How to Transfer File to VM in VMware ESXi and Workstation

Copying files from physical host to VM helps to migrate data in VMware ESXi or Workstation. This article covers the detailed and secure steps to transfer files to a VMware virtual machine and vice versa.


By Crystal / Updated on December 7, 2022

Share this: instagram reddit

Scenario: VMware ESXi transfer files to VM

In VMware ESXi virtual machines, you can run a different operating system in an isolated environment, which is beneficial for testing, development and other purposes. But since the virtual environment is isolated, you cannot directly transfer files in the following scenarios:

  • Copy files to VM from outside, or vice versa
  • Transfer files between VMs for data migration

In this case, you may think of creating a network share as you would in copying files to Hyper-V VM. However, Shared folder has been removed from ESXi as a security precaution. Then how can you copy files to VM in ESXi and vice versa? Keep reading to get the answer.

VMware ESXi logo

How to transfer files to VMware ESXi (2 Methods)

In VMware ESXi, transferring files to VM can usually be done by 2 methods.

One is to create ISO images of physical files to VMware ESXi datastore, and then mount the ISO file to VMware ESXi virtual machine.

Second is to use an agent-based backup solution to register both your local computer and VMware ESXi VMs as the clients, then you can transfer files among all the machines via backup & restore. 

I will illustrate both the 2 methods below in VMware ESXi to transfer files to VM.

Method 1. Create ISO files to copy files to VM in ESXi

A single ISO file may contain many folders. However, you can even create an ISO from the folders on your Windows PC. For instance, you may want to create an ISO to keep all of your folders and copy files to VM without network. You can transfer files between your client PC and a VMware ESXi system using vSphere Client’s datastore browser.

How to transfer files to VMware ESXi via Browse Datastore:

1. Navigate to vSphere Client, select Menu >> Storage. Then right-click the datastore select Browse Datastore

select browse datastore

2. Select the inventory to which you will upload the file, and. You can click the New Folder to create a new folder on the Files tab.

3. Select an existing folder or the folder (the ISO files) that you created, and click the Upload Files.

VMware ESXi transfer files to VM

4. On the local host, locate the file and upload it to VMware ESXi datastore.

Tips: ISO upload times vary, depending on file size and network upload speed.

5. Refresh the datastore file browser to see the uploaded file in the list.

How to transfer files from VMware ESXi datastore to VM:

1. After you upload the ISO image installation media, you can configure the virtual machine CD-ROM drive to access the file. Select the Datastore ISO File and select the ISO image you uploaded.

mount iso to ESXi VM

2. Now you have finished transferring files to VMware ESXi VM. You can restart the VM and access these files from the mounted ISO.

Method 2. Copy files to/between VMs in Vmware ESXi via agent backup solution

If your devices are on the same network and assign a separate IP to the VM, you can use the agent backup solution to transfer files to VMware ESXi which restores files of physical clients to ESXi VM by installing an agent. Here, I will use AOMEI Centralized Backupper to copy files to VM in ESXi.

It allows you to copy files to ESXi VM from a central console installed on a physical host. You can not only perform File Backup, but only System Backup, Disk Backup, Partition Backup, SQL Server Backup or Real-Time Sync.

Download Free TrialVMware ESXi & Hyper-V
Secure Download

How to copy a file to VMware machine:

1. Click Tasks >> New Task and select the required backup type as File Backup from the list presented. Then you can configure Backup Settings, Schedule and Scheme.

select file backup

2. After completing backup, you can navigate to Task menu and Restore the files you want to transfer to VMware ESXi.

restore file to VM

✦ It allows you to restore files from outside or VM to another virtual machine controlled by AOMEI Centralized Backupper by selecting "Restore to other locations".

restore to new location

Updated: How to transfer files from PC to VMware workstation 15

If you want to copy files to VMware Workstation (such as Workstation 15), you can use the 3 ways.

  • Use a USB Flash Drive.
  • Enable drag and drop and copy paste on VM.
  • Set up a shared folder.

Here, I will introduce how to transfer a file to the host via a VMware sharing folder.

1. Right-click the VM and select Settings >> Options >> Shared Folders >> Always enabled.

enable sharing folder

2. Click Add to open Add Shared Folder Wizard. Click Next.

add Shared folder in Workstation

3. Specify the Host Path of the shared folder and enter a Name of the share folder. Click Next

4. Select Enable this share. Click Finish.

specify shared folder attributes

5. Select Map as a network drive in Windows guests. Then click OK in the Virtual Machine Settings.

map as network drive

In Computer (or This PC), you will see a Shared Folders network drive that is accessible. Then you can access to files in the virtual machine.

Important: Backup your VMware ESXi VMs to avoid data loss

Whether you copy files to VMware ESXi or a physical host, there is a risk of data loss with any operation. Especially for virtual machines with important data, data loss can cause a crisis for your business. So, a good backup is critical to protect business from threats.

Here, I’d like to introduce a reliable VMware backup software, AOMEI Cyber Backup, for your VMware ESXi data protection. It is a powerful backup software to protect multiple ESXi VMs automatically to reduce business risk. With this efficient tool, you can enjoy:

Support free ESXi - AOMEI Cyber Backup supports both paid and free versions of VMware ESXi.
Auto backup - Create scheduled backup task to run it automatically that greatly reduces human errors.
Batch VM Backup: batch backup large numbers of VMs managed by vCenter Server or on a standalone ESXi host.
Easy-to-use: backup and restore multiple virtual machines via central console without complicated configuration and reinstallation.
Easy recovery from any point - Restore a VM to the same or another datastore/host with simple clicks.

Please download and install the 30-day free trial of the agentless backup software – AOMEI Cyber Backup.

Download Free TrialVMware ESXi & Hyper-V
Secure Download

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

How to transfer a VM to another VMware ESXi VM:

1. Download AOMEI Cyber Backup and enter the required information to add devices. You don’t need to install any agent or perform complex configuration.

Add VMware ESXi host

2. Click Backup Task >> Create New Task.

create VMware ESXi backup

3. In the open window, configure the following settings to create VMWare VMs backup which can be restored to another datastore easily.

✦ Enter a task name and choose one or more virtual machines for backup.

Select virtual machines vCenter

✦ Set up Backup Schedule. You can set up the backup task once or schedule a daily/weekly/monthly task. Combine full backup, incremental or differential backup according to your need, which is extremely convenient and reduces your workload directly.

schedule VM backup

✦ Set up the Backup Cleanup to free up the disk space. This software can set up retention policy to remove the old backup files as you want, which saves costs of storage and time.

set up backup cleanup

✦ Click Start Backup: you can choose to add the scheduled backup and run it immediately, or only add the task and run it later.

4. After creating VM backups, you can easily hit Restore to transfer a virtual machine to another datastore or even to another host.

✦ Select the VM backup and choose Restore to a new location.

✦ Specify the target host and datastore as you want.

✦ Name the new VM. You can also set its RAM and Virtual Processor.

restore VM to new location

In VMware ESXi, transferring files to VM has potential risks of failure, you should make a VM backup to prevent data loss.


This article offers 2 methods to copy files to VM in ESXi or Workstation efficiently. If you want to transfer files from outside to VM, or between virtual machines, you can try them as you like.

In addition to copy files, some users may want to migrate physical machine to VM, you can also refer to the methods mentioned in the article.

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.