Working with snapshots in Parallels Desktop for Mac

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What is a snapshot?

A snapshot is a saved state of a virtual machine. Snapshots can be created manually or automatically when the virtual machine is running.

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 via the virtual machine in external databases.

You may need to take snapshots in the following cases:


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.

Work 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 find Parallels icon > 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 Mac menu bar, find the Parallels icon > choose 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 choose Save Parallels Desktop will create an additional snapshot with the state you had before reverting to the previous snapshot.
                By choosing Don't Save you will revert back to the previous snapshot without saving the current state.

Delete a Snapshot

  1. Start Parallels Desktop and the virtual machine in which you want to delete the snapshot.
  2. On Mac menu bar find Parallels logo > choose Actions > Manage Snapshots.
  3. In the appeared Snapshots Manager menu choose the snapshot you want to delete > click Delete.
  4. Finish the removal operation by choosing Yes in the appeared confirmation message.

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

Automate Snapshots Creation

The SmartGuard functionality allows you to automate snapshots' creation. Please 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 Backup tab > enable SmartGuard option.

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

Set how often snapshots are made

Limit how many snapshots are stored

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 VM 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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