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qcow is a file format for disk image files used by QEMU, a hosted virtual machine monitor. It stands for "QEMU Copy On Write" and uses a disk storage optimization strategy that delays allocation of storage until it is actually needed. Files in qcow format can contain a variety of disk images which are generally associated with specific guest operating systems. Two versions of the format exist: qcow, and qcow2, which use the .qcow and .qcow2 file extensions, respectively.