Easy ways to backup your virtual machine


Guest blog by Manoj Kumar Suresh, Parallels Support Team

Easy ways to backup your virtual machine

There are many perks of using a virtual machine over a regular PC. One of my favorites being how easy it is to backup and to restore my virtual machines.

See also: Is it safe to force close on Mac?

Below I’ll go over several ways to backup your virtual machine data.


The built-in functionality you can use to back up a virtual machine without access to any external drives and with taking minimal hard disk space is to create a snapshot. This isn’t entirely a separate back up, but more like a restore point for your VM. (You can read the benefits and limitations of this feature in detail here)

Time Machine

Time Machine is used to back up your entire Mac. You can tune it to back up your virtual machine too!

  • Go to the virtual machine’s configuration > Back up > and uncheck the option Do not back up using Time Machine

    How to backup virtual machines 1
  • Shutdown the virtual machine by clicking on Actions > Shut down from the Mac menu when the virtual machine is open.

    How to backup virtual machines 2
  • Then launch your Time Machine backup as normal. It will also backup your virtual machine.

    How to backup virtual machines 3

Manual backup

This is the easiest and most reliable way of making a backup of your virtual machine. The downside of this method is that it’s manual. We can back up the entire virtual machine by copying its .pvm file (it contains the whole virtual machine) to a different location on your Mac HD or (preferably) to an external hard drive. You can find virtual machine’s .pvm file by following these steps:

  • Right-click on Parallels Desktop icon in Dock > choose Control Center
  • Right-click on your virtual machine > choose Show in Finder.
    How to backup virtual machines 4

Once you locate your .pvm file, copy and paste it to your preferred backup location

Acronis True Image Backup

As an additional benefit, Parallels provides you with 30 day complimentary subscription to Acronis True Image Backup. We recommend that you make sure that the virtual machine is shut down before performing the backup. To initiate, simply click on Parallels Desktop on Mac menu bar > Backup with Acronis True Image.
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I hope this helps you choose your preferred way to backup your virtual machine data.
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  1. George Prieditis on

    I think backing up and restoring the PMV file is not as easy as it sounds. All the methods are actually manual. Manual, because you have to shut down the VM before doing the backup.

    Acronis TI is the worst. Why Parallels continues to push it is incomprehensible. It regularly fails to restore. General scheduled backups of your Mac that includes the VM often become corrupted with no way of verifying the backups. The backup is in one huge folder. This is unlike the Windows version, which has the choice of differential or incremental backups with discrete backup files and an option of verifying them. They have come out with a script to try to fix this, which also does not work well.

    Time Machine tries to work in conjunction with snapshots if this is set up, though still works better if the VM is shut down and TM started manually and VM not resumed until TM is finished.

    The most reliable method is to periodically shut down the VM and manually copy the PMV file to an external disk.

    • Hey George, Thanks for your comment. I will definitely forward your feedback to our developers. And yes your are right it is very easy to simply back up the entire virtual machine by copying its .pvm file. Thanks and have a nice day!

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