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Summary: This detailed guide explains VMDK files, offers manual methods for content extraction from inaccessible Virtual Machines, but highlights their complexity and limited effectiveness. It recommends Kernel VMDK Recovery as a reliable solution for corrupt files.

A VMDK (Virtual Machine Disk) encompasses all the data utilized by a Virtual Machine, comprising two integral components: the “descriptor” file and the “flat” file. The descriptor file is a textual document containing essential information like IDs, virtual hardware version, and disk geometry, while the flat file houses the tangible Virtual Machine data.

Under usual circumstances, users access the data within the VMDK file through the associated Virtual Machine. However, in unfortunate scenarios such as incomplete application installations, improper Windows update installations, virus attacks, and similar issues, the Virtual Machine may become inaccessible or fail to launch, preventing access to the VMDK file.

In situations where users need to extract data from a VMDK file belonging to an inaccessible or non-operational Virtual Machine, we offer the following solutions.

Ways to Extract Content from VMDK Files

Users have multiple choices to extract content from the VMDK file when Virtual Machine is not getting opened or is dead.

  • Using another ESXi VM
  • Using VMware Workstation
  • Using 7-Zip Utility
  • Using VMware Virtual Disk Development Kit
Using another ESXi VM

Get a healthy Virtual Machine with a similar Operating System version on which your VMDK file is stored along with ESXi host and its resources.

Recommended – Always work on a copy of the VMDK file.

Now, follow the steps as:

  1. Launch the ESXi host. Move to Hosts and Clusters section, select and right-click the Virtual Machine. Then select the Edit Settings option from the list.
  2. Under the Virtual Hardware tab, click on Add hard disk and select the Existing hard disk option.
  3. Add the VMDK file path and then click on Select option.
  4. Next, confirm the file settings and then click on the Save option at the bottom.
  5. Now, move to Computer Management>Disk Management, and then go to the added disk, right-click on it and select Online option to activate it. For the disk, a disk letter is assigned automatically.
  6. Now, VMDK file data can be accessed, extracted, or copied from the Windows File Explorer easily.
Using VMware Workstation

Users are required to download VMWare Workstation first, so that they can directly mount or add VMDK file under Windows volumes. Let us know how to do this.

Must – Store VMDK descriptor and flat file in the same folder.

  1. After installing the VMWare Workstation on your system, launch it.
  2. Navigate to File>Map Virtual Disks.
  3. On the next screen, click on the Map tab.
  4. On the Map Virtual Disk page, for the File name section, click on the Browse option and add the VMDK file path location. Choose the Maximum volume size for the file, unselect the option saying Open file in read-only mode, choose the mapping drive against Drive option, select the checkbox saying Open drive in Windows Explorer after mapping and finally, click on OK.
  5. A warning message will appear. Click Yes to continue.
  6. The chosen drive will get opened next from where you can extract the VMDK files data easily by copying.
  7. Now, after the extraction, you need to disconnect the Virtual Disk. For that move to the Virtual Disk volume on the File Explorer, select it, and right-click on it. Then select Disconnect Virtual Disk option.
Using 7-Zip Utility

7-Zip is a free utility that can be used to open VMDK files as an archive. It simply opens the Virtual Machine Disk as an archive, and then you can copy the data from the VMDK file. Check the full process.

  1. Install 7-Zip Utility on your system.
  2. Move to the VMDK4. Once the copy process is completed, exit the 7-Zip utility securely. file folder location. Right-click on the larger size file and follow 7-Zip>Open archive.
  3. On the next screen, the complete content of the VMDK files is extracted, which users can select and copy to another drive.
  4. Once the copy process is completed, exit the 7-Zip utility securely.
Using VMware Virtual Disk Development Kit

The VMware Virtual Disk Development Kit (VDDK) comprises a range of utilities tailored for professionals and developers. To extract data from VMDK files, users can leverage the vmware-mount.exe application.

  1. First, download VMware Virtual Disk Development Kit and install it on your system.
  2. Next, launch the Command Prompt as an administrator and run this command.
    cd C:\Program Files (x86)\VMware\VMware Virtual Disk Development Kit\bin
    Note: The path location in the above command is the default storage location of the installed vmware-mount.exe application.
  3. Next, run this command.
    vmware-mount.exe /p C:\temp\Win2008Serv.vmdk
    Note: The above command includes default vmware-mount.exe path location, /p factor, and the default path location of the VMDK file sequentially.
  4. Finally, run this command.
    vmware-mount.exe K: /v:2 /m:w C:\temp\Win2008Serv.vmdk
    Note: The final command includes vmware-mount.exe path location, K drive letter, and /v:2 factor for mounting the VMDK file from its mentioned path location.
  5. After running the last command, you can visit the mentioned disk drive to find the VMDK file content, which you can copy and move to another drive.
  6. Once the VMDK file data is extracted, type this command to dismount the disk.
    vmware-mount.exe K: /f

The manual methods mentioned above are indeed free of cost, but they do require a certain level of technical expertise to execute successfully. These processes can be complex, and their effectiveness depends on the health of the VMDK files. If the VMDK files are corrupted or damaged, these methods may not be helpful to users.

How to extract content from corrupt VMDK files?

There are a few free methods available to attempt the repair of corrupt and damaged VMDK files, but they may not always be reliable. These methods can involve a significant level of complexity. Alternatively, using a professional tool can streamline the process and eliminate much of the complexity associated with manual methods.

We recommend using the Kernel VMDK Recovery tool to extract content from corrupt, damaged, and inaccessible VMDK files. To provide a better understanding of the tool, here are some key features of this third-party software, which also offers a free trial version:

  • Extracts data from corrupt VMDK files of any Virtual Machine (VMware Workstation, Virtual Box, etc.)
  • Recovers permanently deleted data from VMDK files
  • Scans each partition of the Virtual Hard Disk for recovery
  • Supports recovery of all sorts of data, whether documents, media files, etc.
  • Displays live preview of the recovered VMDK file data
  • Easy-to-use Graphic User Interface
  • Find option to search out for specific data in the recovered VMDK file
  • Compatible to both NTFS and FAT file systems
  • Provides a secure, simple and direct process for recovery


The blog recommends several manual methods for extracting VMDK file content when the associated Virtual Machine is inaccessible or non-functional. However, it’s important to note that these solutions may not be effective when the VMDK file itself is corrupted. To address this issue, we have recommended the use of a reliable VMDK Recovery tool, which is designed to access and recover data from corrupt VMDK files. This professional software can be a valuable solution when dealing with damaged or inaccessible VMDK files, ensuring that users have a reliable and efficient means of data recovery in such situations.

Kernel for VMDK Recovery