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What's in a Virtual Machine on a Windows Host?

What's in a Virtual Machine on a Windows Host?

The virtual machine typically is stored on the host computer in a set of files, all of which are in a folder set aside for that particular virtual machine. In these examples, <vmname> is the name of your virtual machine. The key files are:

  • <vmname>.vmx - the configuration file, which stores settings chosen in the New Virtual Machine Wizard or Configuration Editor.
  • nvram - the file that stores the state of the virtual machine's BIOS.
  • <vmname>.vmdk - the virtual disk file, which stores the contents of the virtual machine's hard disk drive.

    A virtual disk comprises one or more .vmdk files. The larger the size of the virtual disk, the more .vmdk files. As data is added to a virtual disk, the .vmdk files grow in size, to a maximum of 2GB each. Almost all of a .vmdk file's content is the virtual machine's data, with a small portion allotted to virtual machine overhead. If the virtual disk is 2GB or larger, VMware Workstation creates multiple .vmdk files.

    If the virtual machine is connected directly to a physical disk, rather than using a virtual disk, there is no .vmdk file. Instead, a .raw file stores information about the partitions the virtual machine is allowed to access.

    Note: Earlier VMware products used the extension .dsk for virtual disk files.

  • vmware.log - the file that keeps a log of key VMware Workstation activity. This can be useful in troubleshooting if you encounter problems. This file is stored in the folder that holds the configuration (.vmx) file of the virtual machine.
  • <vmname>.vmdk.REDO - the redo-log file, created automatically when a virtual machine is used in undoable or nonpersistent mode. This file stores changes made to the virtual disk while the virtual machine is running.
  • <vmname>.vmss - the suspended state file, which stores the state of a suspended virtual machine.

    Note: Earlier VMware products used the extension .std for suspended state files.

There may be other files as well, some of which are present only while a virtual machine is running.

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