What's an OVA File and How Do You Open One? (2024)

What to Know

  • Most OVA files are Open Virtual Appliance files.
  • Open one with VMware Workstation or VirtualBox.
  • Unzip the file to find the VMDK file or to convert to VHD.

This article details what an OVA file is—there are two primary formats that use this extension. We'll look at how to open both kinds, and how to convert your file to a different format.

What Is an OVA File?

A file with the .OVA file extension is most likely a virtual appliance file used by virtualization programs to store various files associated with a virtual machine (VM).

The file is stored in the Open Virtualization Format (OVF) as a TAR archive. Some of the files you might find within it include disk images (like VMDKs), an OVF descriptor XML-based text file, ISOs or other resource files, certificate files, and an MF manifest file.

Since the OVF format is a standard, it can be used by a virtual machine program to export the VM data files so that it can be imported into a different application. VirtualBox, for example, can export one of its VMs to an archive package with the .OVA file extension that includes an OVF and VMDK file.

What's an OVA File and How Do You Open One? (1)

The Octava music notation program uses OVA files, too, for storing musical score formatting options like bars, staffs, and notes.

Other technology terms use the OVA abbreviation, too, but none of them have anything to do with the file formats on this page. Some examples include Outlook Voice Access, Original Video Animation, and Office Validation Assistant.

How to Open an OVA File

VMware Workstation and VirtualBox are two virtualization applications that can open OVA files.

Some other similar programs that support OVF include VMware's OVF Tool, HCL SmartCloud, Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager, and Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2).

Since OVA files are archives that hold other data, you can extract the contents out or browse through them with a file unzip program like 7-Zip.

You'll need Octava to open musical score files.

How to Convert OVA Files

There's little reason to convert an actual OVA file, but several reasons to convert one or more files from inside the archive. Keep that in mind when you're deciding what format you want the virtual machine to end up as.

For example, you don't need to convert an OVA file to OVF or VMDK in order to get those files out of the archive. You can instead just extract it from the OVA file using one of the file unzip programs mentioned above.

The same is true if you want to convert the VMDK file to Hyper-V VHD; you can't just convert the OVA archive to VHD. Instead, you need to pull the VMDK file out of it and then convert the VMDK to VHD using a program like Microsoft Virtual Machine Converter (that tool has been retired, but you can still get it through that link, which goes to a 2020 archive of the program).

To convert an OVA file to be used with VMware Workstation is as easy as exporting the VM to an OVA file. Then, in VMware, use the File > Open menu to browse for the OVA file, and then follow the instructions on the screen to set up the new VM.

If the VM program you're using doesn't export to an OVA file, VMware can still open other VM related content like OVF files.

QCOW2 files are QEMU Copy On Write Version 2 Disk Image files that are similar to other virtual machine hard drive files. See this tutorial at Edoceo to learn how to convert the OVA file to QCOW2 for use with QEMU.

You might also be looking for an OVA to ISO converter, but it'd be more appropriate to convert the virtual hard drive files (that are inside the OVA archive) to an image format (much like the VHD example above), which is out of the scope of this article.

VMware OVF Tool is a command-line tool that lets you import and export OVA files to and from other VMware products. VMware vCenter Converter works, too.

Still Can't Open It?

If your file isn't opening with the suggestions above, double-check that you're actually dealing with a file that ends with ".OVA". This isn't always the case, since it's easy to confuse file formats that use similarly spelled file extensions.

For example, OVR and OVP are both spelled almost exactly like OVA, but are instead Overlay files used with a program called The Overlay Maker. PVA is another example, but it's a video file. Trying to open any of those files with the virtualization tools mentioned above will not get you anywhere.

Similar to Octava musical score files are Overture musical score files that use the OVE file extension. It'd be easy to confuse these two file formats, but the latter only works with the Overture application.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the difference between an ISO and an OVA file? An OVA file contains a compressed version of a virtual machine. When you open an OVA file, the virtual machine is extracted and imported into the virtualization software installed on your computer.An ISO file is a disc image file which can include the entire contents of a DVD, CD, or Blue-ray Disk, and it's often part of an OVA file.
  • How do you import an OVA file into VirtualBox? In VirtualBox, go to File > Import Appliance. In the Import box, select the OVA file, verify the settings, and click Import.

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What's an OVA File and How Do You Open One? (2024)


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