By Alison / Last Updated April 28, 2022

What are the available VMware backup solutions?

VMware vSphere and Workstation are the most popular type-1 and type-2 hypervisors. Every day, thousands of people use them to perform developments, tests, and other operations on VMs.

To protect the important data, regular backup for VMware VMs is necessary. Choosing the suitable way according to your situation can further promote work efficiency. In a broad range, there are 5 available VMware backup solutions:

  • Manually copy the VM files is probably the most direct way to backup VMware freely. Re-deploy (or “Open” on Workstation) the copied virtual disk files (.vmdk) and the configuration files (.vmx), you can directly create an instant usable copy of the VM. 
  • Export VM to OVF/OVA templates you will gain faster downloads since the OVF files are compressed, and supports exchange of virtual appliances across products and platforms.
  • Clone VMs is a convenient way to create multiple same VMs. There are 2 kinds of clone, a full clone takes longer time to create. But if you create a linked clone, the cloned VM may be unusable if the parent VM fails.
  • Take VM Snapshots you can preserve the current state and data of the VM at a point in time, and roll back to it later easily and quickly. But snapshots cannot be used as a standard backup solution, for they may bring serious performance penalty, and even data loss. For more details you can refer to VM Snapshot vs. Backup.
  • Standard Backup Ways refers to creating independent backup files of the entire VM in certain formats. Unfortunately, there’s no such a built-in option. But nowadays dedicated backup tools have been developed to be very comprehensive and can provide more and better features, such as creating automatic backup schedules and old backup cleanups, which greatly compensate for the lack of built-in features.

In this article, I will introduce the detailed steps to perform these backups on VMware ESXi as an example.

Steps of 4 VMware ESXi backup solutions

While VMware Workstation is most commonly used by individual users, VMware ESXi is popular with enterprises. Therefore, it is important to schedule a fully functional and cost-effective backup strategy.

In this section, I will demonstrate how to backup VMware ESXi VMs in built-in ways as an example.

How to manually create a copy of the VM

1. Access ESXi Web Client, commit all snapshots and power off the VM you want to back up.

2. Go to Storage tab in the inventory, and click Datastore browser on toolbar.

Datastore browser

3. In the pop-up window, click Create directory, and name the new copy of the VM.

4. Confirm and back to the Datastore browser window. Go to the folder of the virtual machine you want to back up.

Select the .vmx file and .vmdk file, then click Copy on toolbar to copy them separately to the folder you just created.

Close Datastore browser window, and you can see the progress in Recent tasks.

5. Turn to Virtual Machines page, and click Create/ Register VM on toolbar to open the wizard.

Register VM

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

Register an existing VM

7. 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 one or more vms

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

Back to the Virtual Machines page, now you can see there is one newly copied virtual machine with the same name as the old one. Because the name comes from the .vmx file. You can right-click the virtual machine and Rename it.

9. Select and Power on the newly created virtual machine. There will be pop-up window, select I copied it and click Answer.

How to export the ESXi VM to OVF

1. Access ESXi Web Client, commit all snapshots and power off the virtual machine you want to back up.

2. Turn to Virtual Machines page, right-click the virtual machine you want to back up and select Export. Click OK in the pop-up window.

Export VM

3. Select Save File option twice to download the .ovf file and .vmdk file. Click OK to close the window. You can see the progress in Recent tasks.

When it’s done, you can click Download button on toolbar to find where these files are stored.

How to clone VMware ESXi VM using vCenter

1. Access to vCenter Client, right-click on the VM name and select Clone > Clone to Virtual Machine to open the wizard.

Except for this option, you can also select Clone to Template… or Clone to Template in Library.

vCenter Clone ESXi VM

2. Provide a Name and select a destination datastore folder location for the new VM. Then click Next.

Specify name and datastore

3. Select a destination host for the new VM, click Next.

Select host

4. On select storage page, Select virtual disk format as Same format as source, and VM Storage Policy as Keep existing VM storage policies. And then select a datastore location to store the VM files. Click Next to continue.

Select storage

5. Select further clone options, you can customize the operating system, the VM’s hardware, or select whether to power on the VM after creation. Click Next.

Select clone options

6. Review your selections and click Finish to start. You can see the progress in Recent Tasks.

How to take a snapshot of the ESXi VM

1. Access to vSphere Web Client. Right-click on the VM name in the inventory and select Snapshots > Take Snapshot…

Take snapshot

2. In the pop-up window, provide a Name and optionally a Description for the snapshot. You can Edit them later in Snapshot Manager.

3. There are 2 options to check:

  • Snapshot the virtual machine’s memory: record the VM’s memory, allowing you to roll back the VM to the exact running state when the snapshot was taken, but takes longer. If you leave this option unchecked, then the VM will be powered-off after you roll back.
  • Quiesce guest file system (needs VMware tools installed): pause the state of the processes that are running, or may modify the information stored on disk when the snapshot was taken, to guarantee the consistency. Quiescing and Memory snapshots are mutually exclusive.

Provide name and description for VM

4. Click OK to take the snapshot. You can see the progress in Recent Tasks.

One quick and economical VMware backup software

Native VM backup ways may be enough for VMware Workstation. But as for VMware ESXi, they are still more or less deficient, for example, backing up only one VM at a time, cannot automatically executing or deleting old backups to save disk space, etc.

Therefore, many IT staffs turn to dedicated backup tools. Here I recommend you AOMEI Cyber Backup, a professional VMware ESXi backup solution for the following benefits.

Multiple VMs Backup: with 3 easy steps you can create a complete automatic backup task of multiple, or even all VMs on the host.
Auto Execution: capable of automating backup tasks, and cleaning old backup files that exceed the specified retention period.
Offsite Restore: capable of restoring backups to new VMs on original or another datastore, host.
Affordable Pricing: reasonable charges only base on the number of bound devices, regardless of how many VMs are on the host.

Next, I will demonstrate how to quickly schedule an automatic backup task of multiple ESXi VMs. You can click the following button to start a free trial.

Download Free TrialVMware ESXi & Hyper-V
Secure Download

3 steps to create automatic backup tasks of multiple VMs

1. Bind Devices: Access to AOMEI Cyber Backup web client, navigate to Source Device > VMware ESXi > + Add VMware ESXi to add a host. And then click > Bind Device.

Add VMware ESXi host

2. Create Backup Task: Navigate to Backup Task > + Create New Task, and then set Task Name, Backup Type, Device, Target, Schedule, and Cleanup.

Create a VMware ESXi backup task

  • Device: using AOMEI Cyber Backup you can backup multiple, or even all VMs on the host at once.
  • Target: selecting to back up to a local path, or to a network path. Used paths will be saved in Favorite Storage for handy selection.
  • Schedule: choosing to perform full, differential or incremental backup, and automate execution daily, weekly or monthly according to the frequency you specified.

Schedule type

  • Cleanup: specify a retention period, and the old backup files that exceed the period will be automatically deleted.

Backup Cleanup

3. Start Backup: Click Start Backup and you can select Add the schedule and start backup now, or Add the schedule only.

Start Backup

Created backup tasks will be listed and monitored separately, for progress checking, schedule changing and restoring.


Backup is one of the most important works for VM users. Choosing a suitable way can maintain the business continuity and improve efficiency.

In this article I presented 5 VMware backup solutions, 4 of them are built-in features. They may be enough for Workstation VMs. But if you want a comprehensive and cost-effective software to backup VMware ESXi VMs, I recommend you a professional backup tool, AOMEI Cyber Backup.

Except for quick backup, it also allows one administrator to create sub-accounts with limited privileges, which can effectively avoid errors caused by others’ mis-operations.