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I'm running workstation 7.1.3 and I was wondering if there was any way to copy a virtual machine while it's running. Can you just copy the files on the file system while it's running or are there risks to doing this?

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Mar 27 '11 at 8:13

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I use VMWare Player and regularly suspend the VM, which snapshots and saves the running state. I then copy the entire folder off to a NAS backup drive. You can restore that VM later just fine.

Live copy while running is not possible in VMware Player or Workstation. Even using Windows VSS to snapshot the disk underneath a running VM is fraught with danger - you have copied the windows disk state for a running machine, but without the contents of RAM. This might later work, it would not resume where the snapshot was taken but it might boot. It is not a practice that I would rely on.

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If you can tolerate a minute (or two) of downtime, you can consider "saving the state of machine" and then make a copy, then resume the machine, and voila you have a 'warm' copy.

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Vmware workstation is not capable of making a hot copy.

You could use the "save the state of the machine" method that bubu describes, but that will lead to more downtime than just a few minutes. My own windows-on-linux workstation is 14GB, and it only has absolutely required software. I think the downtime will be up to an hour.

Another solution may be using LVM (linux) or VSS (windows) to snapshot the filesystem and copying the virtual machine files. What operating system (linux/windows, what version/edition?) are you running on the host?

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The suspend / resume of a VM is usually quite fast - about 1 minute should do it. The copy of the VMDK (virtualised disk) will be the slower part. If copying disk-disk in a machine, 14 GB should be done in under 15 minutes. If copying to somewhere on a LAN it may be slower - depending on all kinds of factors including but not limited to your network speed. A reasonable guess is about 15-30 minutes. –  quickly_now Mar 27 '11 at 9:31

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