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Recover data from damaged or formatted VMFS disks or VMDK files
Recover data from damaged or formatted VMFS disks or VMDK files
Last updated: May 01, 2024

How to Recover a VMware Image

Welcome to our detailed guide titled "How to Backup and Restore a VMware Image." In the realm of modern business, where virtualization technologies play a key role in creating efficient and scalable IT infrastructures, mastering the art of effective backup and restoration is critical. VMware, renowned for its leadership in cloud infrastructure and digital workspace technology, offers powerful virtualization solutions. Yet, for many, especially those new to VMware's environment, understanding the backup and restoration process can be a complex task. This article aims to simplify and explain how to backup and restore VMware images comprehensively.

Whether you are an IT professional looking to refine your skills, or a business owner seeking to safeguard your virtual infrastructure, this guide is tailored to provide you with practical, step-by-step instructions, and best practices of VMware data recovery. We'll cover everything from the basics of VMware virtualization, to advanced techniques for ensuring the integrity and availability of your virtual machines (VMs).

What is VMware image recover and backup

What is backup and recovery? VMware image backup and restore are crucial processes in managing virtual environments. These processes ensure data protection, disaster recovery, and business continuity in virtualized infrastructures managed by VMware, a leading provider of virtualization software.

VMware Image Backup

Definition: A VMware image backup involves creating a copy of the entire virtual machine (VM), including its operating system, installed applications, data, and VMware configuration settings. This backup can be used to restore the VM to a previous state if needed.

Methods: Common methods include:

  • Snapshot-Based Backups: Capturing the state of the VM at a specific point in time.
  • Full VM Backups: Creating a complete copy of the VM, including all its disks and files.
  • Incremental or Differential Backups: Only backing up changes made since the last full or incremental backup, respectively.
  1. 1. Tools and Software: VMware offers native tools like VMware vSphere Data Protection. Third-party tools are also widely used, providing additional features and integrations.

  2. 2. Frequency and Scheduling: Backup frequency can vary based on the criticality of the data and VM. Regular scheduling is essential to ensure data integrity and minimize data loss.

VMware Image Restore

Definition: Restoring a VMware image involves bringing a VM back to a previous state using a backup file. This is crucial after data loss events, hardware failures, or to revert to a previous state after changes cause issues.

Processes Involved:

  • Full Restore: Completely restoring a VM from a full backup.
  • File-Level Restore: Restoring individual files or folders from a VM backup.
  • Incremental/Differential Restore: Restoring using a combination of full and incremental/differential backups.


  • Consistency: Ensuring the restored VM is consistent, especially for databases or applications sensitive to data integrity.
  • Testing Restores: Regular testing of backup restores is vital to ensure that they are functional and complete.

Disaster Recovery (DR): Restore processes are integral to DR plans, providing a method to quickly recover critical VMs in the event of a site-wide disaster.


  • Data Protection: Safeguards against data loss due to hardware failures, user errors, or malicious attacks.
  • Business Continuity: Ensures minimal downtime in case of disasters or failures.
  • Compliance: Helps in adhering to data protection regulations and standards.

In summary, VMware image backup and restore are fundamental components of managing virtual environments. They provide the assurance that data and services can be quickly recovered and restored, maintaining the operational continuity of businesses and organizations.

Tip: how to backup a virtual machine

How to backup and recover VMware image

1. Backup and recover VMware image with DiskInternals VMFS Recovery

DiskInternals VMFS Recovery is a specialized recovery tool designed for recovering data from VMFS (Virtual Machine File System) used by VMware. It's particularly useful in scenarios involving damaged or corrupted VMFS volumes, and it can also aid in backing up and restoring VMware images. Here's a basic guide on how to use DiskInternals VMFS Recovery for these purposes:

Backup VMware Image with DiskInternals VMFS Recovery

1. Prepare the Environment: Ensure that your VMware environment is running and that the VMFS volumes are accessible.

2. Install DiskInternals VMFS Recovery: Download and install the software on a machine that can access the VMFS volumes.

3. Access VMFS Volume:

  • Open DiskInternals VMFS Recovery.
  • Connect to the server hosting the VMFS volumes.
  • The software will scan and display the VMFS volumes.

4. Locate the VMware Image: Navigate through the VMFS volumes to find the VMware image (VMDK files) you want to back up.

5. Backup the VMDK Files:

  • Select the VMDK files.
  • Use the software’s export or saving feature to create a backup.
  • Choose a safe location on another storage device to store the backup.

Recover VMware Image with DiskInternals VMFS Recovery

1. Access the Backup Location: Open DiskInternals VMFS Recovery and navigate to the location where the VMDK backup is stored.

2. Mount the VMDK File: Use the software to mount the VMDK file from the backup. This will make the contents of the VMDK file accessible.

3. Recover Data:

  • Scan the mounted VMDK for recoverable files.
  • Select the files or the entire image you wish to restore.

4. Restore to VMFS Volume:

  • Select a destination VMFS volume where you want the restored data to be placed.
  • Complete the recovery process, allowing the software to place the restored files back onto the VMFS volume.

5. Verify the Restoration: Once the process is complete, verify the restored VMware image in your VMware environment to ensure that it's correctly restored and operational.

Important Considerations

  • Data Safety: Always ensure backups are stored in a safe, external location to prevent data loss.
  • Regular Backups: Schedule regular backups to minimize data loss in case of a failure.
  • Verify Backups: Regularly verify the integrity of the backups.
  • Compatibility: Ensure compatibility of DiskInternals VMFS Recovery with your VMware version and configuration.
  • Legal Licensing: Use a legally licensed version of DiskInternals VMFS Recovery for compliance and support.

2. Copy VMDK files manually as a full backup

Copying VMDK (Virtual Machine Disk) files manually is a straightforward approach for creating a full backup of a VMware virtual machine. VMDK is the primary format for VMware virtual disks, and these files contain the entire contents of a VM's hard drive. Here's how you can manually copy VMDK files for a full backup:

Steps to Manually Copy VMDK Files for Backup

  1. 1. Shut Down the VM:

  • It's important to shut down the virtual machine properly to ensure data consistency and prevent file corruption.
  • This ensures that the VMDK files are in a stable state for copying.
  1. 2. Locate the VMDK Files:

  • Navigate to the datastore where your VM resides.
  • VMs typically have one or more VMDK files, including a .vmdk descriptor file and corresponding -flat.vmdk or -delta.vmdk files for the actual data.
  1. 3. Copy the VMDK Files:

  • Use a file manager or command-line interface to copy the VMDK files.
  • Ensure you copy both the descriptor and the data files.
  • You might need administrative privileges to access and copy these files.
  1. 4. Choose a Backup Destination:

  • Select an external hard drive, network storage, or cloud storage as the destination for the backup.
  • The destination should have sufficient space to store the entire VMDK file(s).
  1. 5. Transfer the Files:

  • Transfer the copied VMDK files to your chosen backup destination.
  • Ensure the transfer process is completed successfully without any interruptions.
  1. 6. Verify the Backup:

  • After the transfer, verify that the VMDK files are intact and uncorrupted.
  • You can do this by checking file sizes and, if possible, mounting the VMDK in a VMware environment to ensure it's readable.

Additional Considerations

  • Backup Frequency: Decide how often you need to perform backups based on how frequently the data within the VM changes.
  • Automated vs Manual: While this method is manual, consider automating the process using scripts or third-party tools for regular backups.
  • Data Consistency: Ensure that the VM is not running or in a suspended state when copying VMDK files to maintain data consistency.
  • Storage Management: Keep track of the storage space on your backup destination, as VMDK files can be quite large, especially for VMs with substantial data.
  • Security: If the VM contains sensitive data, ensure that the backup is stored securely and, if necessary, encrypted.

3. Export and import VMware Virtual Machine

Exporting and importing VMware virtual machines (VMs) is a common practice for VM backup, migration, or replication. This process involves exporting a VM to a portable format and then importing it into another VMware environment. VMware typically uses the Open Virtualization Format (OVF) or its package (OVA) for this purpose. Here's a guide on how to export and import VMware virtual machines:

Exporting a VMware Virtual Machine

  1. 1. Prepare the VM for Export:

  • Ensure that the VM is in a stable state, ideally powered off, to ensure data consistency.
  • Clean up unnecessary files and perform any necessary maintenance to optimize the VM.
  1. 2. Open VMware vSphere Client:

  • Connect to your VMware ESXi host or vCenter Server using the VMware vSphere Client.
  1. 3. Export the VM:

  • Right-click on the VM in the inventory.
  • Choose “Export” and then select “Export OVF Template”.
  • An OVF template includes the VM’s configuration file (OVF), virtual disk files (VMDK), and a manifest file (MF).
  1. 4. Specify Export Options:

  • Choose a name and location for the exported files on your local system.
  • Decide whether to export as an OVF (multiple files) or an OVA (single file archive).
  1. 5. Complete the Export:

  • Start the export process and wait for it to complete.
  • The time taken will depend on the size of the VM and network speed.

Importing a VMware Virtual Machine

  1. 1. Open VMware vSphere Client:

  • Connect to the destination VMware ESXi host or vCenter Server.
  1. 2. Initiate the Import Process:

  • Right-click on an object in the vCenter Server inventory (like a host or a datacenter) and select “Deploy OVF Template”.
  1. 3. Select the OVF or OVA File:

  • Browse to the location of the OVF or OVA file that you exported.
  • Follow the prompts to upload the files.
  1. 4. Configure the VM Settings:

  • During the import process, you'll have the opportunity to configure VM settings like name, storage location, network mappings, etc.
  1. 5. Complete the Import:

  • Review the settings and complete the import process.
  • The time taken will depend on the size of the VM and network speed.
  1. 6. Power On and Verify:

  • Once imported, power on the VM.
  • Verify that it operates as expected in its new environment.


  • Compatibility: Ensure compatibility between the source and destination VMware environments, especially with regard to VMware versions and features.
  • Networking: After import, you may need to reconfigure network settings, as network labels might not match between different environments.
  • Licensing and Activation: Depending on the software in the VM, you may need to re-activate licenses.
  • Storage and Resources: Ensure the destination environment has sufficient resources and storage capacity for the imported VM.

Exporting and importing VMs using OVF/OVA templates is a versatile way to move VMs between different VMware environments or as a method for backups. This process is typically straightforward but requires attention to detail to ensure a successful transfer and deployment.

4. Clone a VMware VM to create identical VM (requires vCenter)

Cloning a VMware virtual machine (VM) is an effective way to create an identical copy of a VM. This is particularly useful for deploying multiple instances of the same VM configuration, for testing, development, or other purposes. Cloning requires VMware vCenter, which provides the necessary management capabilities. Here's how to clone a VMware VM using vCenter:

Steps to Clone a VMware VM

  1. 1. Access vCenter Server:

  • Open the vSphere Client and connect to your vCenter Server.
  • Ensure you have the necessary permissions to perform cloning operations.
  1. 2. Select the Source VM:

  • Locate and select the VM that you want to clone in the vSphere inventory.
  • Ensure that the VM is in a suitable state for cloning (preferably powered off to ensure data consistency).
  1. 3. Initiate the Cloning Process:

  • Right-click on the VM.
  • Choose the “Clone” option, and then “Clone to Virtual Machine”.
  1. 4. Configure Clone Settings:

  • Name and Location: Assign a name to the new VM and select a location for it within the vCenter inventory.
  • Compute Resource: Choose a host, cluster, or resource pool where the clone will run.
  • Storage: Select the datastore where the cloned VM’s files will be stored. You can choose to store all files in the same location or select individual datastores for each disk.
  • VM Version: If needed, upgrade the VM hardware version to match the host capabilities.
  • Guest OS Customization: Optionally, customize the guest OS (such as setting a new hostname, network settings, etc.) to avoid conflicts with the original VM.
  1. 5. Review and Finish:

  • Review all settings.
  • Click “Finish” to start the cloning process.

Important Considerations

  • Performance Impact: Cloning can be resource-intensive. Ensure the host and storage have enough capacity and performance to handle the cloning process without affecting other operations.
  • Unique Identifiers: If you use customization, it will ensure that the cloned VM has unique identifiers (like MAC addresses and UUIDs), which is important to avoid conflicts in the network.
  • Software Licensing: Be aware of licensing requirements for any software installed on the VM. Cloning a VM does not automatically handle software licenses, which might need to be reconfigured or reactivated in the clone.
  • Data Consistency: If the source VM has dynamic data, it is best to clone it while powered off to ensure data consistency.
  • Templates: For frequently cloned configurations, consider converting a VM into a template. This is a more efficient way to deploy multiple instances of the same VM configuration.

Post-Cloning Steps

  • Power On the Clone: Once the clone is created, power it on and check that it operates as expected.
  • Network Configuration: If not using guest OS customization, manually change network settings to avoid conflicts with the source VM.
  • Application Configuration: Adjust any application-specific configurations as necessary.

Cloning is a powerful feature in vCenter that simplifies the process of creating identical copies of VMs. It's essential for quickly deploying VMs with a standard configuration, making it a valuable tool in VMware environments.

5. Migrate virtual machine in VMware (requires vCenter)

Migrating virtual machines (VMs) in VMware environments is a common task for managing and optimizing virtual infrastructure. VMware's vCenter Server provides the capabilities to migrate VMs either within the same data center or across different data centers. There are two primary types of migrations in VMware:

  1. 1. VMware vMotion: This allows for the live migration of VMs from one host to another without downtime. It's typically used for load balancing, maintenance, or avoiding anticipated host failures.

  2. 2. Storage vMotion: This enables the migration of a VM's storage without downtime. It's used for datastore maintenance, upgrading storage, or balancing storage workloads.

Steps to Migrate a VMware Virtual Machine

Using vMotion (for Host Migration)

  1. 1. Connect to vCenter Server:

  • Open the vSphere Client and connect to your vCenter Server.
  1. 2. Select the VM to Migrate:

  • In the inventory, right-click the VM you want to migrate.
  1. 3. Start the Migration Wizard:

  • Choose “Migrate” from the context menu.
  1. 4. Select Migration Type:

  • Choose “Change compute resource only” for a vMotion migration.
  • This moves the VM to another host while keeping its storage location unchanged.
  1. 5. Select the Destination Host:

  • Choose a destination host or cluster for the VM.
  • The wizard will check compatibility and resources.
  1. 6. Review and Finish:

  • Review the settings.
  • Click “Finish” to start the migration process.

Using Storage vMotion (for Storage Migration)

  1. 1. Start the Migration Wizard:

  • As with vMotion, right-click on the VM and select “Migrate”.
  1. 2. Select Migration Type:

  • Choose “Change storage only” for a storage vMotion.
  • This moves the VM’s storage to another datastore while the VM remains on the current host.
  1. 3. Select the Destination Datastore:

  • Choose a new datastore for the VM’s files.
  • Ensure it has enough capacity and is accessible by the host.
  1. 4. Review and Finish:

  • Review the settings.
  • Click “Finish” to initiate the storage migration.

Important Considerations

  • Network Connectivity: Ensure consistent network connectivity during migration to avoid disruptions, especially for vMotion.
  • Resource Availability: Verify that the destination host or datastore has sufficient resources and is compatible with the VM.
  • Downtime: Both vMotion and Storage vMotion are designed to migrate VMs with no downtime, but always plan for contingency in case of unexpected issues.
  • Licensing: Ensure your VMware license supports vMotion and Storage vMotion.
  • VMware Versions: The source and destination hosts should be running compatible VMware versions.

Post-Migration Steps

  • Verify VM Functionality: After migration, ensure that the VM is functioning correctly in its new location.
  • Update Documentation: Update any documentation or inventory management systems to reflect the new location of the VM.

Migrating VMs within a VMware environment using vCenter is a powerful feature that helps in maintaining operational efficiency, managing workloads, and ensuring high availability. Proper planning and understanding of the environment are key to successful migrations.


In conclusion, managing and maintaining VMware virtual environments encompasses a variety of essential processes, each critical for ensuring data integrity, system reliability, and operational efficiency. We've explored several key practices:

  • Backup and Restore with DiskInternals VMFS Recovery: This tool provides a specialized approach for safeguarding your VMware VMs, allowing for precise recovery options in case of data loss or corruption.
  • Manual Copying of VMDK Files: A straightforward, though manual, method for backing up VMs. It's vital for situations where simplicity and direct control over the backup process are required, albeit less efficient for frequent or large-scale backups.
  • Exporting and Importing VMware VMs: Using OVF and OVA templates offers a portable and standardized method for backing up, migrating, and deploying VMs across various VMware environments. This approach is particularly useful for managing VMs across different platforms or for long-term archiving.
  • Cloning VMs in VMware with vCenter: Cloning is an efficient way to create identical copies of VMs for testing, development, or deployment purposes. It's a key feature in vCenter that aids in rapid deployment and scaling of virtual environments.
  • VMware VM Migration with vCenter: The ability to migrate VMs, whether it’s through vMotion or Storage vMotion, is a testament to the flexibility and advanced capabilities of VMware. These features enable seamless transitions of VMs across hosts and storage devices with minimal to no downtime, crucial for load balancing, maintenance, and optimizing resource utilization.

Each of these methods serves a unique purpose in the lifecycle management of virtual machines. From ensuring data safety and recovery with backups to optimizing resource allocation through VM migration, these processes form the backbone of effective VMware virtual environment management. Understanding and correctly implementing these practices will lead to enhanced system resilience, better resource management, and a more robust virtual infrastructure.


  • Can you restore a VMware snapshot?

    To restore a snapshot, follow these steps:

    • Go to the navigation menu and select "Virtual Machines" followed by "Snapshots".
    • Choose a project from the list provided.
    • Locate the desired snapshot in the list and click on "Restore".
    • In the "New disk name" field, type in the name for the disk where the backup will be restored.
  • How do I restore a VMware image?

    Click the Backups tab. On the Backups tab, find the backup plan and click Restore to VMware in the Actions column. You can restore one or more VMware VMs to an on-premises vCenter Server.

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