Configure Virtual Machine Automatic Startup on VMware ESXi

By default, virtual machines located on VMWare ESXi or VMware Hypervisor is not starting automatically at the host boot. This means that after the ESXi host reboot (planned restart or crash, for example, caused by a power failure), Administrator have to manually start all the virtual machines. In this guide we will show you how to configure virtual machines to automatically start with the VMWare ESXi host without Administrator intervention.

At first, open browser and go to the login screen page of the VMware Web Client and then log on. In Web Client console, select ESXi host which you want to configure for VMs auto startup. Then go to following tab Manage -> Settings -> VM Startup / Shutdown.

Tip. If your ESXI host is a part of vSphere HA cluster, you can’t configure autostart and shutdown settings this way, because HA cluster respond for the availability of VM.

As you can see all of the virtual machines disposed on a given ESXi host are in Manual Startup section. This means that after host rebooting they will have to be started manually.

In order to be booted automatically you need to add VMs manually to the Automatic Startup list.

Click the Edit button.

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vm startup shutdown

In the dialog Edit VM Startup and Shutdown check on Allow virtual machine to start and stop automatically with the system. It is now possible to configure the auto start settings for VMs.

There are common options of startup and shutdown behavior:

  • Startup delay — How many seconds VMs wait before powering on (by default 120 seconds). This delay allows you to wait for booting of custom services and scripts execution
  • Shutdown delay — Specifies the time delay before shutdown each virtual machine (by default 120 seconds)
  • Shutdown Action — for each VM available 4 shutdown actions: None, Power Off , Suspend or Guest Shutdown (using opportunities of VMware Tools). Вy default used action is Power Off.

default vm settings

You can place VM to the one of the following sections:

  • Automatic Startup — all virtual machines in this section are starting automatically after the completion of the ESXi host boot. Administrator specifies a specific boot sequence of virtual machines. For example, domain controller should be booted first, then Exchange servers etc.
  • Any Order — VMs powering on automatically in random order
  • Manual Startup — Administrator should start this VMs manually

Select desired virtual machine and use Move up button to move it to Automatic Startup section. Similar action is performed with all the VMs.

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vm settings auto start

Click OK to save your changes and close the dialog box.

Tip. If you have not configured the HA, but it is possible to move VMs between hosts using vMotion, startup settings are migrating to the destination host with VM.

In addition, you can configure auto startup setting of the VM using PowerCLI.  Display a list of the auto start action for all VMs on the host:

Get-VM –VMname * | Select-Object VMname, AutomaticStartAction

To enable Automatic Startup for all VMs which name starts with lon-, run the following command:

Get-VM –VMname lon-* | Set-VM –AutomaticStartAction Start

That’s it! You have successfully configured automatic startup for virtual machines on VMWare ESXi or vSphere Center.

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  • can this be done without vSphere or VCenter? I’m using the free ESXI license for my home lab, and I don’t have VSphere or Vcenter since those are not included. The Web interface lets me enabled autostart, and the guest actions also let you raise or lower the machine’s autostart priority. What it doesn’t let me do is it select which guests are included in autostart. I’ve searched all over the interface and cannot find it.


    • Unfortunately, we have free ESXI installed, but most likely you can manage autostart settings via vSphere Web Host client similarly as in the paid version of ESXi / vSphere:
      Manage->System->Autostart-> Edit settings. And change Enabled to Yes