How to Copy VMware Virtual Machine Files

The benefits of virtualization have made it one of the most popular technologies in IT. With VMware, you can create virtual machines (VMs) for different operating systems and applications while enjoying easy management, resource optimization, and improved performance.

However, things can get tricky when it comes to copying or moving a VM from one location to another – whether on-premises or in the cloud.

In this blog post, we’ll show you how to copy VMware virtual machine files seamlessly so that you can enjoy flexible workloads without worrying about data loss or corruption.

How to Copy VMware Virtual Machine Files

Introduction to VMware Virtual Machines

As the name suggests, a VMware virtual machine is a software computer that, like a physical computer, runs an operating system and applications.

The key difference between a physical computer and a virtual machine is that it does not require dedicated hardware.

Instead, it can run on top of existing infrastructure, such as a server or desktop computer.

While physical computers are limited by the number of processors and memory they can have, virtual machines are not. This means you can have as many virtual machines as you want, each with its own configuration of processors and memory.

In addition to running more than one virtual machine on the same physical hardware, VMware allows you to move virtual machines from one piece of hardware to another without reconfiguring or reinstalling them.

This is possible because all the necessary files for a virtual machine are contained in a single file called a “virtual disk.” By copying this file to another location, you can move an entire virtual machine from one host to another.

What are files that make up a VMware Virtual Machine?

Virtual machines consist of several files, each serving a specific purpose. The most important file is the .vmx file, which stores most of the configuration information for the VM.

Other files include the .vmdk disk images, which store the actual data for the VM, and any accompanying files such as .nvram, .vmsd, and so on.

How to Copy a Virtual Machine in VMware Workstation

You can copy a virtual machine in VMware Workstation in a few ways, but we’ll show you the most common way. This method will work whether copying to the same computer or transferring to another computer.

First, open the VMware Workstation and power the virtual machine you want to copy.

Once it’s up and running, go to your host operating system (the one running VMware Workstation) and find the VMware-vmx.exe file for that virtual machine.

The location of this file will depend on where you installed VMware Workstation, but it’s typically something like this:

C:\Program Files\VMware\VMware Workstation\Virtual Machines\

Once you’ve found the VMware-vmx.exe file, copy it to the desired location on your computer or over to the other computer.

If you’re copying it to another computer, copy over any relevant .vmdk files. These files contain the actual contents of your virtual machine’s hard drive and are usually in the same directory as the VMware-vmx.exe file.

You should now be able to open up the copied files on the other computer and run them just like usual.

If everything is done correctly, you should be able to power the virtual machine and have it work like before.

How to Copy a Virtual Machine in vCenter Server

In vCenter Server, you can use the Copy command to copy virtual machine files from one datastore to another. You can also use this command to copy files between different data store types, such as NFS and VMFS.

  1. Select the virtual machine you want to copy into the vSphere Client inventory.
  2. Right-click the selected virtual machine and click Copy.
  3. Select the destination datastore or folder from the Copy Virtual Machine dialog box drop-down menu. You can also click Browse to select a data store or folder.
  4. (Optional) Enter a new name for the copied virtual machine in the New VM name text box.
  5. Click OK to start copying the files.

Guidelines for Copying and Moving Virtual Machines in VMware

When you want to move or copy a VMware virtual machine, there are a few things you need to take into account. You can’t just copy the files from one location to another – you need to export the VM first. Here are the steps you need to take:

  1. Right-click on the VM and choose “Export.”
  2. A wizard will appear – follow the prompts and choose an export location. Select “Export entire virtual machine” and “Copy files.”
  3. Once the export is complete, copy the .vmx file and the VMDK files to the new location.
  4. You will also need to edit the .vmx file – open it in a text editor and change the line that says “displayName = ” to reflect the new name and location of your VM files. Save and close the file.
  5. Now you can import your VM into VMware Workstation or Fusion by going to File > Import > Existing VMware Virtual Machine. Locate your .vmx file and click Open.

Common Mistakes when Copying VMware VM Files

People make a few common mistakes when copying VMware VM files. Here are a few of the most common:

  1. Copying the wrong files: When you copy a VMware VM, you must copy both the .vmx file and the .vmdk file. The .vmx file is the configuration file for the VM, and the .vmdk file is the virtual disk. If you only copy the .vmx file, you’ll end up with an unusable VM.
  2. Not using the right tools: You can’t use your old cp or mv commands to copy VMware VMs. You need to use particular tools like vmkfstools or VMware-disk manager. Failing to use the right tools can result in data loss or corruption.
  3. Forgetting to delete snapshots: Any snapshots on the original VM will also be copied when you copy a VMware VM. This can quickly eat up storage space on your destination system. Be sure to delete any snapshots before copying a VM.
  4. Not updating DNS entries: If you’re moving a VMware VM to a new host, don’t forget to update your DNS entries accordingly. Failing to do so will result in downtime for your VM while DNS propagates.

Alternatives to Copying Virtual Machines

You can copy VMware virtual machine files in a few different ways. You can use the VMware vCenter Converter Standalone or the VMware-disk manager utility with VMware Workstation. You can also use the open-source tool dd to copy the contents of a virtual disk file.


Copying VMware virtual machine files from one computer to another is an easy process that can be done quickly and efficiently.

Whether transferring a VM from one system to another or ensuring you have a second copy of the file for safekeeping, following these steps will help you do it without any issues.

If you ever need assistance with anything related to virtual machines, don’t hesitate to contact our team—we’re here to help!

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