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Last updated: Jul 25, 2023

How to Access VMFS Datastore from Linux (Ubuntu), ESXi host or Windows

Welcome to the ultimate guide for accessing VMFS (Virtual Machine File System) Datastore, whether you're using Linux, an ESXi host, or Windows! Developed by VMware, VMFS is a specialized file system fine-tuned for virtual machine storage. This article is designed to guide system administrators, virtualization aficionados, or anyone keen to learn, through the simple steps to access and engage with VMFS Datastore across various operating systems.

We recognize the importance of proficient data management for smooth virtualization. That's why this guide is structured to cover key platforms comprehensively. By the time you finish this article, you'll be well-versed in the tools, techniques, and best practices needed to access VMFS Datastore, whether you're on Linux, an ESXi host, or Windows. So let's get started and unlock the extensive capabilities of VMFS Datastore, thereby improving your virtualization journey and making your storage management more efficient!

How to Mount VMFS File System on Linux (Ubuntu)?

Mounting a VMFS (Virtual Machine File System) file system on Linux, specifically Ubuntu, allows you to access and interact with virtual machine data stored on VMFS partitions. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to achieve this:

Note: VMFS is a proprietary file system developed by VMware, and native read-write support for VMFS is limited in non-VMware environments. To enable VMFS support on Linux, we'll use the "vmfs-tools" package, which provides read-only access to VMFS partitions.

  1. 1. Install Required Packages: Open a terminal on your Ubuntu system and make sure you have administrative privileges (you can use the "sudo" command). Then, install the necessary packages:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install vmfs-tools

  1. 2. Locate the VMFS Partition: Connect the storage device that contains the VMFS partition to your Linux machine. You can use tools like "lsblk" or "fdisk" to identify the VMFS partition. It should have a partition type of "VMFS" in the output.

  2. 3. Create a Mount Point: Next, create a directory that will serve as the mount point for the VMFS partition. Choose a location for the mount point; for example, we'll use "/mnt/vmfs" in this guide.

sudo mkdir /mnt/vmfs

  1. 4. Mount the VMFS Partition: Now, mount the VMFS partition to the previously created mount point:

sudo vmfs-fuse /dev/sdX# /mnt/vmfs

Replace "/dev/sdX#" with the correct identifier of the VMFS partition on your system. For example, it could be "/dev/sda1" or "/dev/sdb2," depending on your setup.

  1. 5. Access VMFS Files: The VMFS partition is now mounted, and you can access its contents through the mount point (/mnt/vmfs in our example). Navigate to this directory to view the virtual machine files stored on the VMFS partition.

Please note that the "vmfs-tools" package provides read-only access to VMFS partitions. This means you can view and copy files from the VMFS partition but cannot modify or write to it. Writing to VMFS from non-VMware systems can be risky and may lead to data loss, so always exercise caution.

Remember to unmount the VMFS partition when you're done accessing the files:

sudo umount /mnt/vmfs

With these steps, you can successfully mount a VMFS file system on Ubuntu and explore the virtual machine files it contains.

Mounting VMFS Partition on a New VMware ESXi host

Mounting a VMFS (Virtual Machine File System) partition on a new VMware ESXi host is a straightforward process. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you accomplish this:

  1. 1. Prepare the New ESXi Host: Ensure that you have installed VMware ESXi on the new host and it is up and running with all the necessary configurations.

  2. 2. Identify the VMFS Partition: Connect the storage device containing the VMFS partition to the new ESXi host. The VMFS partition should be detected automatically by ESXi.

  3. 3. Scan for Storage Devices: In the ESXi host's web interface (vSphere Client), go to the "Storage" section and click on "Storage Adapters." Select the storage adapter that is connected to the storage device containing the VMFS partition.

  4. 4. Rescan Storage Adapters: Once the storage adapter is selected, click on the "Rescan" button. This action triggers a scan of the storage devices connected to the host.

  5. 5. Discover VMFS Datastores: After the rescan is complete, go to the "Storage" section and click on "Datastores." ESXi should detect the VMFS partition and display it as a datastore.

  6. 6. Mount the VMFS Datastore: Select the detected VMFS datastore from the list and click on the "Mount" button. ESXi will mount the VMFS datastore, making it accessible for virtual machine storage.

  7. 7. Review and Manage: Once the VMFS datastore is mounted, you can review its details, capacity, and usage from the vSphere Client. Additionally, you can use this datastore to create, upload, and manage virtual machines.

  8. 8. Unmounting (Optional): If you need to unmount the VMFS datastore later, perhaps for maintenance or reconfiguration, you can do so from the vSphere Client by selecting the datastore and clicking on the "Unmount" button.

Remember that VMFS is a proprietary file system developed by VMware, and it is designed to work seamlessly with ESXi hosts. The process described above assumes that the storage device and VMFS partition are compatible with the ESXi version and have been properly set up.

Always exercise caution when making changes to storage configurations, and ensure you have a backup of critical data before performing any operations on the VMFS datastore.

Accessing VMFS Datastore from Windows

To access VMFS (Virtual Machine File System) Datastore from Windows with DiskInternals VMFS Recovery, follow these steps:

  1. 1. Download and Install DiskInternals VMFS Recovery:

  2. 2. Launch DiskInternals VMFS Recovery:

    • Open the VMFS Recovery software from the Start menu or desktop shortcut.
  3. 3. Connect the Storage Device:

    • Ensure that the storage device containing the VMFS Datastore is connected and recognized by your Windows machine.
  4. 4. Select the Storage Device:

    • In the DiskInternals VMFS Recovery software, you should see a list of detected storage devices.
    • Choose the storage device that holds the VMFS Datastore you want to access.
  5. 5. Scan for VMFS Datastores:

    • Click on the "Scan" button to start the scanning process.
    • DiskInternals VMFS Recovery will analyze the selected storage device for VMFS Datastores.
  6. 6. Explore VMFS Datastores:

    • After the scan is complete, the software will display a list of detected VMFS Datastores and their partitions.
    • Select the VMFS Datastore you wish to access and explore its contents.
  7. 7. Mount the VMFS Datastore (Optional):

    • DiskInternals VMFS Recovery allows you to mount the detected VMFS Datastore as a virtual disk on your Windows machine.
    • Select the desired VMFS Datastore and click on the "Mount as Disk" option to access it as a virtual drive.
  8. 8. Access VMFS Datastore:

    • You can now access the VMFS Datastore and its contents using Windows File Explorer or any file management tool.
    • If you mounted the VMFS Datastore as a virtual disk, it should appear as a new drive letter on your Windows system.
  9. 9. Perform Data Recovery (If Needed):

    • If you encounter any data loss or corruption issues on the VMFS Datastore, DiskInternals VMFS Recovery also provides data recovery features to help you retrieve lost or deleted files.

Remember that DiskInternals VMFS Recovery is a third-party software designed specifically for VMFS Datastore recovery and access from Windows. Always ensure you have proper backups before attempting any data recovery or modification on the VMFS Datastore to prevent potential data loss.

Additionally, make sure to use the appropriate version of DiskInternals VMFS Recovery that supports the VMFS version you are trying to access. VMFS versions may vary depending on the VMware ESXi host and configuration.

How to Access VMFS Volumes without a VMware Host

Accessing VMFS (Virtual Machine File System) volumes without a VMware host can be challenging since VMFS is a proprietary file system developed by VMware. However, there are some third-party tools available that offer limited read-only access to VMFS volumes from non-VMware environments. One such tool is "vmfs-tools" for Linux. Keep in mind that using these tools carries certain risks, and it's essential to exercise caution and create backups before attempting to access VMFS volumes. Here's a high-level overview of the process using "vmfs-tools":

  1. 1. Use a Linux Environment:

    • To access VMFS volumes, you'll need a Linux system where you can install and use "vmfs-tools." This can be a physical Linux machine or a Linux virtual machine (using tools like VirtualBox or VMware Workstation).
  2. 2. Install "vmfs-tools":

    • Update the package list and install "vmfs-tools" on your Linux system using the package manager. For example, on Ubuntu:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install vmfs-tools

  1. 3. Connect the Storage Device:

    • Connect the storage device containing the VMFS volume to your Linux system. This can be a USB drive, an external hard disk, or a virtual disk image (VMDK) from a VMware virtual machine.
  2. 4. Identify the VMFS Volume:

    • Use Linux tools like "lsblk" or "fdisk" to identify the storage device with the VMFS volume. The device might have a partition with the VMFS file system.
  3. 5. Mount the VMFS Volume:

    • Create a mount point on your Linux system where you will access the VMFS volume. For example:

sudo mkdir /mnt/vmfs

  • Use "vmfs-fuse" to mount the VMFS volume to the mount point:

sudo vmfs-fuse /dev/sdX# /mnt/vmfs

  1. 6. Replace "/dev/sdX#" with the correct identifier of the VMFS volume on your system.

  2. 7. Access VMFS Data:

    • Once the VMFS volume is mounted, you can navigate to the mount point (/mnt/vmfs in our example) to access the virtual machine files stored on the VMFS volume. However, please note that the access is read-only.
  3. 8. Unmount the VMFS Volume:

    • When you're done accessing the VMFS volume, make sure to unmount it before disconnecting the storage device:

sudo umount /mnt/vmfs

Again, it's crucial to stress that using third-party tools to access VMFS volumes from non-VMware environments has limitations and risks. It's recommended to perform any critical operations on VMFS volumes using a VMware host for proper compatibility and data integrity. Additionally, creating backups of the VMFS volume before attempting any access is highly advisable to avoid data loss.


In conclusion, accessing VMFS (Virtual Machine File System) Datastore from different operating systems, such as Linux (Ubuntu), ESXi host, or Windows, is possible with the help of specific tools and methods tailored to each platform's requirements.

For Linux (Ubuntu), we learned that read-only access to VMFS Datastore can be achieved using the "vmfs-tools" package. By installing this package and identifying the VMFS partition, users can mount the Datastore and explore its contents, enabling seamless interaction with virtual machine files.

On the VMware ESXi host, accessing VMFS Datastore is a native and straightforward process. By connecting the storage device with the VMFS partition to the ESXi host and scanning for storage devices, administrators can discover and mount the VMFS Datastore with ease. The Datastore can then be managed and used for virtual machine storage through the vSphere Client interface.

When it comes to Windows, accessing VMFS Datastore requires the use of third-party software, such as "vmfs6-tools" or DiskInternals VMFS Recovery. These tools provide limited read-only access to VMFS Datastore, allowing users to explore its contents from a Windows environment. However, it's crucial to exercise caution and have proper backups in place, as modifying VMFS Datastore from non-VMware systems can lead to data corruption.

In all cases, we must emphasize the importance of understanding the risks associated with accessing VMFS Datastore from non-native environments. VMFS is a proprietary file system developed by VMware, and full read-write access is only officially supported on VMware ESXi hosts. Utilizing third-party tools might offer limited access but can also carry potential risks and data integrity concerns.

As always, when working with critical data and storage systems, it is advisable to adhere to best practices, create backups, and ensure compatibility with the underlying file system and platform. By following the appropriate procedures and using the right tools for each environment, users can access VMFS Datastore and optimize their virtualization experience.

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