Monthly Archives: August 2011

How to clone virtual machines in VMware ESXi

How to clone virtual machines in VMware ESXi

The demonstration is done using VMware Infrastructure Client on Windows. Before anything STOP THE VM you want to CLONE !

Step 1: Start VMware Infrastructure Client

If you’re using ESXi, you will notice it is different from the Server. This is because the machine running ESXi
has no other software installed on it. This means you will not be working on that machine directly. Instead,
you will use client machines to connect to the ESXi and remotely administrate the virtual machines.

In this regard, ESXi is similar to remotely connecting to VMware Server from another machine. However, while
the Server allows you to also work on the local host, ESXi is limited to remote connections only. The interface
used for the work is the Infrastructure Client.

The Client is free for evaluation, after which you will need to work out a package deal with VMware. Now, this
is what we can do with Server:

Remote connect

The VMware ESXi has no local connection, thus this is what we get with VMware Infrastructure Client (for ESXi):


Now, connect to your server machine:


Step 2: Open the datastore

Virtual machines are kept in datastores. Open the relevant one.

Datastore open

You will get something like this:

Datastore contents

You will have one or more virtual machines in your datastore. These can be Linux, Windows or any other sort.
For the purpose of this exercise, the actual names are completely irrelevant.

Step 3: Create destination folder

Simply click on the menu bar on the yellow folder icon and create one. Give it a logical name, similar to your

Create folder

Step 4: Copy files

From the original folder, copy the .vmx and .vmdk
files to your destination folder. It’s the simple matter of right-clicking on the relevant files and selecting
copy and later paste. You can also copy entire contents of the original folder if you want, including .iso
images, the memory contents and anything else.


Step 5: Register the cloned virtual machine

This is the tricky step. Unlike VMware Server, the Infrastructure Client does not have the “red_text”>File > Openoption, allowing you to browse for existing .vmx configuration files and
registering them. So it seems you might be stuck.

The answer lies in the datastore. In the destination folder, where you have just created your clone,
right-click on the .vmx configuration file. Select Add to Inventory.


This will add the file to the list of available virtual machines. Now, you can change the settings, edit the
name etc. Job done. Simple eh?


Working with ESXi datastores is slightly different from your average file / folder manipulation, mainly because
you’re working with a remote host. It’s similar to working with an FTP client and connecting to a server.

If you’re a desktop user, ESXi will probably remain a strange beast in the world of virtualization. If you’re
running a SOHO or have a few machines to spares, you might enjoy the thrill of running a dedicated
virtualization platform. And then, being able to quickly clone your virtual machines will save you lots of

Cloning files also provides you with backups. Although ESXi offers multiple snapshots, which act as incremental
backups, you can always resort to simple copies as pure backups of your virtual machines.

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