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What's in a Virtual Machine?

What's in a Virtual Machine?

The virtual machine typically is stored on the host computer in a set of files, all of which are in a directory 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 Virtual Machine Control Panel. If you created the virtual machine under an earlier version of VMware Workstation on a Linux host, this file may have a .cfg extension.
  • 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 is made up of one or more .vmdk files. If you have specified that the virtual disk should be split into 2GB chunks, the number of .vmdk files depends on the size of the virtual disk. As data is added to a virtual disk, the .vmdk files grow in size, to a maximum of 2GB each. (If you specify that all space should be allocated when you create the disk, these files start at the maximum size and do not grow.) 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 machine is connected directly to a physical disk, rather than to a virtual disk, the .vmdk 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.

  • <vmname>.log or vmware.log - the file that keeps a log of key VMware Workstation activity. This file can be useful in troubleshooting if you encounter problems. This file is stored in the directory that holds the configuration (.vmx or .cfg) file of the virtual machine.
  • <vmname>.vmdk.REDO_xxxxxx - a redo-log file, created automatically when a virtual machine has a snapshot. This file stores changes made to a virtual disk while the virtual machine is running. There may be more than one such file. The xxxxxx indicates a unique suffix added automatically by VMware Workstation to avoid duplicate file names.
  • <vmname>.vmss - the suspended state file, which stores the state of a suspended virtual machine.

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

  • <vmname>.vmsn - the snapshot state file, which stores the running state of a virtual machine at the time you take a snapshot of it.
  • <vmname>.vmx.sav or <vmname>.cfg.sav - the configuration snapshot file, which stores the configuration of a virtual machine at the time you take a snapshot of it.

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

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