How Can I Back Up Virtual Machines Such as Parallels or VMware Fusion?

How can I back up Virtual Machines such as Parallels or VMware Fusion?

If you use virtual machines (VMs) on your Mac, Backblaze can back them up, but there's some things you should know.

This information applies primarily to VMware Fusion and Parallels Desktop, but will also apply to VirtualBox and other virtualization software titles. A Mac's Boot Camp partition can not be backed up using these methods.

There are three ways you can back up data from a virtual machine:

  • Install from within the VM (applies to Windows VMs only)
  • Back up the VM files as they exist on your Mac's hard drive
  • Share a folder with the VM

Install from within the VM (applies to Windows VMs only):

 

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In this method, start up your VM and install Backblaze directly on Windows that's running in your VM. Backblaze will run just like it's installed on a real Windows PC, and back up the data with normal Backblaze exclusions and settings.

Benefits:

  • You end up with a separate backup for your Windows VM from your Mac's backup
  • When restoring files, you can browse the actual Windows file/folder structure and choose what to restore
  • Backups are only the actual individual files in your VM

Be aware that:

  • You will need to purchase an additional Backblaze license for this backup because in essence this is a different "computer"
  • Backups of the Windows side of things only occur when the VM is open and Windows is running
  • Restoring to previous snapshots within your VM will disrupt the Backblaze backup

Back up the actual VM files:

 

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In this method, modify your Backblaze exclusions to allow the appropriate file types and file sizes for your VM to back up as files from your Mac. You'll want to remove any "file type" exclusions that affect your VM (you can safely clear the entire list of file type exclusions if you don't know precisely what your VM uses).

Benefits:

  • No extra cost
  • Backups will occur even if the VM is not running

Be aware that:

  • The backup will be of the actual virtual machine files. You won't be able to browse the Windows file/folder structure when restoring data from Backblaze. To restore a single Windows file, you'd have to restore your *entire* VM which can be a lot more data than necessary.
  • Since VMs tend to use single large files, Backblaze will have to spend a lot of time backing up. Whenever that large file changes, it'll need to be copied in chunks to Backblaze's temporary directory, each chunk will be checksummed, and the changed chunks transmitted. It can mean a lot more bandwidth and disk activity, even with small changes within the VM. Furthermore, backup intervals can be greater, due to the large amount of changing data.
  • If your VM software supports it, splitting virtual hard disk drives in to 1 to 5 GB chunks may speed up backups.
  • Most VMs are package files, so you will need to explore the contents to make sure you've adjusted the exclusions appropriately

Share a folder with the VM

 

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In this method, a folder located on your Mac is shared with your VM, so you can save files to it. Since it's a standard Mac folder, Backblaze can back up the data in it just like it was standard Mac data.

Benefits:

  • No extra cost
  • Backups will occur even if the VM is not running
  • Allows the user to back up only the crucial files, not the entire VM, so backups are rapid

Be aware that:

  • Only the data in the shared folder will be backed up
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