One of the steps of upgrading a vSphere deployment is to update the VMware tools to the version provided by the hosting ESXi server. Like most of you know, it is very easy to upgrade the tools from vCenter. You either click the Update VMware Tools button in the VMware Tools outdated warning, or you can use PowerCLI which has the benefit of offering the -NoReboot switch.

Now regardless of the method you use to update, it is unlikely but possible that the operation hangs for some reason. In this case, the options of the VM are greyed out, you cannot cancel the task in the UI, you cannot move the VM or mount the ISO to go manual. If you wait long enough the task will eventually time out and get canceled but there is no point waiting. Quite messy but easy to fix. It is unclear why this happens but I noticed this behaviour several times with VMs running Windows Server 2008 R2.

To fix it we need to connect to the host running the VM via SSH, find its ID and use it to cancel the task.

  • Find the ID of the troublesome VM (case sentitive)

    vim-cmd vmsvc/getallvms | grep my-vm-01

The output will be similar to this including the VM ID, 10 in the example below.

[root@my-esxi-01:~] vim-cmd vmsvc/getallvms | grep my-vm-01
10     my-vm-01   [my-datastore-01] my-vm-01/my-vm-01.vmx    windows7Server64Guest   vmx-10
  • Cancel the task using the VM ID

    vim-cmd vmsvc/tools.cancelinstall 10

Once you’ve done that the task is canceled in vCenter and you can get back to fixing the tools install.