Working with snapshots in Parallels Desktop for Mac

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Note: snapshots are not currently supported for macOS virtual machines running on Apple silicon Mac computers. 

What is a snapshot?

A snapshot is a saved state of a virtual machine (VM). Snapshots can be created manually or automatically.

After you make the snapshot, you can continue working with the virtual machine and revert to the created snapshot at any time of your work.

Warning: You can create the snapshot at any time. But it is recommended to complete all operations of installing, downloading, or writing to external devices before taking the snapshot. You should also complete or cancel any transactions performed in the virtual machine in external databases.

You may want to take snapshots in the following cases:

Working with Snapshots

Take a Snapshot

  1. Start Parallels Desktop and the virtual machine in which you want to create the snapshot.
  2. On Mac menu bar, click Actions > Take snapshot.

  3. In the appeared window, specify the name of the snapshot and click OK.


Revert to a Snapshot

  1. Start Parallels Desktop and the virtual machine in which you want to revert to the snapshot.

  2. On the Mac menu bar, click Actions > Revert to Snapshot.

  3. Choose whether you want to take another snapshot to save the current state of the virtual machine, or proceed directly to the previous snapshot without saving.

Note: If you select Save, Parallels Desktop will create an additional snapshot with the state you had before reverting to the previous snapshot. By selecting Don't Save, you will revert back to the previous snapshot without saving the current state.

Delete a Snapshot

1. Start Parallels Desktop and right-click the Parallels Desktop icon in the Dock > select Control Center.

2. In Control Center click the Snapshots icon to open the Snapshot Manager.

3. In the Snapshots Manager menu, select the snapshot you want to delete > click Delete.

4. Finish the removal operation by selecting Yes in the appeared confirmation message.

Note: When you delete an intermediate snapshot, the information it contains is merged into the next snapshot.

Limitations of Snapshots

Snapshots are possible when you work with the virtual hard disk, thus it is not possible to take a snapshot when:

  1. Windows virtual machine uses the Boot Camp partition.

  2. Virtual machine has physical disk added in its configuration (as a primary (bootable) or non-primary disk).

Also, if your virtual machine has one or more snapshots, you can neither compress nor resize the virtual hard disk.

Automate Snapshots Creation

The SmartGuard functionality allows you to automate snapshots' creation.
You can use this option only if you are an advanced user. Alternatively, by doing a manual backup of your virtual machines you can also refresh them once in a while (say when new guest OS updates are applied) much more easily than with a Time Machine solution.

Note: SmartGuard is available only when the Rollback Mode feature is disabled.

To access SmartGuard settings:

  1. Start Parallels Desktop and the virtual machine in which you want to enable SmartGuard feature.
  2. Open the virtual machine configuration > go to the Backup tab > enable SmartGuard option.

  3. To automate snapshots, click the SmartGuard menu and choose one of the following:

Note: Snapshots affect performance quite a bit unless the snapshot and the virtual disk is on a high-performance solid-state drive. It is worth considering if you need regular backups of ongoing work on the virtual machine, but since you say you don't care about changes to the virtual machine, then snapshots are best avoided altogether.

As an alternative resource on this topic, we also recommend visiting this blog post: How to Use Parallels Desktop Snapshots.

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