Where is the VMDK file in VMware?

Quick Answer

The VMDK file in VMware is located in the virtual machine’s folder on the datastore. The VMDK file contains the virtual hard disk used by the virtual machine.

What is a VMDK File?

A VMDK file stands for Virtual Machine Disk Format. It is a file format used by VMware virtualization products to represent a virtual hard disk drive (HDD). The VMDK file contains the operating system, applications, and data for a virtual machine.

Some key things to know about VMDK files:

  • VMDK files describe the virtual hard disk drives used by a virtual machine
  • They contain the full operating system, apps, and data used by the VM
  • VMDK files are similar to physical HDDs, but contain virtual disk space rather than physical
  • Multiple VMDK files can be used by a single VM to represent multiple drives
  • VMDK files can be copied, moved, backed up, just like regular files

In summary, the VMDK file represents the “hard drive” used by a virtual machine. It stores the complete contents of the virtual machine’s operating system, applications, and data.

Where are VMDK Files Stored?

VMDK files are stored on datastores accessible to the ESXi host running the virtual machine. A datastore is a storage location, usually on a shared storage device, that holds virtual machine files.

Some common places VMDK files are stored include:

  • On a SAN/NAS – VMDK files are often stored on shared SAN (Storage Area Network) or NAS (Network Attached Storage) devices that are connected to multiple ESXi hosts.
  • On local storage – ESXi hosts can also store VMDK files locally, such as on attached disks or SSDs.
  • VMware vSphere VMFS – VMware’s clustered filesystem for shared storage and datastores.
  • NFS mounts – Many NAS devices export NFS shares that can be mounted as datastores.

The key point is that VMDK files are stored on shared, centralized storage so they are accessible from any host in the VMware cluster.

VMDK File Location

The specific location of the VMDK file for a virtual machine depends on where the VM’s datastore is located. But in general, the path follows this convention:


For example, if a VM called “MyVM” has its hard disk file (VMDK file) stored on a datastore called “storage01”, the path would be:


Some things to note about the VMDK file path:

  • It is located in a folder named after the virtual machine
  • The VMDK filename matches the VM name
  • There may be other VMDK files in the folder for additional drives
  • The datastore name represents the storage location (SAN, NAS, etc)

So in summary, the VMDK file will be in a folder matching the VM name on the target datastore.

Finding the VMDK File

There are a few ways to find and locate the VMDK file for a virtual machine in VMware:

1. VM Settings

The easiest way is to right-click on a virtual machine in the vSphere Client and select “Settings”. On the Virtual Hardware tab, select Hard Disk 1 and the VMDK file path is shown in the summary pane:

This allows you to quickly find the VMDK file location for that VM.

2. Datastores Browser

You can also browse the datastores directly to find VMDK files. In the vSphere Client go to the “Storage” section and select the target datastore. Here you can browse the folder structure and search for VMDK files:

The datastore browser allows you to explore the files and folders to find VMDKs as needed.

3. Search VMFS Volumes

Another option is to search VMFS volumes for VMDK files by name or wildcard. Go to Storage > Search VMFS Volumes in the vSphere Client:

This searches all shared VMFS storage for matching VMDK names.

Deploying VMs from VMDK

In addition to finding existing VMDK files, you can also deploy new virtual machines from VMDK templates:

  • Download a pre-built VMDK image file containing an OS like Linux or Windows.
  • Upload the VMDK file to a datastore in your VMware environment.
  • Create a new virtual machine and select the VMDK file as your hard disk.
  • Power on the VM – it will boot straight into the OS from the VMDK.

This allows you to quickly deploy new VMs from standard VMDK images. The guest OS and applications will be pre-installed and configured in the VMDK template.

Converting Between VMDK and Other Formats

While VMDK is the standard VMware virtual disk format, it can also be converted to and from other formats:

  • Raw device mapping (RDM) – mount a physical LUN directly into a VM.
  • iSCSI – access a disk image over an iSCSI SAN target.
  • VHD/VHDX – Microsoft Hyper-V virtual disk format.
  • QCOW2 – QEMU virtual machine disk format.
  • OVA/OVF – package a VM image into an open standard format.

This provides flexibility to import and export VMDK files from VMware to other platforms and hypervisors. Typical conversion options include:

  • vCenter Converter – VMware utility to convert disks to/from VMDK.
  • StarWind V2V Converter – Converts between VMDK and other disk formats.
  • qemu-img – Command line tool for converting disk images.
  • WinImage – Windows utility to convert VMDK and other VM disk formats.

So while VMDK is the native VMware format, bridges exist to import and export VMDK files in other virtualization platforms.

Managing and Maintaining VMDK Files

Once you have located the VMDK files used by your VMs, there are a number of management tasks you may need to perform:

Increasing disk space

If a VM is running low on disk space, you can easily increase the VMDK capacity. Use the “Edit Settings” option to expand the VMDK file size without downtime.

Performing backups

Backups allow you to recover VMs in the event of data loss or corruption. You can back up VMDK files directly or use VM backup tools that snapshot the entire VM.

Monitoring usage

Keep an eye on VMDK capacity and I/O to identify storage bottlenecks. This may indicate a need to expand disk space or optimize workloads.

Copying/replacing VMDK files

You may need to copy or replace a VM’s VMDK file, such as when migrating VMs or troubleshooting issues. The vSphere Client makes it easy to download, replace, or move VMDK files as needed.

Overall the VMDK file format gives you a portable and flexible way to manage VM storage in vSphere environments.


To summarize the key points:

  • VMDK files contain the virtual hard disk used by a VMware virtual machine.
  • They are located on shared datastores, usually SAN or NAS storage.
  • The VMDK file will be in a folder with the VM name on the target datastore.
  • Use the VM settings, datastore browser, or VMFS search to locate VMDK files.
  • VMDK files can be converted to other disk formats like VHD or RAW.
  • Managing VMDK capacity, performance, backups, and movement is critical.

Knowing where to find and how to manage VMDK files is important for administering your VMware vSphere environment. This allows you to provision new VMs, monitor usage, expand capacity, troubleshoot issues, and optimize storage performance for your critical virtualized workloads.