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I'm trying to export a Virtual Machine I have on VirtualBox so I can back it up, and when I went to export it, I was prompted with a "Save As..." dialog that asks me if I want to save it as a .ovf or an .ova file.

What is the difference between these two formats?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

As specified in the VirtualBox Manual: 1.13. Importing and Exporting Virtual Machines:

Appliances in OVF format can appear in two variants:

  1. They can come in several files, as one or several disk images, typically in the widely-used VMDK format (see the section called “Disk image files (VDI, VMDK, VHD, HDD)”) and a textual description file in an XML dialect with an .ovf extension. These files must then reside in the same directory for VirtualBox to be able to import them.
  2. Alternatively, the above files can be packed together into a single archive file, typically with an .ova extension. (Such archive files use a variant of the TAR archive format and can therefore be unpacked outside of VirtualBox with any utility that can unpack standard TAR files.)

So, picking .ovf will export a bunch of files into a single folder. Picking .ova will package all those items that would end up in the .ovf folder into a single (often rather large) file. Which you'd rather have is up to you.

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