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Forensics of virtualization products

Dealing with Virtual Machine Images

It is becoming increasingly common to find evidence drives with Virtual Machines (VM) on them. The VMs may contain evidence of their own, but with their unique file structure, care must be taken during examination. Running the virtual machine could destroy artifacts that are important.

Virtual Box

There are two methods for creating a way to mount or inspect a Virtual Box VM. Virtual Box disks typically have the extension "vdi" for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. The mount method requires a Linux system and "qemu". The other method converts a vdi to a raw image format which can then be inspected with traditional forensics tools.


  1. Install qemu-kvm using your preferred installation tool (apt-get, etc)
  2. Load the network block device module >sudo modprobe nbd
  3. Use Qemu to load the VDI file as a loop back device >sudo qemu-nbd -c /dev/nbd0 infile.vdi
  4. Mount >sudo mount /dev/nbd0p1 /mnt
  5. Inspect the file system as needed

To undo:

  1. >sudo umount /mnt
  2. >qemu-nbd -d /dev/nbd0


Conversion requires the Virtual Box tool kit, if you don't already have it.

  1. Install virtualbox-ose using your preferred installation tool (apt-get, download from, etc)
  2. Convert to raw format >VBoxManage internalcommands converttoraw infile.vdi outfile.img
  3. Inspect the raw image as per usual, either with TSK, EnCase, or mount