How to Shrink a VMware Virtual Machine and Free Up Disk Space

By default, VMware produces “growable” discs, which expand in size as data is added. Admittedly, they do not immediately shrink when data is removed.

To truly free up space on your hard drive, you’ll need to clean up or compact your discs. The procedure varies slightly between VMware versions. Here, we’ll walk you through the process of installing VMware Player, VMware Fusion, and VMware Workstation. Prior to beginning, you may choose to make additional space available within the virtual computer. Empty your recycle bin, uninstall any superfluous programmes, and delete any other unused files to free up space.

First, Ensure You’re Using a Preallocated Disk

This procedure is only applicable to growable, or “sparse,” discs. Disks that have been preallocated are always at their full size. If you wish to compress a preallocated disc, you must first convert it to a growable disc.

However, your virtual computer most likely includes an expandable disc. VMware Player can only create growable discs, VMware Fusion always uses growable discs unless you manually allocate disc space after creating a virtual machine, and VMware Workstation always uses growable discs unless you go into the custom settings and check “Allocate all disc space now” when creating a new virtual machine.

Right-click a virtual machine in VMware Workstation or VMware Player and select “Settings.” Check to see if “Preallocated” is displayed next to the disk’s size in the Summary view.

On VMware Fusion, select a virtual machine and click Virtual Machine > Settings > Hard Disk > Advanced options. Check whether the “Pre-allocate disk space” option under Advanced options is checked or not.

VMware Player

VMware Player doesn’t have the convenient “Clean Up Disk” button you’ll see in paid VMware products, but you can still do this with a few options in its interface.

In VMware Player, first power off your virtual machine. You can’t compact its disk if it’s powered on or suspended.

With the virtual machine powered off, select it and click “Edit virtual machine settings”, or right-click it and select “Settings”.

Click the “Hard Disk” option in the device list on the Hardware tab.

First, click the “Defragment” button under Disk utilities to defragment the virtual machine’s disk.

When VMware finishes the defragmentation process, click the “Compact” button under Disk utilities. VMware will compact the underlying virtual hard disk (.vmdk) files to free up space.

VMware Player does not support snapshots, so you won’t have any snapshots taking up additional space on your computer.

VMware Fusion

To begin, shut down a virtual machine in VMware Fusion. This cannot be done while a virtual machine is running or suspended. Select a virtual machine in the main VMware Fusion window and click the “Refresh Disk Space” icon to the right of its disc use in the bottom right corner of the window. You will not see up-to-date information about the virtual machine’s disc consumption until this is done.

The yellow “Reclaimable” data is how much space you can free up by cleaning up your virtual machine. If your virtual machine has free space you can reclaim, you’ll see a “Clean Up Recommended” message appear at the bottom of the window. Click it to continue.

Click the “Clean Up Virtual Machine” button in the window that appears. VMware will automatically clean up your virtual machine and you’ll free up however much space appears as “Reclaimable” here.

VMware Fusion also allows you to create snapshots, which capture a virtual machine’s state at a point in time. If these are using a lot of space according to the disk usage information here, you can delete snapshots to free up space if you no longer need them.

To view snapshots, click the “Snapshots” button on the toolbar after selecting a virtual machine in the main Virtual Machine Library window. To delete a snapshot, select it and click “Delete.” Naturally, after removing the snapshot, you will be unable to restore your virtual machine at that point in time.

VMware Workstation

In VMware Workstation, first power off the virtual machine you want to compact. You can’t complete this process if it’s powered on or suspended.

Select the virtual machine you want to compact in the main window and click VM > Manage > Clean Up Disks.

The tool will analyze the selected virtual machine’s disk and show you how much space you can reclaim. To reclaim the space, click “Clean up now”.

If no space can be freed, you’ll see a “Cleanup is not necessary” message here instead.

VMware Workstation also allows you to create snapshots, which contain a complete “snapshot” of a virtual machine’s state at the point in time you created them. These can take a lot of space if the virtual machine has changed significantly since then. You can free up additional space by deleting snapshots you no longer need.

To view the snapshots for a virtual machine, select the virtual machine in VMware Workstation and click VM > Snapshot > Snapshot Manager.

To delete an unnecessary snapshot, right-click it in the Snapshot Manager box and choose “Delete.” It will be completely deleted from your computer. Naturally, after removing the snapshot, you will be unable to restore your virtual machine to that previous point in time.

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