How to safeguard VMware Fusion installs using Snapshots and AutoProtect

Mac VMware Fusion Windows installations are just as likely to become corrupted or compromised as traditional Windows workstations. Take these precautions to help protect Windows Fusion installs.

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VMware recommends that Mac Time Machine users exclude virtual machines (VMs) from backup operations. VMware notes that any change to a VM's virtual hard disk file results in the entire file having to be backed up again.

Regardless, I back up my Mac manually, using Time Machine, approximately once a week. I choose to include the VM within the Time Machine backup, although I ensure the VM is always inactive and closed when the backup occurs to prevent any issues from arising with the VM. If you've taken the time to set up a VMware Fusion Windows installation, take just a little more time to ensure it's properly protected using Snapshots.

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VMware recommends Mac users use shared and mirrored Folders when using Time Machine. By saving documents and data as files on the host, not in the guest, Time Machine will still back up shared and mirrored folders because they do not reside within the VM. Mac users can enable shared or mirrored folders by following these steps.

  1. With VMware Fusion open, click Window from the Menu Bar.
  2. Select Virtual Machine Library.
  3. Select the VM within the Virtual Machine Library window and click Settings.
  4. Within the Systems Settings in the Settings window, click Sharing.
  5. Select the Enable Shared Folders check box.

How to use Snapshots to protect VMware Fusion Windows installations

To protect the VM environment, and minimize the odds of having to reinstall and reconfigure Windows, VMware Fusion users can manually create Snapshots or set Fusion to automatically create Snapshots. Note: A Snapshot is not a complete backup of the VM; a Snapshot captures the entire VM state at the time you take the Snapshot, including memory, settings, and virtual disk states.

VMware recommends capturing a Snapshot whenever you're about to take an action with the VM and you're unsure of the consequences. Examples include changing system software, joining an unfamiliar network, upgrading the operating system, and performing major configuration changes.

To manually create a VMware Fusion Snapshot, follow these steps.

  1. Open VMware Fusion.
  2. Before you start the VM, click Virtual Machine from the Menu Bar.
  3. Select Snapshots and click Take Snapshot.

To confirm a Snaphot was created, follow these steps.

  1. Open VMware Fusion.
  2. Click Virtual Machine from the Menu Bar.
  3. Select Snapshots. VMware will list created Snapshots (Figure A).

Figure A


To delete a Snapshot, right-click the Snapshot and select Delete. VMware Fusion will warn you are about to delete the Snapshot. Click Delete to confirm the operation. A progress bar will appear tracking the deletion.

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VMware AutoProtect automatically creates Snapshots. To enable VMware Fusion AutoProtect, follow these steps.

  1. Open VMware Fusion.
  2. Before you start the VM, click Virtual Machine from the Menu Bar.
  3. Select Snapshots, and select Snapshots again.
  4. Click the AutoProtect Settings icon.
  5. Check the Enable AutoProtect box.
  6. Using the provided drop-down menu, specify how often VMware Fusion should capture AutoProtect snapshots. The default is every day.
  7. Using the provided spin box, specify the maximum number of snapshots to keep. The default is 3.
  8. Click the Done button.

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To clean up a VMware Fusion installation, which can simplify creating and storing Snapshots, follow these steps.

  1. Open VMware Fusion.
  2. Click Virtual Machine from the Menu Bar and select Get Info.
  3. Fusion will display in yellow the disk space that can be reclaimed. Click the Clean Up Virtual Machine button that appears within the Windows VM window (Figure B).

VMware will display a window showing the progress as Fusion works to reclaim disk space. The clean up action can significantly reduce a VM's size. My VMware Windows install shrunk almost in half, from more than 50 GB to just 26.4 GB.

Figure B


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