How to Recover Data of an Oracle VM VirtualBox Virtual Machine

In this article, we’ll tell you how to recover data from a VirtualBox disk. How to create such a virtual machine, take a snapshot, and revert the machine to that snapshot.

How to Recover Data of an Oracle VM VirtualBox Virtual Machine

VirtualBox offers you a free and easy way to create a virtual machine and run Windows, Linux or any other operating system along with your main OS without having to use any extra hardware or equipment. I’ll explain how to create such a virtual machine in Windows, how to take snapshots, and how to restore its previous state if something goes wrong. Also, you’ll learn how to recover data if restoring the operating system didn’t go as planned, or if the virtual machine refuses to boot. You will be able to recover accidentally deleted virtual disk files (VDI) or snapshot files.

A VDI (VirtualBox Disk Image) file works just as if it was a physical hard disk, and it can store your data just as well. When several operating systems are installed on a single PC, the program will create a VDI file for each virtual machine as well as additional files, when snapshots are taken, or when additional virtual disks are connected. This aspect should be taken into account in case of recovery.

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💻 How to Create an Oracle VirtualBox Virtual Machine and Recover Data from a VDI Disk in 2021 ⚕️

💻 How to Create an Oracle VirtualBox Virtual Machine and Recover Data from a VDI Disk in 2021 ⚕️

How to create a Windows virtual machine in VirtualBox

To create a virtual machine, you need to install VirtualBox, and find an ISO image of the operating system which you are going to use.

Open VirtualBox, and click Machine – New in the program’s window.

Create a machine

In the next window, specify the virtual machine name and operating system type; if necessary, you can modify the folder where the virtual machine should be stored – Next.

Specify the virtual machine name and operating system type

Now choose the amount of RAM – it should be at least half of the system memory installed on this computer – Next.

Choose the amount of RAM

In the following window, choose the option to create a virtual hard disk and click Create. If you’d like to open a virtual disk that already exists, choose the last option.

Now specify the disk type – VDI, VHD, VMDK; if you don’t need to use the disk with other virtualization software, leave this setting without changes and click Next. If you access the Expert Mode, more disk types appear – HDD, QCOW, QED.

Create a new virtual hard disk

At the next stage, choose the storage type – dynamically allocated or fixed size. Set the size of the virtual disk and click Create.

Choose the storage type – dynamically allocated or fixed-size

After that, you will see the program’s main window. Right-click on the machine and open its Settings. Jump to the System tab – Processor, and increase the number of allocated cores.

Increase the number of processor cores

Then open Storage, click on the disk icon, go to the Attributes tab and select the option “Choose a disk file”. Give the path to the ISO image of Windows 10 – OK.

Give the path to the ISO image of Windows 10

After that, run the virtual machine by clicking on the green arrow-shaped Start button. When it starts, the installation of the operating system begins just as if it was a conventional PC. When it’s over, you’ll be able to use the virtual machine.

The virtual machine starts for the first time

How to take a virtual machine snapshot

VirtualBox lets you take snapshots of your virtual machine. To take a snapshot on a currently running virtual machine, fin the menu at the top of the program’s window and open the tab Machine, then choose Take Snapshot.

Take a snapshot of a virtual machine

Give it a name, add a description if necessary, and then click OK to save it. Now you have a snapshot of this machine representing its state on a certain date and time, for recovery in case of a failure or accidental removal. You will be able to restore your machine to its state at the time when the snapshot was taken.

How to restore a virtual machine to its previous state

To roll the virtual machine back to its state fixed in a snapshot, go to the tab Machine – Tools – Snapshots.

Machine - Tools - Snapshots

Select the snapshot from the list (you can look at the name and date to understand which one you need) and click Restore. Decide if you want a snapshot of the current state of the virtual machine, and check this box below, then click Restore.

Restore a virtual machine to the state fixed in a snapshot

Then run the virtual machine and check it for the files that have been lost.

How to recover virtual disk files (VDI)

If you have accidentally removed a snapshot or a virtual disk file (VDI), you can bring them back with the specialized data recovery tool – Hetman Partition Recovery.

The tool recovers data from any devices, regardless of the cause of data loss.

If the machine was removed without deleting files, it’s very easy to restore it by clicking Machine – Add. However, if you deleted the files, it takes a special utility to bring them back again.

Connect a virtual machine file

Download, install and run the utility. Right-click on the disk where virtual hard disk files were stored and start the scan. Try Fast scan first.

Fast scan

Open the folder which used to contain virtual hard disks and check if the files you are looking for are now there. By default, VDI files are stored here:

C:\Users\User name\VirtualBox VMs\Virtual machine name

Snapshot files are stored in the folder with the same name - Snapshots.

(Recover virtual disk files

If the Fast scan can’t find the necessary files, then go for Full analysis. Right-click on the disk - Analyze again - choose Full analysis - specify file system type - Next and Finish. Select the files you want to restore and click Recovery. Choose the disk where to save them and click Recovery again. In the end, you will find the recovered files in the folder you have chosen.

Now you should add the disk to the virtual machine, start it and access the files you were looking for.

How to add an existing disk to the virtual machine

To add a disk to the virtual machine, choose the option “Use an existing virtual hard disk file” when creating a machine, give the path to the file and click Create. When the machine is ready to use, click on the Start button.

Use an existing virtual hard disk file

If you also managed to restore a .vbox file containing virtual machine settings, to add a virtual machine you should click – Machine – Add, give the path to the file – Open, and then it will appear on the program’s list.

How to recover data if the virtual machine won’t boot

If the virtual machine refuses to boot, or displays an error at startup that cannot be fixed, remember that our program supports data recovery from virtual hard disks of various hypervisors.

The list includes such file extensions as VDI, VHD, VHDX, vmdk, .hdd, *.qed, *.qcow and others. In my case, virtual hard disk files are kept in a NAS system (network-attached storage). That’s why I’ll explain how to recover data from virtual disks (VDI) over the network.

Start the program, click Tools – Mount Disk. There are two ways to mount it: choose a RAW disk image if necessary, or choose Virtual Machines. After choosing the second option, you can see the list of files and tools that our program supports.

Mount Disk

Check the corresponding image type; in our case, this is VirtualBox, the file extension – VDI, and give the network path to the folder where virtual hard disk files are stored. Network – Archive – VirtualMachine – VirtualBox. When you have given the path to the required directory, click to select the folder.

Choose a virtual hard disk image

The program will display all virtual machine files which exist in such folder. As you can see, there are disk files and snapshots, i.e. copies of the virtual machine state on a specific date. The disk file which is currently in use by the virtual machine will be marked as active. Check the box next to the disk you are interested in, and click Next. If you need to recover data of a snapshot, check the box next to it - you can easily find this file by its name and date.

After you have selected the folder, the mounted disk will appear in the Drive Manager immediately. Right-click on it - Open. Select the scan type, and choose “Fast scan” for starters. If the “Fast scan” can’t find the required files, then go for “Full analysis”. Right-click on the disk - “Analyze again” - “Full analysis” - and specify the file system for this disk.

Scan a mounted hard disk image

Then go to the folder where the lost data used to be stored, and look for the ones you need to restore. Select them and click “Recovery”, choose the disk and folder, and click “Recovery” again.

Recover lost data from a virtual machine


To make users’ lives easier, our program features the option to search for files by their names. Also, you’ll be able to preview the file contents to make sure that this is the one you need.

The program’s ability to operate over the network simplifies the recovery process, as you don’t need to arrange additional disks for copying VDI files to your computer, and this way you can save both time and resources. Just mount the disk files over the network and start the scan. The only serious disadvantage is that if your network connection is interrupted, you will have to run the scan again when the connection is restored.

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🔷 How to Recover Data of an Oracle VM VirtualBox Virtual Machine 🔷

🔷 How to Recover Data of an Oracle VM VirtualBox Virtual Machine 🔷

Vladimir Artiukh

Author: , Technical Writer

Vladimir Artiukh is a technical writer for Hetman Software, as well as the voice and face of their English-speaking YouTube channel, Hetman Software: Data Recovery for Windows. He handles tutorials, how-tos, and detailed reviews on how the company’s tools work with all kinds of data storage devices.

Oleg Afonin

Editor: , Technical Writer

Oleg Afonin is an expert in mobile forensics, data recovery and computer systems. He often attends large data security conferences, and writes several blogs for such resources as, Elcomsoft and Habr. In addition to his online activities, Oleg’s articles are also published in professional magazines. Also, Oleg Afonin is the co-author of a well-known book, Mobile Forensics - Advanced Investigative Strategies.

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