in the same or another datastore/host directly from the backup to perform out-of-spacre recovery, saving the trouble of re-configuring the new VM.

Restore to new location

After a few simple steps, you can restore a whole VM without any complicated reinstallation and configuration.


Regular backup and restore are essential to protect the VM data. In this article, I introduced 3 available ways to restore an entire VM on VMware ESXi.

If you have multiple VMs that need to be backed up and restored, using native ways may be laborious. Therefore, in most cases, IT staff will choose a suitable VMware backup software.

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.