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?
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.
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?