VMware Workstation 15 - Clone virtual machines (full or linked clones)

Page 1 / 2

When you want to test complex infrastructures with VMware Workstation, you will need multiple servers and possibly multiple client machines.

However, to save time, you will only need to install the required operating systems once, and then create copies of these virtual machines.

  1. Create a full clone of a virtual machine
  2. Create a linked clone of a virtual machine
    1. Creating the linked clone
    2. Dependency
    3. Template mode
    4. Limits
      1. Limited virtual hard disk tools
      2. Limits for sharing VMs

To clone a virtual machine, right-click on it and click : Manage -> Clone.

The "Clone Virtual Machine Wizard" appears.

As you can see, the wizard tells you that there is a "template" mode (named Template mode) available in the advanced settings of the virtual machine.
This option allows you to avoid accidentally deleting a virtual machine which is a template for a linked clone.

For now, click Next.

When you want to clone a virtual machine, you can clone :

  • the current state of the virtual machine
  • a previous state saved using the VMware Workstation snapshot system : an existing snapshot (powered off only)

1. Create a full clone of a virtual machine

As you can see, VMware Workstation allows you to clone a virtual machine in 2 ways :

  • create a linked clone : allows you to saves space on the hard disk of the host PC and creates a clone in a very short time. But, you will be limited in functionality for the settings of the cloned VM, as well as in other places.
    In addition, the cloned virtual machine will depend on the parent virtual machine.
  • create a full clone : allows you to create a full copy of the virtual machine (configuration, virtual hard disk, ...). This takes more time, but you will not be limited in functionality and you will avoid making it unusable by removing the source virtual machine.

In this case, we will create a full clone.

Provide a name and a location for the new virtual machine.

Note : the default location can be changed in VMware Workstation settings : Edit -> Preferences.

Wait while copying the virtual machine.

The virtual machine has been cloned.

As you can see, this complete clone appears as a standalone virtual machine in its own right.
It has a standard configuration file (shown at the bottom right) and this VM has the same size as the source virtual machine.

As you can see in the settings of the cloned VM, even though it's a clone, you have access to all tools for the virtual hard disk.

2. Create a linked clone of a virtual machine

2.1. Creating the linked clone

This time, we will create a linked clone.
Which means that the cloned virtual machine will depend on the source VM :

  • for its configuration
  • but also for his virtual hard drive

Select "Create a linked clone" and click Next.

Provide a name and a location for the virtual machine.

The linked clone will be created quickly since it will be based on the source VM.
In addition, as you can see, before creating the linked clone, the wizard will create a snapshot on the source VM.

Unlike the full clone that is independent, the linked clone will be fully dependent on the source VM.
Indeed, as you can see from VMware Workstation, linked clones have a configuration file in vmx format and are based (Clone of) on the vmx file of the source virtual machine.

On the source VM, you will see that a snapshot "Snapshot for [name of linked clone]" was automatically created by the clone wizard.