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Backing up your Virtual Machine with Time Machine.

In this weeks tip we will show you how you can include your Virtual Machine in the Time Machine Backup on your Mac.

Time Machine is an automated backup solution built into OS X that is a great way to protect all the data on your Mac. Now with VMware Fusion 4 you can include your Virtual Machine in the Time Machine backup, this ensures that your Virtual Machines are just as protected. 

You can set up your Virtual Machine to be included in your Time Machine Backups in a couple easy steps.

From the VMware Fusion Application Menu Click “Virtual Machine > Snapshots”


Once inside Snapshots in the bottom right corner you will see “AutoProtect” take the slider and move it to “On”


Next you can customize the settings for Auto Protect. This will allow you to customize the frequency of the snapshots (how often it a backs up your Virtual Machine), as well as the maximum number of snapshots it will keep stored on your machine. 

Auto Protect settings


That’s it! Now that you have enabled Auto Protect, Time Machine will automatically backup your entire Virtual Machine. Instant piece of mind!


26 thoughts on “Backing up your Virtual Machine with Time Machine.

  1. Neil

    Can you explain this a little more.
    Do we include /Documents/Virtual Machines in our Time Machine backup as I currently have that excluded. And if we do include it will it backup the VM as a large file and then just the snapshots as smaller files?

  2. glenn

    Ditto Neil’s comment. As he mentions, having /Documents/Virtual Machines EXCluded from time machine backups is a typical thing to do, because the file(s) contained there are so fricking huge and it sucks to have each incrememntal backup copy them in.
    So where are the snapshots kept? Somewhere that is excluded from TM or somewhere else?

  3. 9VSKA

    And you may also want to note that Fusion VMs can be backed up to off-site services like CrashPlan, which I am personally doing.

  4. matt

    wait a minute….VMWare people — is this backup/restore snapshot system which you refer to as “Time Machine” DIFFERENT than the OS X “Time Machine”. as in, these are two completely different implementations, and that in fact the Fusion snapshots or VM packages are NOT making use the OS X Time Machine, and one should still exclude them from the OS X TM?
    if so, this is very confusing. why would you label an internal feature the same name as an OS X feature that is incompatible w/ the product?
    i am confused.

  5. Russell

    Come on, Team Fusion. We need some more details here. We need the questions posed in the comments section to be answered.
    Of course, there are some old salts who say snapshots increase the likelihood of VM corruption and they will not backup their VMs via this method. So it’d be nice to get your input on that. Stability is king for me. I’ll keep doing separate backups of the VM if I can’t be confident that this method you recommend is stable.

  6. Vmware Fusion

    It looks like from the sound of it that everyone would like more of a deep dive into this topic. We are currently working in this and will have one up shortly.

  7. Bill

    So if you do not have local space for frequent snapshots, and typically don’t use them, how do you get Fusion 4 and Apple Time Machine to work together and have your actual virtual machine files sent to the Time Machine storage device?

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  10. Pabloespin

    Want to share my experience because it might be useful for somone

    I have an old MacBoook Pro with 2.2 GHZ Intel Core 2 Duo with 4 GB 667 Mhz DDR2 SDRAM, running as OS Mac OS X Version 10.7.5 and am user of VMWARE Fusion since version 3.X. Current one installed in my machne is Fusion 4.1.3

    Have an external LaCie 1 TB external drive where i store via TimeMachine the backups I am running with weekly frequency.

    Generally I disconnect wifi and ethernet connections and close exit Fusion before starting the back up process.

    For my particular reasons, my VM machine is a Windows XP that has allocated a 125 GB size of which I use almos 100 GB

    For my concern, after running a back up with destination the Lacie disk, past Sunday I found that the Mackintosh disk ( The mounted disk partition where all information , including VMWare VM files is stored) was shown as corrupted

    Using Disk Utility I tried to repair it without success

    Then, I used the “Recovery” feature that is offfered when the Mac is booted holding pressed option? ( alt key in my keyboard) and looking to the options available I got the conclusion that I had format the Mackintosh disk, erasing all its content, for a new Mac OSX install.

    After evaluating the situation I did it with great concern , but at time of trying to install the MAC OSX, I could not due to an error message.

    So, I entered to other option shown as recovery from Back Up ( external disk)

    And it worked fine

    After completing I coud find all my information as before the problem

    1. Clyde


      I’m at a critical upgrade point with my MacBook Pro of fairly similar vintage to yours:
      Model Identifier: MacBookPro4,1
      Processor Name: Intel Core 2 Duo
      Processor Speed: 2.5 GHz
      Number Of Processors: 1
      Total Number Of Cores: 2
      L2 Cache: 6 MB
      Memory: 4 GB
      Bus Speed: 800 MHz
      Boot ROM Version: MBP41.00C1.B00
      SMC Version (system): 1.28f3

      I’ve been running OX 10.5.8 with Fusion Version 3.1.3 (416484)–Windows Vista Ultimate–for a while and want to upgrade. I want to be sure I have complete backups of my Mac (using Time Capsule) and my virtual machine (about which I’m uncomfortable). I have NOT excluded the virtual machine (or snapshots) from my Time Capsule backups, but I am not certain that Fusion 3’s virtual machine file (135GB) or snapshots (57GB) really work with OS X’s Time Capsule. This forum talks about Fusion 4 not 3. I guess I could use Vista’s Backup & Recovery utility to backup, but that seems like more work (since Vista’s utility is not supported on other Windows platforms).

      Any suggestions? Please feel free to respond directly to clyde at brisknet dot com. Thanks!

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  14. Robert

    Contrary to some replies on this post VMWare is not behaving itself thus allowing time machine to backup changes to the latest snapshot only. Previous snapshots and the base disk should only be backed up once if there are snapshots in place.
    I’m asking vmware to not update all snapshots and base disks all the time. The whole point of a snapshot is that the (past) snapshot files remain static. Only the latest current state should be updated and the base disk and previous snapshots should remain static.

    Below is a copy of a product update request that I have sent to vmware……..

    Please make your product Apple Time Machine compatible.

    It is not sufficent to say, shut down your VM and copy the file manually as some of us have to do some work and we can’t wait an hour to copy 259GB across the network,

    Parallels and Virtual Box work flawlessly with time machine. You need to make your fusion work with time machine while the machine is running.

    You have the base disk and snapshots but for some reason it ends up that the whole virtual machine file gets backed up with time machine. You need to have a way that only the latest snapshots are backed up as long as the base disk file (and previous snapshots) remains unchanged.

    Looking at the conents of the “virtualmachine.vmware.vm” package it shows that the base disk is is constantly updated in my case the base disk has a date modified of 14:44 today even though there are several snapshots in place. I thought that once a snapshot is taken, the changes to the virtual machine are added to the current state and the snapshot(s) and base disk remain unmodified. Your system updates all the snapshot files and base disks all the time which is why time machine is constantly backing up the whole virtual machine several times a day.

    Why are you constantly modifying base disk and past snapshots all the time?

    For information my virtual machine is 259GB. I don’t want to place all my data onto my host machine, I want it to remain inside the virtual machine.

    Please dont hesitate in contacting me if you need more information.

    Kind regards


    I’ll await to hear from them.

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  16. leo

    Once you activate auto protect and you make the first snapshot, then you shutdown your VM, changes are made only to the latest snapshot. So YES, this defnitively works with Time Machine on MAC as well as Fusion. You DO NOT need to exclude your base disk huge file, this is required for the recovery process, you just need to backup everything. Once you need to recovery the files, you recovery everything and then before starting the VM, rollback to the latest snapshot state because the in-progress snapshot will be corrupted.
    cheers !

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