How to Export or Backup a VMware vSphere Distributed Switch (vDS) Configuration

The VMware vSphere Distributed Switch (vDS) has long been one of my favorite features. vDS won me over in the beginning with its advanced features and simplified management features. VMware has continued to add features to the vDS, making it a leading contender in the virtual switch space. In the past, one of the features that was missing was the ability to backup and restore the configuration of the vSphere Distributed Switch by admins.

The release of vSphere 5.1 in 2012 brought the vSphere web client and the ability to export the vDS configuration. I will say the web client is still trying to make friends with most admins, but the vDS export function has won many over. This now allows for the vDS config to be exported for backups and easy recovery. Another possible option would be to use the exported configuration to rapidly build other vDS switches that you want to be configured in the same way.

vSphere Distributed Switch (vDS) Export

To get the process started we must log into the vSphere web client. This is one of the new features and cannot be performed from the classic thick vSphere client.

  • Once logged in, proceed to the network view within vCenter and expand the tree on the left and look for the vDS that you want to backup.
  • The image below shows that I have selected the switched named “vDS.”Right-click the name, and you’ll see the options shown in the image below. From the list, proceed to the All vCenter Actions menu and you will be able to see the many options that are available.
  • Click on Export Configuration.

VMware vSphere Distributed Switch (vDS)

  • Next up we are shown the following pop-up window. From this simple screen we can choose one of the two available ways to export the configuration. I want to backup the entire switch and port groups, so I have selected the first choice shown in the image. There is also an option to enter a text description of the backup to help you remember details about the backup. As a simple example I am using the backup to illustrate that I am taking a monthly backup and the date.

VMware vSphere Distributed Switch (vDS) backup

  • Once you have clicked OK in the previous step for the backup you are presented with the option to save a local copy on your computer.

VMware vSphere Distributed Switch (vDS) backup

  • I have elected to save a copy to my local computer which is a Mac. The image below shows that the backup is downloaded in a zip file and can be placed in the folder of my choice. This is a great way to keep a copy of backup purposes and other reasons.

VMware vSphere Distributed Switch (vDS) backup


As you can see, the process to backup a vDS switch in vCenter 5.1 or above is very easy. This is a simple but powerful feature that VMware has released and should be used as part of your normal process. I would recommend that admins work this into a normal support process so that you are taking regular backups. This might help in the recovery from a critical failure in the future, and you will be glad you had these backups.

Another option is if you have a large environment and had the need to create vDS on a regular basis, these backups could be imported to create new vDS configured in the same way. This is a simple way to accomplish if you are not a scripting person.

The backup is very simple and takes just a minute or two, so keep your environment protected and take advantage of this easy to use feature.