February 3, 2008

VMware snapshot and cloning

Once I got running on VMware, I used the snapshot and cloning features to set up a base framework for quickly producing new virtual machines with just the right customization.

The snapshot feature of VMware simply takes a snapshot of the current state of the virtual machine. Then you can chain these snapshots - I use a pattern like this:

So, for example my Windows XP base snapshot chain looks like this:

So let's say I need to check out the new ASP.NET 3.5 extensions... I then create a full clone of the VS2008 snapshot. If I need to test something on a clean OS, I just clone the clean OS snapshot, and so on. I always use full clones - linked clones are only useful for quick testing (as an undo feature), or to separate a snapshot chain into two.

After cloning, it is a good idea to run newsid to give the new clone a unique SID. VMware takes care of generating a new virtual MAC address when cloning. If your virtual machine needs to run in a coorporate Active Directory, adding your new clone to the AD will be the final step.

When creating new virtual machines from scratch, I would recommend always to set the disk size quite large, and use dynamically expanding disk. I use 64gb as my default size. This way you probably won't have to spend time handling disk full problemes as your project grows bigger. I also use SCSI as virtual disk type - as far as I can tell, it should be faster.

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