Can I delete VMware files?

VMware creates various files on your system to enable its virtualization software to run. While some of these files are essential or reused, deleting certain VMware files can help free up disk space without impacting functionality.

Can I delete VMware files?

When using VMware’s products like VMware Workstation, VMware Fusion or VMware Player, virtual machines and their associated files take up significant storage space on the host computer. Over time as you create, run and delete VMs, leftover VMware files can build up. Identifying and removing these unnecessary files can optimize disk usage.

What VMware files are safe to delete?

Here are some common VMware files that can safely be deleted to recover disk space:

  • Unused virtual machine files – VM folders, configuration files and virtual disk files for deleted or moved VMs can safely be removed. This reclaims the most space.
  • VM swap files – Large .vmem files are created in the VM folder to handle memory swapping. They can become huge over time.
  • VM suspend files – When you suspend a VM, a .vmss/.vmem file captures its state. You can delete ones for deleted VMs.
  • Old VM snapshots – Manual and automatic snapshots create files ending in -00000x.vmx and -flat.vmdk. You can remove snapshots associated with deleted VMs.

What VMware files should not be deleted?

Avoid deleting the following VMware files, as they are necessary for functioning:

  • Files for active virtual machines – Deleting files for current VMs will corrupt/break them. Only delete files for VMs you no longer need.
  • VMware product application files – Files relating to installed VMware products. Located in \Program Files\VMware\ and \ProgramData\VMware. Don’t delete unless you are removing the product.
  • Virtual machine configuration files (.vmx) – The main configuration files define the VM and should not be deleted even for ostensibly deleted VMs.
  • Virtual disk files (.vmdk) – The files containing the actual VM system/data. Don’t delete unless you are certain the VM is obsolete.

How to identify removable VMware files

Pinpointing unnecessary VMware files to remove requires analyzing your system. Here is the process:

  1. Identify unused VMs
    Check for any VMs you no longer use or need. Note their file locations. Unused VMs are the main source of removable files.
  2. Locate associated files
    Navigate to the VM folder(s) and look for related files – swap files, suspend files, snapshot files, configuration files and virtual disks. By deleting the entire VM folder you capture all these files.
  3. Distinguish active VMs
    Do not touch files for VMs you still actively use or may use later. Only target those you are sure about removing.
  4. Understand installation files
    Learn where your VMware product’s application files reside to avoid deleting them accidentally. This will break your VMware software installation.
  5. Analyze disk usage
    Use Disk Cleanup or a third party tool to see what files/folders consume excess space. This further helps identify removable VMware files.

By systematically working through these steps, you can pinpoint non-essential VMware files that can be deleted safely.

Best practices when deleting VMware files

Follow these guidelines when removing VMware files to optimize your system:

  • Create backups – Have file or image backups of vital VMs before deleting associated files in case they are needed later.
  • Track changes – Note each file/folder you delete to help troubleshoot any issues that arise.
  • Check thoroughly – Verify multiple times you are deleting only intended VMware files that are unnecessary.
  • Delete from authorized locations – Only remove files from default VMware folders like Virtual Machines, Virtual Machine Swapfiles and Virtual Machines Suspend Files.
  • Restart afterward – Power cycle the system after deleting files to clear any caching or remnants.
  • Observe impacts – Run your VMware software and test VMs after deleting files to check for problems.

Carefully following this approach helps avoid deleting important VMware files by accident.

Key takeaways

  • Unused virtual machine files like configuration files and virtual disks for deleted VMs can be safely removed to gain back disk space.
  • Active VM files and VMware product installation files should never be deleted or it will cause critical failures.
  • Identify obsolete VMs, locate their folder paths and associated swap, suspend and snapshot files before removing to optimize space usage.
  • Backup vital VMs, track changes, verify intention and restart the system after deleting VMware files.


VMware’s virtualization platform is highly valuable but generates significant file accumulation on host systems that can be cleaned out periodically by removing unnecessary VM files. Taking time to judiciously identify inactive VMs and delete associated files offers an easy way to recover storage capacity without hampering VMware’s functioning. Carefully backing up key VM systems, validating selected files and observing impacts after deletion helps make this process smooth and safe. Keeping your VMware infrastructure trimmed down and optimized is key to providing ongoing value and reliability.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Where does VMware store files on the host computer?
    VMware usually stores files within C:\Users\Public\Documents\Virtual Machines, C:\ProgramData\VMware and C:\Program Files\VMware. Virtual machine files themselves go in the Virtual Machines folder or custom folders you designate.
  2. Is it safe to delete all files in Virtual Machines folder?
    No, the Virtual Machines folder contains files for potentially active VMs that should not be deleted, as well as folders for deleted VMs whose contents can safely be removed. You need to analyze folder contents to avoid deleting active VM files.
  3. Do VMware snapshot files take up space?
    Yes, each snapshot file consumes additional space proportional to changes made after the snapshot. Retaining many snapshots for a VM contributes substantially to storage usage, so deleting unneeded snapshots helps optimize space.
  4. What problems can occur if I delete the wrong VMware files?
    Deleting files for active VMs can lead to loss of functionality or data corruption. Deleting VMware product installation files may cause those applications to fail. Accidentally deleting the wrong files might require reinstalling software or rebuilding affected VMs from backups.
  5. Is VMware Workstation the same as VMware Player?
    No, VMware Workstation is more full-featured commercial virtualization software for running multiple operating systems. VMware Player is free software with reduced functionality, just intended for running pre-built VMs. Both create VM files that can be optimized by deleting unneeded older files.
  6. Is VMware Fusion only for Mac?
    Yes, VMware Fusion is VMware’s virtualization application designed for Mac computers. It serves the same function as Workstation does on Windows and enables deleting unnecessary virtual machine files that have built up over time.
  7. Are VMware vSphere/ESXi files also created locally?
    No, ESXi and vSphere files associated with virtual infrastructure reside on centralized network storage rather than local disks. To optimize space for these enterprise solutions, unused files should be deleted at the storage volume level.
  8. Can I delete VMware folder if I don’t use the software anymore?
    Yes, if you have uninstalled a VMware product and no longer use any of its virtual machines, you can safely delete VMware-related folders to recover space. This removes all associated VM files, snapshots and caches.
  9. Should I empty the Recycle Bin after deleting VMware files?
    Yes, deleted VMware files and folders initially just go to the Recycle Bin, continuing to occupy space. Emptying the Recycle Bin completely removes these VMware files and frees up disk capacity.
  10. What is the VMware vSphere Data Protection appliance?
    The vSphere Data Protection appliance provides backup and restore capabilities for vSphere virtual environments by taking snapshots and replicating VMs. It generates backups as VMDK files, which can consume substantial storage itself. Its backup files should be monitored and deleted when no longer needed.
  11. If I delete VMware files, will it affect VirtualBox or Hyper-V files?
    No, deleting VMware product files and virtual machine files has no impact on other virtualization platforms like Oracle VM VirtualBox or Hyper-V which have their own separate file structures. They remain untouched when optimizing VMware environment space usage.
  12. Is it better to delete VM files or compact virtual disks?
    Deleting unnecessary VM files frees up more space quickly, while compacting virtual disks clears unused space within those files to reduce their size. Using both approaches is most effective – delete obsolete VMs first then compact the virtual disks for your remaining VMs.
  13. Where is the VMware vCenter Server file storage location?
    VMware vCenter Server files and databases are centrally stored by default at C:\ProgramData\VMware\vCenterServer. However these files are essential for managing the virtual infrastructure and should not be deleted without fully understanding impact.
  14. Can I back up a VM, delete it and restore it later?
    Yes, a great approach is backing up a VM’s files to an external drive with a tool like VMware vSphere Data Protection. You can then delete the VM’s files to save space while retaining the backup. If that VM is ever needed again, restoring it from backup avoids having to rebuild it from scratch.

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