Tip: Force a Virtual Machine to Power Off

If you’ve ever used a computer and had it freeze or otherwise lock up, you may have had to pull the power cord, either literally or by holding the power button. But how do you do this for a virtual machine?

In the Virtual Machine menu, there are of course power commands: Shut Down Guest, Suspend Guest, and Restart Guest. However, these are what are known as soft power commands – they’re requests to the guest OS, which it can ignore (or in the case of a deadlocked guest, might not be able to handle). In contrast, hard power options are not ignorable by the guest – it’s the virtual equivalent of yanking the power cord. To get these hard power options, hold down the option key on the Virtual Machine menu to change the power commands to Power Off, Suspend, and Reset.

Obligatory note of caution: Just like with a physical computer, you risk corrupting the contents of the (virtual) disk if the guest OS isn’t in a quiesced state.

Side note: Some virtual machines have the default options switched (i.e. hard power options by default, and pressing the option key changes to soft power options).

Bonus tip: Holding down the option key to get alternate menu items is used in other Mac applications – for example, try it in Finder.


19 comments have been added so far

  1. Just wanted you to know that VMWare Tools for VMWare Fusion 2.0 does not work well at all with Ubuntu 8.10 beta (wrong display sizes, mouse is not recognized at all, etc).

  2. Thanks. This happened to me when Windows Update did an automatic restart while I left the room with programs running. Lacking this info, I ended up restoring the virtual machine from backup. A forced power off is obviously more elegant.

  3. This is a helpful tip, SINCE IT IS AN OTHERWISE INVISIBLE FUNCTION, and not easily found in the VMWare help files. This is canonically bad UI design, regardless of wherever else this approach is used. For goodness’s sake, when this is necessary, the customer is already frustrated – why make it more difficult? If necessary, require an extra step of confirmation, but for the love of pete, make it an obvious option that doesn’t require hunting around for internet tips!

  4. Agree with Dan Phillips above!!! I’ve needed this tip for quite some time. It’s quite irritating when the software thinks it’s smarter than the user.

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