Cloning VirtualBox VM Snapshots

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

This is another “how to” tech article, anyone who is not interested in such things may stop reading now.

VirtualBox is a great virtualization software (hypervisor as the lingo currently goes) – I believe it matches up nicely against the current VMWare Workstation line and they offer both an open source version which is free for any use as well as a commercial version (with some added features such as SATA support) that is free for personal use.

VirtualBox allows you to take snapshots of the current VM state so that you can safely return to a previous state of your VM if you messed something up (for example – installed too much software on your Windows XP VM). Unfortunately, unlike what the VirtualBox UI will have you think, the snapshot features allows you to take progressive snapshots but you can’t fork your snapshot tree – you can’t create branches off old snapshots. Snapshots which are not current can be either discarded (have their state merged into another state) or reverted too (discard all the newest data and return to the old state).
old state

Additionally, you can’t copy (clone) VMs with snapshots except copying the oldest state(1).

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  1. which is most often not what you want. If you don’t mind discarding all of the old snapshots, you can clone the current VMs state using the method described in this VirtualBox forum thread []

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