Copy VM Snapshot to a new VM Environment

Dang, if you had been using vSphere 6, you could have done inter-vCenter clones and be done with it.

In any event, this task isn't super-hard with 5.5 either if you use the PowerCLI.

The steps are as such:

  1. Take a snapshot of the VM (use PowerCLI, or either of the GUIs, doesn't matter)
  2. Clone the snapshot to a new VM using this handy little bit of PowerCLI:
    New-VM -Name $CloneName -VM $SourceVM -Location $CloneFolder -Datastore $Datastore -ResourcePool $ResourcePool -VMHost $VMHost -LinkedClone -ReferenceSnapshot $Snapshot
    You can look here for what all the options mean and how to fill them.
    They key is the '-ReferenceSnapshot' option.

  3. Export your shinny new VM to OVF/OVA, or copy the folder from the DS to somewhere on the network

  4. Import it to the other vCenter

I've had my IT Security team request a "forensic" copy of a running VM, including memory snapshot, so they can do some investigations in cases where there's been a virus or some sort of breach. To make my life easier, I wrote a PS function which does all the heavy lifting. It just needs a source VM (by name or object), and a folder on disk. It does the rest.

Function ExportVM {


    #Check if the destination path exists, bail out if it doesn't
    if ( -not (Test-path $DestinationPath -IsValid) ) {
        Write-Warning "Please provide a valid path for the exported VM"

    #Get the SourceVM, bail out if it fails
    if ($SourceVM.GetType().Name -eq "string"){
        try {
            $SourceVM = Get-VM $SourceVM -ErrorAction Stop
        catch [Exception]{
            Write-Warning "VM $SourceVM does not exist"
    elseif ($SourceVM -isnot [VMware.VimAutomation.ViCore.Impl.V1.Inventory.VirtualMachineImpl]){
        Write-Warning "You did not pass a string or a VM object for 'SourceVM'"

    try {
        $DestinationPath = $DestinationPath + "\" + $SourceVM.Name

        #Setup the required compoments to compute an MD5 hash
        $algo = [System.Security.Cryptography.HashAlgorithm]::Create("MD5")
        $md5StringBuilder = New-Object System.Text.StringBuilder 50
        $ue = New-Object System.Text.UTF8Encoding

        #Define the snapshot name
        $SnapshotName = "IT-Security Export - " + (Get-Date -UFormat "%b-%d-%Y, %R")
        #Create the snapshot
        $Snapshot = New-Snapshot -VM $SourceVM -Name $SnapshotName -Description "Snapshot for IT-Security Forensic export" -Memory -Quiesce -Confirm:$false


        #Define variables needed to create the clone
        $CloneFolder = $SourceVM.Folder
        $Datastore = Get-Datastore -RelatedObject $SourceVM
        $ResourcePool = Get-ResourcePool -VM $SourceVM
        $VMHost = Get-VMHost -VM $SourceVM

        #Build a unique name for the cloned machine based on the snapshot name
        $algo.ComputeHash($ue.GetBytes($SnapshotName)) | % { [void] $md5StringBuilder.Append($_.ToString("x2")) }
        $CloneName = $SourceVM.Name +"_ITSecExport_" + $md5StringBuilder.ToString().SubString(0,15)

        #Clone the VM
        $CloneVM = New-VM -Name $CloneName -VM $SourceVM -Location $CloneFolder -Datastore $Datastore -ResourcePool $ResourcePool -VMHost $VMHost -LinkedClone -ReferenceSnapshot $Snapshot

        #Define the name of the PSDrive, based on the Datastore name
        $DSName = "ITSecExport_" + ($ -replace "[^a-zA-Z0-9]","")
        #Check to see if it already exists, remove if it does
        if (Get-PSDrive | Where {$_.Name -like $DSName}) {
            Remove-PSDrive $DSName
        #Add the new drive
        $PSDrive = New-PSDrive -Location $Datastore -Name $DSName -Scope Script -PSProvider VimDatastore -Root "\"

        #Define variables needed to copy the SourceVM's VMX and the snapshot's VMSN
        $SnapshotID = (Get-VM $SourceVM |Get-Snapshot | where {$_.Name -like $SnapshotName}).ExtensionData.ID
        $SourceVM_VMXPath = (Get-View $SourceVM).Config.Files.VmPathName.Split(" ")[1].replace("/","\")
        $SourceVM_VMSNPath = $SourceVM_VMXPath.Replace(".vmx", "-Snapshot" + $SnapshotID + ".vmsn")
        #$CloneVM_VMPath = (Get-View $CloneVM).Config.Files.VmPathName.Split(" ")[1].Split("/")[0]

        #Copy the VMSN and VMX
        Copy-DatastoreItem -Item ${DSName}:\$SourceVM_VMXPath -Destination $DestinationPath -Force
        Copy-DatastoreItem -Item ${DSName}:\$SourceVM_VMSNPath -Destination $DestinationPath -Force

        #Copy-DatastoreItem -Item ${DSName}:\$CloneVM_Path\* $DestinationPath"$CloneName" -Force -Recurse

        #Export the VM
        $CloneVM | Export-VApp -Destination $DestinationPath -Force

        #Clean up
        Remove-VM -DeletePermanently $CloneVM -Confirm:$false
        Remove-Snapshot -Snapshot $Snapshot -Confirm:$false
        Remove-PSDrive -Name $DSName
    catch [Exception]{
        $ErrorMessage = $_.Exception.Message
        $FailedItem = $_.Exception.ItemName
        Write-Warning "Looks like we ran in to an error"
        Write-Warning "  $ErrorMessage"