How to Import/Export OVA Files in VirtualBox

In Virtualbox, when you create a new virtual machine, the default file format is .VDI. While there are options to use the VMDK (for VmWare), or VHD (for VirtualPC) format, there doesn’t seem to be a way to import in an existing VM of OVA format.

In case you are not aware, OVF, also known as Open Virtualization Format, is one of the way to standardize virtual appliance so they can be imported and use in different virtualization software. A virtual appliance in OVF format usually consist of a series of files. The OVA format is merely a single file distribution of the OVF, stored in the TAR format. In this tutorial, we will show you how to import and export an OVA file into/from Virtualbox.

Assuming you already have your OVA file ready, in Virtualbox, you just have to go to “File -> Import Appliance” in the menu bar.


Click the “Open Appliance” button to select your OVA file. Once you have selected the file, click “Next”.


The next window will show you the configuration of the current virtual appliance. You can scroll through the configuration list and double click on any item (or check/uncheck the box) to make changes to it. Lastly, click “Import”.


Virtualbox will proceed to import the virtual machine into your library. Depending on the size of your OVA file, the import process could take quite a while.

Once the process is completed, you should be able to see the new VM in your list.


To export a VDI file (the default format for Virtualbox) to a OVA file so you can re-import in another virtual machine, you just have to go to “File -> Export Appliance” in the menu bar.


It will then prompt you to select the disk image that you want to export. In this case, I select the “Windows 7” image. Note that you can select multiple image at the same time.


Next, select the path and filename where the OVA file will be exported. You will notice that Virtualbox will automatically append a .ova extension to the end of the appliance. You can, if you wish, change it to the .ovf extension. In this case, multiple files will be created instead of a single file.


The next screen is the Appliance Settings page where you can review and edit the appliance configuration. In most cases, I will just leave this as the default.


Lastly, click the “Export” button. Note that Virtualbox will first convert your image to vmdk format (the default in VMWare) first before packaging it in OVA format.


That’s it.

What other ways do you use to import and export OVA files in Virtualbox?

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