Backup virtual machine files

Posted on 2008-10-31
Last Modified: 2011-10-19
I am new to VMware so I may be missing the obvious. I installed ESXi free version. I can make snapshots and restore them but I want to backup the virtual machine to an external drive for disaster recovery.  I can't see how to do that.

I assume it would be very simple to restore those files to a different virtual machine if the original one crashed?

How do I backup the  virtual machine over a network or to an attached USB drive?
Question by:ajdratch
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LVL 18

Expert Comment

ID: 22854371
1)On Vmware server you can take snapshots of the machines and restore it when necessary, you can also stop the machine (without turning it off) copy the files of the machine and resume the machine again.
Best option is to copy the vmdk files manually to another location

2)Please refer the attached guide, its simple

Backing Up a Virtual Machine with Acronis True Image Echo and VMware Consolidated Backup

LVL 18

Expert Comment

ID: 22854383
5)The easiest way is to turn off any virtual os you want to backup, log out and turn the virtual machine off. Stop the vmware services, copy the files to your backup media. Start vmware again, then the virtual os and log on.

If you ever have to restore, stop vmware, backup the os you are going to replace (just in case) and copy the backed up files in


Expert Comment

ID: 22855287
Why not use VMware Converter to create a backup of your VMs? You can do a hot or cold clone of your VMs to a network storage.

Alternatively, you can download the folders to your usb drive. Access your ESXi server with the VI client.

Click the arrow next to the Inventory icon and choose Datastores
Select the datastore that has your target VM and click Browse Datastore...
When the data store window appears, highlight and right click on the folder of your target VM and select Download... on the context menu
Select the destination and click OK
The download begins...

Another method would be to create an image of your VMs using Symantec BackupExec System Recovery or Acronis True Image Echo for Windows, or Paragon Drive Backup. Simply create another VM that is similar to your VM and restore.
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Author Comment

ID: 22856329
I don't see where I can copy or access the files that make up the virtual machine. According to aldanch, I need to "Click the arrow next to the Inventory icon and choose Datastores."  The only thing I see next to "Inventory" icon is another icon "Administration." I don't see Datastores any where else in the application.

It seems to me that backing up these files is a better backup than imaging would be. Is there a reason I would rather create an image? This virtual machine can be taken down at night and on weekends

Expert Comment

ID: 22859348

unfortunately at the moment the most popular disaster recovery software for VMware, VizionCore and Veem do not support ESXi because it does't have the service console.

My personal opinion is that for ESXi the better choice is to use NFS for the datastores. In this case you can do a backup of VM files because these resides on another server that export their file system in NFS.

For example you can use a server with Novell SLES installed as NFS server and you can script your backup. You can also use a NAS with NFS support.

Hope this can help you,
Giovanni Coa

Author Comment

ID: 22860775
Is there anyway I can backup he datastore with what I have? It seems that this should be a simple task but I don't seem to have that feature in the VMware Infrastructure Client. I just want to copy the files to a NAS device, another server or even a USB drive. I would do this once a month along with daily backups of the data.

Expert Comment

ID: 22861017
VMware does't not support USB devices well directly connected to the host.
VI client does't not support a backup or restore procedure built-in.

You can use the VMware converter to export your virtual machines, but I'm not sure this support the ESXi version well as the ESX. For me, sometimes it fail to restore an exported virtual machine.

If you want to do that at no cost, you need to consider your virtual machines like a physical and you have the only choice to use a free imaging software like gost4u or something like that to do a disaster recovery.

Instead of that you can buy ESX server instead of ESXi and you can use free tools to do backup of your virtual machines directly from the command line.

If you are able to do that and you have many time, you can think to :
a) Install remote CLI on a dedicated physical or virtual machine
b) Schedule remote command to take a snapshot of virtual machine you want to disaster recovery
c) Schedule command to export these virtual machine disks with "vmkfstools"
d) Now you can safety download the exported disks using VI client

Take care of how much time you can spend instead of buying a product that do the work better and quickly.

Hope this can help you,
Giovanni Coa

Accepted Solution

aldanch earned 500 total points
ID: 22862262

Make sure your VM is powered down prior to doing this

Try clicking on the ESX server, then clicking on the Summary tab. It should display your datastore in the Resources section. Right-click the datastore that houses your VMs and click Browse Datastore... in the context menu.

The Datastore Browser window appears. On the right pane, highlight your VM's folder, right click and select Download... on the context menu. Choose the location to download your VMs and click OK to begin the download process.

Note: You may select multiple folders to download at once if you so desire.

This isn't the most streamline way of backing up your VMs, but because you're using the free version of ESXi, you've opted out of many of the backup strategies available for Virtual Infrastructure. The one I suggested is one way to backup your VMs with ESXi Free version. RemoteCLI would also work, and provides a better way to automate your backups. It just requires a little more attention and time to get it working the way you want it to.

Expert Comment

ID: 22862271
I need to mention that the instructions above require that you use the VI client to access your ESX server.

Make sure your external drive is connected to workstation that you're running the VI client.

I hope you have Gigabit connectivity between your workstation and ESXi server.

Author Closing Comment

ID: 31512212
Thanks, that is what I was looking for.  I am going to look into the other VM options that will make this easier.

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