Tips to Manage Powered Off Virtual Machines

5/31/2015 • by Josh Topolski

When is the last time you analyzed the environments you work with to monitor how many powered off virtual machines have accumulated? If your lab has a large amount, it may be time to do some “spring cleaning”. Here are some tips to help.

Take Inventory

In order to know if you have virtual machines which are powered off and no longer needed, you will have to perform an inventory. Take a look at your total VM’s, along with the percentage which are powered off.


A number of considerations should be taken when deciding to delete or keep powered off VM’s.

First, your infrastructure must have a considerable amount of size and power in order to power all the machines at once. Ask if you will really put to use all of the machines you have powered off? How many backups do you really need?

Second, when is the last time you used each machine? This can help you to identify the likelihood of using it in the future.

Last, the size of the virtual machine’s environment can play an integral role in considering how to best manage things. For instance, if a virtual machine is within a smaller environment where the same programs are being run over and over, keeping them instead of deleting them makes sense. If a virtual machine is within a larger environment where there are constant users, backing up and deleting programs in order to save space would be a good idea.


Back Up

Backing up information on any machine should be more of a necessity than anything else. Not only will backing up information save the user from potentially losing all of their data, it will also save a lot of space. If your VM crashes or if you delete data by accident, the back-up option provides an opportunity to recover any lost data that wasn’t saved. The process of backing up data also has an impact on the size and efficiency of the environment and storage performance.


There are both advantages and disadvantages to deleting VMs. The biggest advantage, of course, is saving space on the disc. Once a VM is deleted, it creates more storage space. The more storage space there is, the faster the disc will run. Perhaps the largest disadvantage is the potential loss of important data. In deleting VMs, they will be gone forever unless first backed up somewhere else.

Run a VM to use Fewer Resources

Windows Deployment Services and PXE Boot VM with no Hard Drive

In order to use fewer resources while running a VM, use Windows Deployment Services and a PXE boot with no hard drive. Because there is no hard drive, nothing will be installed, thus taking up no space while going directly to the Windows installer menu. They won’t run or do much of anything unless prompted.

Leverage a Small Linux Distribution

One last, but certainly not least, tip is to leverage a small Linux distribution. This small, light distribution can be installed directly onto the hard drive. Because of its tiny size (ie, DSL), it interferes little with speed and space, opening up more room for other things.

All in all, there is no ‘right’ way to manage any powered off virtual machine. That all comes down to the user’s preferences and what the actual machine is used for. VMs in lab settings might be smaller with more continuous use, while VMs in a home-based setting might be constantly backing up and getting deleted.

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