TechRant
What Files Make Up a Virtual Machine in ESXi 5.5? … in VMware Workstation 10?
May 03, 2014

I get asked alot of questions about Virtualization in general, and VMware in particular. One of the questions that tends to come up often is “does this or that file play a role in the functioning of my VM? and if so, what does it do?”

If that question has been bugging you too, then keep reading to find out ALL of the info you need to understand exactly what those files are and what they do.

What Files Make Up a Virtual Machine in ESXi 5.5?

A virtual machine is stored as a set of files, in a directory created by ESXi for that specific virtual machine.

The key files are listed here by extension. In these examples, <ADAM> is the name of your virtual machine.

 

 

Virtual Machine Files in ESXi 5.5
File Usage Description
.vmx <ADAM>.vmx Virtual machine configuration file
.vmxf <ADAM>.vmxf Additional virtual machine configuration files
.vmdk <ADAM>.vmdk Virtual disk characteristics
-flat.vmdk <ADAM>-flat.vmdk Virtual machine data disk
.nvram <ADAM>.nvram Virtual machine BIOS or EFI configuration
.vmsd <ADAM>.vmsd Virtual machine snapshots
.vmsn <ADAM>.vmsn Virtual machine snapshot data file
.vswp <ADAM>.vswp Virtual machine swap file
.vmss <ADAM>.vmss Virtual machine suspend file
.log vmware.log Current virtual machine log file
-#.log vmware-#.log (where # is a number starting with 1) Old virtual machine log entries

 

 

When a virtual machine is created and not powered on, these are its files:

VM created but not powered on

 

When a virtual machine is powered on, these are its files:

VM powered on

 

When a virtual machine is powered on and has a snapshot, these are its files:

VM powered on with Snapshot

 

What Files Make Up a Virtual Machine in VMware Workstation 10?

A virtual machine typically is stored on the host computer in a set of files, usually in a directory created by Workstation for that specific virtual machine.

The key files are listed here by extension. In these examples, <ADAM> is the name of your virtual machine.

 

Extension File Name Description
.log <ADAM>.log This is the file that keeps a log of key VMware Workstation activity. This file is stored in the directory that holds the configuration (.vmx) file of the virtual machine.
.nvram <ADAM>.nvram This is the file that stores the state of the virtual machine’s BIOS.
.vmdk <ADAM>.vmdk This is a 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. 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.Earlier VMware products used the extension .dsk for virtual disk files.
< diskname>-<###>.vmdk This is a redo-log file, created automatically when a virtual machine has one or more snapshots. This file stores changes made to a virtual disk while the virtual machine is running. There may be more than one such file. The ### indicates a unique suffix added automatically by VMware Workstation to avoid duplicate file names.
.vmem < uuid>.vmem The virtual machine’s paging file, which backs up the guest main memory on the host file system. This file exists only when the virtual machine is running, or if the virtual machine has crashed.
<snapshot_name_and_number> Each snapshot of a virtual machine that is powered on has an associated .vmem file, which contains the guest’s main memory, saved as part of the snapshot.
.vmsd <ADAM>.vmsd This is a centralized file for storing information and metadata about snapshots.
.vmsn <ADAM>-Snapshot.vmsn This is the snapshot state file, which stores the running state of a virtual machine at the time you take that snapshot.
<ADAM>-Snapshot<###>.vmsn This is the file which stores the state of a snapshot.
.vmss <ADAM>.vmss This is the suspended state file, which stores the state of a suspended virtual machine. * (Some earlier VMware products used the extension .std for suspended state files)
.vmtm <ADAM>.vmtm This is the configuration file containing team data.
.vmx <ADAM>.vmx This is the primary configuration file, which stores settings chosen in the New Virtual Machine Wizard or virtual machine settings editor. If you created the virtual machine under an earlier version of VMware Workstation on a Linux host, this file may have a .cfg extension.
.vmxf <ADAM>.vmxf This is a supplemental configuration file for virtual machines that are in a team. Note that the .vmxf file remains if a virtual machine is removed from the team.

 

There can be other files in the directory, some of which are present only while a virtual machine is running.

 

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