In this post, we'll focus on a simple option that allows us to "pin" a VM to a specific host. In fact, a VM Overrides option will ensure that DRS won't move this VM around and that vSphere High Availability (HA) can still restart if there is a problem with the underlying host.

Easy to say. But how do you configure this? Where do you find these options? You'll find out in this post.

Instead of disabling HA or DRS for the whole cluster, by using the VM Overrides option you can take a granular approach and disable HA and/or DRS settings at the VM level.

But you can't configure that option by selecting the VM and editing its settings. You must do it at the cluster level. This means that you select the cluster where the VM runs and apply the new settings there.

Many VMware users have perfect knowledge of the free version of ESXi. But this version does not allow you to configure DRS, HA, or vMotion. You must have two or more hosts, and those hosts must be connected to the shared storage where the VMs are stored.

When you create a vSphere DRS cluster, you can override the default automation behavior of the cluster on a per-VM basis. This means that you can exclude an individual VM from the cluster-wide settings.

You can find VM Overrides at the Cluster level under the Configure menu. In the image below, you can see that you select vCluster. Go to Configure, and under Configuration click on VM Overrides.

VM Overrides Option at the cluster level

VM Overrides Option at the cluster level

The DRS cluster can have the automation level configured as Fully Automated. In this case, all VMs are moved around to accommodate the host's load, and no single host is overloaded.

You can configure the VM Override to Manual; in which case, the VM is excluded from the cluster-wide configuration.

This is pretty handy in many scenarios where you do not want a particular VM to be moved around by DRS; for example, a vCenter Server VM (or VCSA).

There are four options in all:

  • Disabled – You will disable DRS automation completely for this VM.
  • Manual – You will receive notifications from your DRS for manual vMotion tasks.
  • Partially Automated – This option provides an initial placement automatically. However, migration recommendations are only displayed; they do not run.
  • Fully Automated – This option provides default settings on a per-cluster basis.
VM Overrides for vSphere DRS

VM Overrides for vSphere DRS

On the same screen, you can set options for what happens with this VM when there is an HA failover. A VM can have various restart priorities. You can choose from the following options: Lowest, Low, Medium, High, Highest, and Disabled.

In our case of a VMware vCenter server VM, you would want to use the Highest option, since this VM must be restarted before anything else--perhaps even before a domain controller VM, since the initialization of the internal DB takes at least five minutes.

VM Overrides for vSphere HA

VM Overrides for vSphere HA

Each virtual machine in a vSphere HA cluster is assigned the cluster default settings for VM Restart Priority.

You can change the default behavior for each virtual machine by changing these defaults. However, If the virtual machine leaves the cluster, these settings are lost, because they are settings at the cluster-level.

During migration of VMs from one datacenter to another, you should always check these rules and exceptions. Otherwise, they're simply lost. They do not migrate along with a particular VM(s).

Note: If you plan to use vSphere fault tolerance, you should keep in mind that DRS will not move fault tolerance–enabled virtual machines.

Microsoft Cluster Service (MSCS) virtual machines ^

If you have any Microsoft Clustered VMs, the automation level of all virtual machines in an MSCS cluster should be set to Partially Automated. This is VMware's recommendation.

When you set the vSphere DRS automation level for the virtual machine to Partially Automated, vCenter Server will perform an initial placement of VMs when they are powered on and will provide migration recommendations for them. (Not actual vMotion.)

So let's say you have three VMs with a Microsoft MSCS configuration. In this case, you should select all three VMs and apply this configuration so that they will not be affected by DRS and vMotion but will still be protected by VMware High Availability (HA) and will be restarted if the underlying hardware has any problems.

Final words ^

This behavior has been changed several times in VMware vSphere. The above screenshots are from the latest release of VMware vSphere, 6.7 Update 2.

The VM Overrides option is useful when you have a VM or VMs that you do not want to be affected by your cluster-wide settings. As you see, you have several options at your fingertips and can choose a configuration that suits your needs.

You can also use VM-VM or Host-VM affinity and anti-affinity rules whenever you need them. An enterprise environment can have very specific use cases, and VMware vSphere cluster options as well as various override options enable you to provide an accurate configuration for your virtual environment.

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All settings can be managed from a single console by using the vSphere HTML 5 client. Only rarely do you need to use a specific configuration at the VM level (via a VM hardware option).

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9 Comments
  1. Tayfun Deger 2 years ago

    Good article 🙂

  2. Scott Villardi 1 year ago

    This behavior has been changed several times in VMware vSphere. 

    How has this behavior changed over different versions?  Our cluster is full of  VM Overrides all at the default cluster settings which does not seem to serve any purpose. We are trying to understand how they get there so we can provide proper documentation to our admins to either add them, remove them or add and adjust them.  What should I do with all of these VMs at the default settings?

    • Scott Villardi 1 year ago

      Almost forgot, just upgraded from 6.5 to 6.7 U3

    • Author

      Not sure to what you're referring to. 

      To change the default behavior:

      • Click on your HA cluster and then the “Configure” Tab
      • Click on “VM Overrides” and then click “Add”
      • Click on the green plus sign and select the VMs you would like to give a higher, or lower priority
      • Then select the new priority

      Hope it helps

  3. Scott Villardi 1 year ago

    Thanks for the quick reply.  Your instructions look like adding VMs is SOLELY a manual process, however there would be no benefit to adding a VM override unless something was changed (like changing the vSphere DRS Automation Level to Manual.

    I'm trying to understand how these machines got into the VM Overrides in the first place.  Perhaps, in earlier versions, the default was to add new VMs on creation and leave the settings at (cluster) default.

    I'm trying to understand if there is a reason to keep a VM in the Overrides if it is at default settings or should we remove them.

  4. Rishabh Jain 4 months ago

    I have a doubt, If I want to disable HA on a particular VM and Cluster is running on vSPhere Standard which means there is no DRS. Would that work? Can I disable HA on a particular VM?

    • Author

      Absolutely, you can change it for HA (you're licensed). If you enable HA at the cluster level, you can exclude VM individually...

  5. Rishabh Jain 4 months ago

    In this scenario, We do not need to go for Enterprise plus licenses. I just want to understand if we do not have DRS functionality. We can still disable HA on a particular VMs right?

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