How To: Properly Backup a VirtualBox Machine (.VDI)

First of all, these are the instructions for a VirtualBox installation on a Linux host. It may or may not be the same directory structure/commands for Windows or Mac OS X hosts.

Most people don’t realize that making a backup of a VirtualBox Machine (.vdi) is more complex than just copy/paste. If you do that, you’ll soon realize (when it’s too late) that it doesn’t work! This is the proper way to backup your VirtualBox Machine:

VBoxManage clonevdi source destination

VBoxManage clonevdi ~/.VirtualBox/VDI/WindowsXP.vdi ~/WindowsXP_Backup.vdi

NOTE: Although I’m not specifically sure, sometime after Version 2 of this software, the clonedvi command has been replaced with clonehd (see page 108 of the VirtualBox Manual), however, clonedvi will still work as they kept the backwards compatibility.

Then, wait for it to complete. It may take a while depending on the size of your .vdi file (or how much space you allocated towards your virtual machine).
What this actually does is create a new UUID (Universal Unique Identifier) for the cloned VM. This way, you won’t end up with a message similar to this:

A hard disk with UUID {4d749826-6a3f-43ff-90af-42618783bd3a} or with the
same properties (’/home/martin/.VirtualBox/VDI/test.vdi’) is already