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VMWare Backup

Python based VMWare backup script.

Introduction and some general assumptions

What this script does

Basically, using this script it is possible to set certain time to perform backups. All, it needs to know location of your VMWare machines, location of backup media and location of vmrun interface.

Once, backup script is executed it goes through the folder with your virtual machines. Matches those to currently running machines using vmrun. Goes through the list of the machines, suspending, backing up and resuming those individually. If machine is powered off, script backs it up without performing suspend and resume steps.

Script keeps on logging what have been done, creating log file with a time stamp at the end. (Should be located in the same location as script)

Each backup is stored under time stamped folder. During backup, script goes through all the backup volumes and determines which volume to use to backup particular machine. Therefore, it is possible you might end up with same date backup spread out on different backup volumes to conserve space.

One more feature that is worth mentioning. During backup setup stage, script saves your backup settings to a file(backup_settings.db) so those settings are saved to the hard drive. (or a solid state drive, I don't know what you might have...) Meaning, that you can update this software without affecting your backup settings!

Operating System Considerations

Was written and tested on Linux-based Red Hat 6 Operating System. It should work on Windows and Mac OS. However, I am pretty sure it will need some slight code additions for the Windows. I am not familiar enough with Mac OS to tell if it will work right of the bet or not.

VMWare Product Support

Currently, we are using VMWare Workstation to run our virtual machines. If you are using any other VMWare product this backup script might require vmrun modification. Which is command prompt utility that we've used to talk to VMWare Workstation. My knoweledge of VMWare products is quite limited so suggestions, additions, modifications are welcome!

In our experience, executing vmrun communication commands are a bit slow and they do fail at times. Therefore, we've introduce multiple attempts whenever we are issuing commands to vmrun. The script checks virtual machine state after each communication attempt to figure out if command was executed successfully. Also, each consecutive attempt is done with a delay that will hopefully give some time to the VMWare engine to respond to a certain action.

Backup Media

Furthermore, we've been using this script to back up virtual machines to a tape drive. Our tape drive consist of 8 tapes, which shows up in Linux as a drive with 8 volumes. It is possible to modify script to work with single tape or any other backup configurations.

In our experience, the tape drive has not been very fast or responsive compare to the hard drive. Therefore, we've introduce multiple attempts whenever we accessing the backup media. Also, each consecutive attempt is done with a delay that will hopefully give some time to the tape drive to respond to a certain action. The attempt number and delay period is part of the py_knife package, it is possible to monkey patch it.


Make sure latest python-crontab package is installed:

pip install python-crontab

Install vmware-backup package. Either download latest code from Github and execute:

python install

Alternatively, install package using pip:

pip install vmware-backup

During installation, vmware backup module will be added to your python site-packages. Also, installation script will copy script to your python script directory. Under linux that could be /usr/local/bin/, under Windows should be C:/Python2.7/Scripts/, under Mac OS who knows...


Let us know if you stumble upon missing python modules that we forgot to include.

How to use this script to backup your VMWare Virtual Machines

Once again, current limitations are:

  • This script has been tested on Linux-based Red Hat 6 only!
  • Has been tested only with VMWare Workstation!
  • Script assumes that you have a multi-volume backup drive. In my case, I point script to the /media/lto6, which is a drive. And I have multiple volumes (displayed as folders) under that location.

First and foremost, find where installation procedure placed file. Once, the file is located, you can execute following to fetch all the possible options:

python -h

Depending on your system configuration this script might be added to your current path, so it might be possible to execute script without location installation folder. Such as: -h


run_backup -h

The options should be self explanatory. Set backup settings first, such crone schedule, vmrun path, virtual machines path and tape path. Next - enable backup.

If you are trying to provide option such as string with spaces, do it like so:

python -s '0 22 * * 1-5'

Please refer to that will explain how to format crontab string to set proper backup intervals.

Also, it is possible to change time stamp format. Please refer to That will explain how to format such a string. I would recommend not to mess with it too much since there is no validation performed on those strings. But this might be handy for friends from Europe and other parts of the world if you want to change month and date order.

Notes for Code Developers

The vmware_backup module comes with some documentation. It is mostly self generated from the code itself. There are also images giving basic overview as far as package modules and classes. Please let me know, if you end up digging through code and willing to extend documentation.

Following link, parses html pages directly from GitHub. Pretty neat stuff!

Additional Info and Questions

Shoot me email at kirill at if you have any questions, suggestions, improvements, additions and etc. I would love to help you get this script going on your system if you hire me as a contractor. I might help you free of charge if you contribute to this distribution or ask politely. Beer donations are welcome too!

Good luck! Happy coding! And happy vmware backups!

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