I'm running a few VMs using VMWare and was wondering, is there any way to backup a VM without using snapshots (and preferably without downloading new software)?

  • do you need to backup the VM, or the content on the VM? your current guest OS likely has backup software available that you could use to backup content. if you want to backup the entire VM, you will likely need to either shutdown the VM to back up the VMWare files of it, or use third party software that uses an agent to control backups. Jul 25, 2022 at 22:08

2 Answers 2


The simplest way to backup a VMware VM is simply to copy its entire folder.

Of most importance are the .vmx and .vmdk files, but the other files can help you stay in exactly the same state for the VM.

If the .vmdk file is too large, you could archive it with compression, using for example 7Zip.


You can just copy the entire folder for the machine to a backup location.

I use VMware and this is how I do it.

Note: If you have a snapshot (snapshots are NOT backups), then combine it first to eliminate the snapshot.

Then copy the folder.

  • 1
    To clarify: removing snapshots is not necessary, but may help reduce the footprint of a VM. With snapshots multiple versions of the same disk areas may be kept, increasing file sizes.
    – gronostaj
    Jul 25, 2022 at 20:39
  • 1
    Snapshots are tricky in that if not combined and the machine changes, the snapshot is not related to the new machine. So I really suggest combining before making a backup.
    – John
    Jul 25, 2022 at 20:41
  • @John What do you mean by "the machine changes"? Host or VM? If you make manual changes to the VM's files without going through VMware Workstation/Fusion/etc., then yes, you risk corrupting your snapshot tree. But if you're just copying files back and forth, there should be no problem.
    – jamesdlin
    Jul 27, 2022 at 3:16
  • What do you mean by "the machine changes"? Host or VM? ...... If you update the guest (or possibly add/remove software) it is no longer the same as the snapshot. And guest machines can change with Anti Virus running.
    – John
    Jul 27, 2022 at 10:21
  • By definition, if you make changes to the VM, it has diverged from the snapshot. That's the whole point: it's a saved state of a past version of the VM. It's still related to the VM. Now, maybe you won't want to restore that snapshot because the VM has significantly diverged and might retrigger something like Windows Activation. That's highly case-dependent. In general, you shouldn't need to remove snapshots before backing up a VM.
    – jamesdlin
    Aug 2, 2022 at 17:34

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