I have been tasked to manage an old VMWare 4.0.1 installation, which is due to be replaced in the near future but it must be kept running at the moment.

I immediately noticed that some virtual machines have very old snapshots, some even taken years ago. I don't like to run with so old snapshots, as they reduce performance and use a fair amount of space (over 100 GB). On the other hand, I am somewhat concerned that consolidating these very old snapshots can cause some problems (ie: a failed consolidation leaving the vm image in an inconsistent state).

What do you feel is the best approach to get ridden of these old snapshots?


You're right that vSphere snapshots shouldn't sit around for long, we have a 48-hour maximum period, the facility is there to help with say software upgrades or similar. Clearing down old ones can be very slow and can corrupt the VM - but you need to do it, you can't leave these around can you? Presumably you want to upgrade the whole environment to 6.x, in which case you probably really need to get rid of those old snapshots so you can migrate them into vmfs v6 datastores.

Anyway yeah, get rid of them but warn people not to do this again and that you may lose some VMs.

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  • Thank you for your contribution. So, my fears about inconsistent/corrupted virtual machines after a failed (long) consolidation are valid? It happens on the wild? – shodanshok Apr 28 '17 at 10:55
  • Oh god yeah, seemingly the older the snap the more likely too - hence our 48 hour limit. We have a thing where when you make a snapshot you have to enter in why, who's doing it and when - then at least you know that if it's over 48 hours you can delete it. – Chopper3 Apr 28 '17 at 11:14
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    Better yet, have your monitoring system (I use LogicMonitor for this) alert on old snapshots. – EEAA Apr 28 '17 at 12:31
  1. Create a backup of the VM files, ideally while it is powered off. Just copying the whole VM to a second location should suffice.
  2. Delete the snapshots. Ideally during non office hours, the consolidation will take time. A lot of time. It will go faster when the VM is turned off.
  3. Check if the VM is intact, if not, restore the backup.
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  • This is very reasonable, and I already suggested to do that. Problem is that these virtual machines can not be shut down right now, and I have difficult times trying to convince management to allow a sufficiently wide maintenance window to clear the mess... – shodanshok Apr 28 '17 at 10:54
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    Well, you need to find a way to schedule sufficient downtime. Personally, I'd even volunteer to do this in off hours, knowing it will save me an incredible amount of headaches and problems later. It may occur in a few months or in a few years, but eventually these snapshots will create big problems, resulting in even longer, or worse, unscheduled downtime because something breaks. The sooner you solve this the better. – Gerald Schneider Apr 28 '17 at 11:42

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