How to backup and move virtualbox machines

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How to backup and move virtualbox machines

Virtualization is a high-priced capability for IT professionals and programmers everywhere. The freedom to emulate more operating systems within their window from one computer is essential for resource administration and isolating critical processes from code testing or experimentation. Also known as hypervisors, the best free virtual machine software in 2021 can ease your work and increase platform compatibility.

What is a Virtual Machine?

A virtual machine (VM) is an operating system (OS) or an application that enables you to run multiple operating systems on the same physical hardware machine, and in a secure, isolated environment. For example, you can run and use a Windows 10 instance on a macOS Catalina machine or the other way around. Additionally, you can create several OS combinations that include Linux, Solaris, and Chrome OS.

The virtual machine that you install on your computer is known as the guest, while your physical hardware machine is referred to as the host. Some operating systems, like Windows, for example, will cost you the charge of a secondary license key. However, if you opt for Linux or any macOS released after 2009 you will get them for free.

The versatility of virtual machines has made this type of software one of the most popular application among developers in recent years. While it might be difficult to pick out the absolute best virtual machine out there, we can still differentiate between buggy software and smooth-running programs to give you an idea about the VM that suits you best. Here are some of the most reliable virtual machine applications that also come for free:

Best Free Virtual Machine Software for Windows and Mac

1. VirtualBox (Intel Mac & Windows)

If you are new to virtualization, then your best choice of using a virtual machine for the first time is definitely VirtualBox from Oracle. This hypervisor is open sourced and free, and you can use it at work just as easy as installing it on your home computer.

VirtualBox was released in 2007 and quickly gained popularity in the IT industry for its long list of supported operating systems. You can run any version of Windows from XP onwards on it, together OpenBSD, Solaris, and OpenSolaris. Additionally, you can easily install any release of Linux 2.4 and above.

How to backup and move virtualbox machines

This virtual machine is ideal for developers with hardcore Windows-nostalgia. VirtualBox lets you install the NT and Server 2003 versions as well as older releases like Windows 3.x or even IBM OS/2 on 2018 computers of the latest generation.

Apple users have the same delight in using VirtualBox on their machines, and the option to host a client Mac VM session is a plus for any developer out there. Since Apple only allows their systems to work on their trademark hardware, you will not be able to run macOS Mojave on a virtual machine using VirtualBox unless you have a Mac.

How to backup and move virtualbox machines

Windows 10 in VirtualBox in macOS Mojave

One of the best aspects of using VirtualBox is its portability that allows you to transfer a virtual machine from one host to another, regardless of the operating systems. Additionally, this hypervisor enables you to run several guest windows at the same time on the same machine.

Another great feature of VirtualBox is the seamless mode, which lets you run Windows applications and macOS side-by-side. The hypervisor optimizes system resources and hardware performance to reward you with the experience of running the guest seamlessly within the host. This process is available under the GPL 2 (If you're using VirtualBox OSE) and free of charge.

How to backup and move virtualbox machines

Seamless Mode in Virtualbox

VirtualBox should be your go-to virtual machine if you are using older hardware. It provides you with a reliable resource of Guest Additions that are available for free and enables you to transfer files and data between the host and the guest regardless of the operating systems. More than that, this open source hypervisor supports USB devices, 3D virtualization, and video.

VirtualBox new users can find a great source of information and tutorials on the Oracle website, along with a long string of pre-built virtual machines. Tutorials and how-to guides are also available if you get stuck at any point during the installation process.

How to backup and move virtualbox machines

Windows 10 in Virtualbox

So far, VirtualBox has garnered over 100,000 registered users that form a busy and enthusiastic community that you can also join to gain access to the latest software releases. Here are the main features of VirtualBox in a nutshell:

YatriTrivedi
How to backup and move virtualbox machinesYatriTrivedi
Writer

Need to move a virtual machine, only to find that copying and pasting doesn’t work? Perhaps you just want to know what to backup? Take a look at this quick guide on the process to get a better understanding of VirtualBox

First things first: be sure that your virtual machine is shut down and powered off. Next, make sure you get rid of any snapshots you have. There isn’t a fool-proof and safe way to do this without getting rid of them, unfortunately. Select your virtual machine and click on the “Snapshots” tab.

How to backup and move virtualbox machines

Select your snapshot and click the delete button. Be prepared to wait a while as VirtualBox merges differences with your machine’s current state. The machine’s state won’t actually change, though, so don’t worry. Now that the prep stuff is out of the way, we can start the moving process.

Once that’s done, go to File > Virtual Media Manager. You’ll see a list of media that you’ve used or have attached to your machines.

How to backup and move virtualbox machines

Select which virtual machine you want to move, then click on the “Release” icon above. In my case, I’ll be moving W7.vdi from my home directory to another hard drive.

Once you have it released, close VirtualBox go to its default settings directory, /home/user/.VirtualBox/

How to backup and move virtualbox machines

You can copy your .vdi file from inside the HardDisks directory if you want to just back it up, or you can move it. Be patient, as this can take a while depending on your configuration.

Meanwhile, let’s edit the VirtualBox.xml file to our liking. This is the step most people don’t really know much about, but it’s pretty vital in making sure things work smoothly. Open it up in gedit.

How to backup and move virtualbox machines

Scroll down a bit and you’ll get to the parts we need to edit.

If you’re changing the location of your virtual machines, find the xml tags for “MachineEntry” and change the source path. If you’re changing the location of your virtual disk images, find the xml tags for “HardDisk” and change the location there. As you can see, each machine is tied to a disk image by its UUID, which should not be changed. If you’re moving virtual machines to a new computer, be sure to copy these this file over and replace the previous configuration file.

In my particular case, I just wanted to move the disk image to a more spacious drive, so I left the other things intact.

How to backup and move virtualbox machines

If you’re changing hosts between Windows and Linux, be sure to change the version declaration at the top of the file to say “windows” instead of “linux” as well.

Once you’ve moved the .vdi file, fire up VirtualBox and go to File > Virtual Media Manager.

How to backup and move virtualbox machines

Click on the old .vdi file and click remove. Now, click “Add,” navigate to its new location, and click “Open.” Click “OK.”

Now that the new .vdi is added to VirtualBox’s list, we have to attach it to your virtual machine. At the main screen select it, go to “Settings,” and click on the “Storage” panel.

How to backup and move virtualbox machines

Under the appropriate IDE controller, click the “Add Attachment” button. You’ll see a hard disk get added automatically, but it probably won’t be the correct one.

Click it and on right side, under “Hard Disk,” choose the correct .vdi file. Click “OK.”

How to backup and move virtualbox machines

If you followed all the steps and you edited the VirtualBox.xml correctly you should be able to start up the machine without any problems! There are a few hairy areas, so if things aren’t working, be sure you’re using the correct paths and you’ve edited only the relevant areas of VirtualBox.xml.

The overall process is a bit more intricate than just copying and pasting, but it’s still relatively quick and painless. Share your backup stories about VirtualBox in the comments!

In this tutorial I’ll show to you the easiest way to transfer the VirtualBox’s Virtual Machine(s) to another host. The usual way to move a VirtualBox VM to another PC is by using the “Import/Export Appliance” utility that offered in VirtualBox’s ‘File’ menu. But, this method isn’t the fastest, so in this article you’ll learn a different method to move your Virtual Machines to another computer, easily and fast, without having to perform the Import/Export Appliance procedure.

How to backup and move virtualbox machines

How to Move VirtualBox VMs to Another Computer (Host).

Step 1. Copy the VM Storage Folder from the Old Host to the New Host.

1. Close VirtualBox on the old VirtualBox host computer.
2. Then from the old host computer, copy the entire virtual machine folder (which contains both the .vbox and the .vdi files), to the new VirtualBox host computer.

Step 2. Add the VM Machines to the VirtualBox on the new Host.

1. Install Virtual Box on the new VirtualBox Host PC.
2. Then, from the Machine menu, click Add.

How to backup and move virtualbox machines

3. From the Virtual Machine folder, select the .vbox file of the VM machine that you want to add (import), in the new Host and click Open.

How to backup and move virtualbox machines

4. That’s it.

You ‘re done! Let me know if this guide has helped you by leaving your comment about your experience. Please like and share this guide to help others.

How to backup and move virtualbox machines

VirtualBox is one of the most widely used software for running virtual machines on lots of systems. Developed by Oracle, VirtualBox is truly a piece of work that can help anyone in lots of situations. For running virtual machines, Linux is often used as it’s a lightweight system with extremely powerful features.

If you’re a VirtualBox user, you obviously have to know how to backup a virtual system from the VirtualBox. It’s really useful in lots of situations, for example, exporting the virtual system to others or for development purpose etc.

How to make the backup

Snapshots

There are several ways you can make a backup of a virtual system on VirtualBox. For Linux, it’s the easiest method to use the “snapshot” feature. The benefit is, it allows saving the instant state of the VM and restore the same state at any time.

How to take a snapshot

  • Open VirtualBox.
  • Start the virtual system you wish to take backup.
  • Once opened, go to Machines >> Take snapshot.

How to backup and move virtualbox machines

  • Enter a name for the snapshot. You can also add snapshot description and other information.

How to backup and move virtualbox machines

Restoring snapshots

  • Open VirtualBox main window.
  • Click the arrow next to the “Machine Tools” button.

How to backup and move virtualbox machines

  • Select the snapshot you want to restore from the “snapshot manager”.
  • Click “Restore”.

How to backup and move virtualbox machines

It’s done! You can easily create and restore snapshots as you like.

Exporting VMs

VirtualBox also allows you export and import VMs just like a file. However, this will make a backup copy of the VM’s files and operating system; no snapshots. The virtual machine, then, can be deployed into any other virtual system.

The process of moving VirtualBox virtual machines isn’t exactly obvious. Discover how to safely and easily tackle the move.

How to backup and move virtualbox machines

How many times have you been in a situation where the drive housing your VirtualBox virtual machines ran out of space? Or maybe you were simply migrating from one server or drive to another? When that happened, you may have discovered that VirtualBox doesn’t have a built-in tool to help you move those VMs. It is, however, possible. albeit a bit convoluted.

More about Storage

Let’s walk through the process of migrating a VirtualBox VM from one drive to another. It’s not that challenging, but it can be a bit confusing, so pay close attention.

Detaching the vdi file

The first thing you must do is remove the attached vdi for the virtual machine. Make sure the VM is powered off (not in a saved state–otherwise, you will not be able to move it) and then right-click the VM (in the left panel of the VirtualBox main window) and select Settings. In the Settings window, go to Storage and then select the .vdi listing under Controller (Figure A).

Figure A

How to backup and move virtualbox machines

Selecting the .vdi for your virtual machine.

Once selected, click the Remove Attachment button (red “-” symbol) and then click OK. Back at the VirtualBox main window, click File | Virtual Media Manager. In the manager window (Figure B), select the vdi you are moving and then click Remove.

Figure B

How to backup and move virtualbox machines

Created with GIMP

In the resulting popup window, click Remove. In the next window–and this is crucial–click the Keep button (otherwise the vdi file will be permanently deleted). Click Close.

Moving and reattaching the vdi file

Now that the vdi has detached, it is safe to move it. Locate the vdi file in your desktop file manager or from the command line, and relocate it to the new disk. Go back to the VirtualBox main window, select the virtual machine (in the case of my example, CentOS), and click Settings. Click Storage, select the Controller: SATA (this may vary, depending upon your setup), click the Add Hard Disk button to the right of the Controller listing (Figure C), and then finalize it by clicking OK.

Figure C

How to backup and move virtualbox machines

Reattaching the vdi file.

When prompted, select Choose Existing Disk and then navigate to the new location of the vdi file. Select the vdi file from your file manager and click OK. Your virtual machine is ready to boot again.

Done and done

That’s it. You’ve successfully moved your VirtualBox virtual machine from one drive to another. Now that you understand how this is done, your VMs should always have the space they need, a safe drive to exist within, or a reliable system to work on.

How to backup and move virtualbox machines

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Could someone tell me the best way to back up individual guest machines? I exclude my machines folder from Time Machine backups because of the size (and because the machine might be active during such backups).

If I do an appliance export, could I delete my current machine and re-import from this .ova w/o issues like a duplicate disk ID, etc?

Re: Best way to backup a VM?

by ChipMcK » 9. Dec 2013, 08:38

The guest OS should be ShutDown when you copy the V4-VBox folder/directory [containing the virtual machine] to a directoryfolder on a backup (external) hard drive.

The file structure of Version 4 of VirtualBox defaults to having all files pertaining to a virtual machine in a single folder/directory.

Re: Best way to backup a VM?

by socratis » 9. Dec 2013, 08:39

Re: Best way to backup a VM?

by PeterNosko » 9. Dec 2013, 17:13

Re: Best way to backup a VM?

by Rootman » 9. Dec 2013, 19:40

The above work just fine, they take up as much disk space as your VDI file is for each backup though. I take a lightly different tack. I back mine up just like I back up my physical boxes.

It is fairly involved and has a rather steep learning curve though. I boot each VM to an ISO file with a Windows PE (built with WinBuilder – Google it) and then use Symantec Ghost to ghost each machine over the network to the hosts storage. This backs up only the data and can compress it fairly well too. There is no real advantage other than space savings. I can restore the image to a larger or smaller VDI or recreated VM as well without much effort. It’s just how I do it.

Re: Best way to backup a VM?

by PeterNosko » 9. Dec 2013, 19:45

Re: Best way to backup a VM?

by Rootman » 10. Dec 2013, 16:53

I find that the way I do it, after mounting the learning curve – also allows me the ability to restore individual files / folders as well, being a type of true backup rather than just a copy of the VDI file. I’ve also used it to resize disks and clone the OS without having to mess around much at the host level beyond just creating a new VDI.

Re: Best way to backup a VM?

by PeterNosko » 10. Dec 2013, 19:49

Re: Best way to backup a VM?

by Rootman » 10. Dec 2013, 21:16

Yep, I treat the VM just like I treat any physical PC. On a "real" PC I stick my thumbdrive in a USB slot, boot to it via Easy2Boot (a SUPERB set of scripts that uses Greb4DOS to make booting damn near ANY ISO as simple as drag and drop) to Windows PE and back up / reimage or work on the drive. I do the same for VMs just by mounting the ISO to the same PE and boot to it and cut a Ghost image of the OS to a network resource. I’ve restored complete OS’s or just damaged parts using Ghost Explorer and just drag and drop what I need back to the drive.

Sometimes people forget that you can treat these VMs just like any other machine and fix ’em or abuse ’em the same ways. Including running Timemachine or any other such util on them.

Re: Best way to backup a VM?

by noteirak » 12. Dec 2013, 00:55

@Rootman: so you backup the content of the VM, but not all the extra metadata associated with it? That would also cause the same issues as physical PC : you will encounter issue if you try to restore that ghost image to a new VM, since the UUIDs are different. I can see reactivation issues in Windows and booting issue in Linux.
Your way is also a lot more overhead and downtime to perform a backup.
Finally if the VM is properly maintened, I don’t see where you can gain space : the VDI should be compacted regularly to keep the size as close as possible as the real data.

To me it looks like you loose all the advantages of having a *virtual* machine and get all the disadvantages of physical ones.

Re: Best way to backup a VM?

by Rootman » 14. Dec 2013, 18:11

noteirak wrote: @Rootman: so you backup the content of the VM, but not all the extra metadata associated with it? That would also cause the same issues as physical PC : you will encounter issue if you try to restore that ghost image to a new VM, since the UUIDs are different. I can see reactivation issues in Windows and booting issue in Linux.
Your way is also a lot more overhead and downtime to perform a backup.
Finally if the VM is properly maintened, I don’t see where you can gain space : the VDI should be compacted regularly to keep the size as close as possible as the real data.

To me it looks like you loose all the advantages of having a *virtual* machine and get all the disadvantages of physical ones.

Well to each his own. I boot to PE, chkdsk and defrag the VM and then back it up, takes 30 minutes and I get a clean backed up OS I can restore files or folders from. It take minutes to create a new VM in VBOX, boot to the same PE and use ghost to make a clone. It works quite well for me. It’s just another option.

Jack Wallen describes cloning and moving virtual machines in VirtualBox. He tested this process going from Linux to Linux, Linux to Windows, and Windows to Linux hosts.

I’m a big fan of VirtualBox. The tool enables me to extend a machine beyond its normal capabilities, test operating systems without getting invasive with my host, and kick the tires on various software titles without installing them on my production machine. But sometimes I get a virtual machine up and running and want to copy it (to move it to another machine or to have a second instance to test); when that time comes, I don’t want to completely re-install the operating system and get it to the state I need. In this situation, I clone the virtual machine.

When you clone a drive, you make an exact copy of the virtual machine that can be used on either the same host or moved to another VirtualBox host. The process of cloning and moving a virtual machine is now easy in VirtualBox. In fact, there are no more commands for cloning, as the process is built into the GUI. I’ll walk through this process and then move the resulting clone to another machine for use.

What you need

  • VirtualBox installed (the host platform doesn’t matter)
  • A running virtual machine
  • The ability to move the clone from one machine to another (shared drive, external drive, disk, etc.)

Cloning a virtual machine

You cannot pause the machine that is going to be cloned and then clone it — the machine must be turned off.

Step 2: Start the cloning process Select the virtual machine you want to clone in the left pane of the VirtualBox main window. Click the Snapshots tab (Figure A) and then click the small sheep icon. Figure A

How to backup and move virtualbox machines

A Ubuntu 12.04 virtual machine with no snapshots taken.

How to backup and move virtualbox machines

Read carefully the difference between full and linked clones.

You will be looking for a .vdi file. The location of this file will depend upon the host platform. On my Linux host, the file will be found in

/VirtualBox VMs. Within that directory, you will find sub-directories of all your virtual machines. Within the virtual machine directory in question, you will find the .vdi file of the cloned virtual machines — that is, the file that must be moved to the new host. Copy that file to an external or shared drive and then copy it onto the new host (the location doesn’t matter).

Step 4: Create a new virtual machine The process of creating the new virtual machine will be the same as if you were creating a standard virtual machine until you get to the Virtual Hard Disk creation screen (Figure C). You will select Use Existing Hard Disk, click the folder icon, navigate to the newly copied .vdi file, select the file in question, and then click Next. Figure C

How to backup and move virtualbox machines

I’m almost finished adding my clone to a new host.

Once the new virtual machine is created, that virtual machine should fire up as expected and regardless of platform (I have tested this going from Linux to Linux, Linux to Windows, and Windows to Linux hosts).

Summary

The ability to clone and move virtual machines in VirtualBox as easily as shown above makes this a great tool for anyone who needs to expand their world with virtual machines. Give this a try and see how far you extend the reach of your hosts and guests with VirtualBox.

More about VirtualBox on TechRepublic

How to backup and move virtualbox machines

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Keeping this in consideration, how do I move VMware to another drive?

Step 2. Add VMs to VMware Workstation. Once youmoved the virtual machine to a different location orhard drive, run VMware Workstation, select File>> Open, and browse to the virtual machine configuration(.vmx) file in its new location. If you get a message saying didyou copy or move the VM, choose“move“.

Beside above, can I vMotion between clusters? Cross vSwitch vMotion basically allows you todo what the name tells you. It allows you to migrate virtualmachines between different vSwitches. All of this is veryuseful during for instance Datacenter Migrations or when you aremoving VMs between clusters for instance or are migrating toa new vCenter instance even.

Secondly, how do I move a VirtualBox VM to another folder?

Moving VirtualBox VM’s Navigate to the settings for the specific VM youwant to relocate. Click on the Storage item and select your vdifile (your hard disk). Click on ‘Remove Attachment’. When you havedone that, click on OK and then open up the Virtual Media Managerfrom the VirtualBox file menu.

Can you vMotion between datacenters?

Long-Distance vMotion allows you tomigrate your VMs from one datacenter to otherdatacenter of your organization. Below are few of the usecases of the Long Distance vMotion: Migration betweenDatacenters or Cloud Platform.