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I use VMWare Fusion on Mac OS X and backup my system with Time Machine. Now I read, that this will not backup my virtual machine with usable results. What are my possibilities to back up my virtual machine?

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Just make sure you're not backing up INSIDE the machine, like Jeff Atwood did :P – Phoshi Mar 17 '10 at 10:48

Time Machine works by tracking changes to files and saving a copy whenever they change.

This doesn't work with VMWare Fusion because a VM image file is all-in-one, so any change within the VM - just running the VM changes the file - will change it, causing Time Machine to have to save another copy of the VM image.

You can manually backup VMWare images just by copying them somewhere safe, like an external drive.

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VMware Fusion disk files are either a single large file or many small 2GB files. When your virtual machine is running, any change to any of these big files causes Time Machine to backup the entire set. So, you can let Time Machine backup the disk files, but every backup will be really really big, which will fill up the space of your Time Machine disk very quickly.

To get around this, I rsync my virtual machines to a separate drive every so often. To do this:

  1. Suspend or power down your virtual machine.
  2. Open
  3. type rsync -axvP /Users/HOME/Virtual Machines/Win7.vmwarem /Volumes/backup-disk/VMs
  4. Wait. A long time. When it's done, you can resume or power on your virtual machine again.

The first backup will be a long copy, future backups will go a little bit faster. You will not end up with a Time Machine-style history, but just a complete copy of the virtual machine as of your last backup.


  • Be sure to change "/Users/HOME/..." and "/Volumes/backup-disk/..." to whatever they are on your system.
  • You can actually run your virtual machine while doing the long initial rsync. Just be sure to do another quick rsync with the virtual machine powered off or suspended right after.
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