Back up virtual machines and separate boot partitions

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Virtual machines (VMs) and separate boot partitions allow you to run additional operating systems on your computer. This article highlights best practices for backing up virtual machines or separate boot partitions with the CrashPlan app.


Common applications that create virtual machines or boot partitions include:

  • VMware
  • Parallels
  • Boot Camp
  • VirtualBox
  • Hyper-V

The CrashPlan app can back up the files within virtual machines or boot partitions. You can also back up an image of the additional operating system. Both methods require special considerations to back up effectively.

 The CrashPlan app does not back up Windows UNC

The CrashPlan app does not support Universal Naming Convention (UNC) file paths (for example, //SERVERNAME/shareddir/).

File selections must use an absolute path (for example, C:/) to enable backup and restore. 

Back up files within a virtual machine or boot partition

You should install an instance of the CrashPlan app inside the virtual machine or boot partition to provide individual file backup and real-time backup support for those files. You can also copy files from the virtual machine to an external drive, and back up the external drive from your primary operating system.



Back up a virtual machine

You may want to archive a virtual machine to use as a template for future deployments. However, this is similar to backing up operating system and application files, whereas the CrashPlan app is designed for backing up user files.

If you choose to use the CrashPlan app to back up your virtual machine, consider the following technical details about how and what to back up.

 CrashPlan for Small Business does not back up virtual machines

Virtual machine disk images, exports, and snapshots are excluded from CrashPlan for Small Business backups. For more details on what file types and folders are excluded from CrashPlan for Small Business backups, see What is not backing up (CrashPlan for Small Business).

Disk images and exports

A disk image of a virtual machine contains all of the boot information and operating system files necessary to re-deploy the virtual machine. Similarly, some virtualization software allows you to export a virtual machine to a single file. You may choose to back up disk images and exports with the CrashPlan app; however, consider the following:

  • Creating the image or export itself is typically a manual process that varies based on your virtualization software.
  • Because creating an image or export is a manual process, files within the VM are not continuously protected.
  • Files are not backed up individually. To restore any files from within the virtual machine, you must restore the entire virtual image or export.
  • If the image is open and constantly being written to, it may be difficult to back up all of the data needed to reliably restore these files.

 Non-Crashplan products

Our technical support team cannot provide direct assistance with backing up and restoring virtual machine snapshots, disks, disk images, or exports. Consult your virtualization software manufacture's documentation for further information and considerations on backing up virtual machines.

Exported virtual machines or disk images are typically large files and may require special settings if you decide to back them up.


Snapshots are designed for short-term use as a way of returning a virtual machine to a previous state. You shouldn't back up snapshots. Snapshots are typically created as differential files that only capture what changed since the last time a snapshot was created. A snapshot must be merged with the virtual hard disk and all previous snapshots to be re-deployed successfully.

However, if you know where your virtual machine software stores your virtual disk and snapshot files, it is possible to back these files up with the CrashPlan app. Consult your virtualization software to determine whether or not it is possible to restore a VM using the backups of your snapshot files in combination with the virtual disk file.

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