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I need to take an incremental or differential backup of a Linux guest OS running inside VMWare workstation. How do I achieve that? I can take a full backup when the virtual machine is down, but I want only the differentials to be backed-up and that too while it is up and running.

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If you are using a recent version of VMWare Workstation, Snapshots should you first choice.

They match your requirements exactly, being incremental, with the ability to save and restore at any point.

For backups outside of the VM (maybe to an external HDD), rsnapshot works well. Use this tutorial (share the files to the host machine, then back up from that folder). You can also do backups over the network, in case you use a backup server.

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Any backup software installed in your Guest OS will create incremental and differential backups in the same way, as it was physical machine.

There are many file-based backups for Linux out there, including tar.

For disk-based image backups you can check out Acronis – they have Linux backup for Servers on disk level, with incremental and differential.

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