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Types of Clone: Full and Linked

There are two types of clone:

  • The Full Clone — A full clone is an independent copy of a virtual machine that shares nothing with the parent virtual machine after the cloning operation. Ongoing operation of a full clone is entirely separate from the parent virtual machine.
  • The Linked Clone — A linked clone is a copy of a virtual machine that shares virtual disks with the parent virtual machine in an ongoing manner. This conserves disk space, and allows multiple virtual machines to use the same software installation.
  • Difference Between Full Clone and Linked Clone

    A full clone is an independent virtual machine, with no need to access the parent. A linked clone must have continued access to the parent. Without access to the parent, a linked clone is disabled. See Linked Clone and Access to the Parent Virtual Machine

    A linked clone is made from a snapshot of the parent. (For a discussion of snapshots, see Understanding Snapshots.) In brief, all files available on the parent at the moment of the snapshot continue to remain available to the linked clone. Ongoing changes to the virtual disk of the parent do not affect the linked clone, and changes to the disk of the linked clone do not affect the parent.

    Benefits of Full Clones

    Full clones do not require an ongoing connection to the parent virtual machine. Overall performance of a full clone is the same as a never-cloned virtual machine, while a linked clone trades potential performance degradation for a guaranteed conservation of disk space. If you are focused on performance, you should prefer a full clone over a linked clone.

    Benefits of Linked Clones

    Linked clones are created swiftly. A full clone can take several minutes if the files involved are large. A linked clone lowers the barriers to creating new virtual machines, so you might swiftly and easily create a unique virtual machine for each task you have.

    Another benefit of linked clones is that they are easier to share. If a group of people needs to access the same virtual disks, then the people can easily pass around clones with references to those virtual disks. For example, a support team can reproduce a bug in a linked clone and then just email that linked clone to development. This is feasible only when a virtual machine isn't gigabytes in size.

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