Boot time failures due to ESXi configuration encryption
search cancel

Boot time failures due to ESXi configuration encryption


Article ID: 312109


Updated On:


VMware vSphere ESXi


This article guides you through troubleshooting the failure of your ESXi host to boot after upgrade/installation to vSphere 7.0 U2 or later. The article aims to help you eliminate the common causes of this issue by verifying the minimum system requirements are met, and the hardware is functioning as expected.

An ESXi host runs into one of the following PSOD errors during boot:

Error Messages:
  1. Unable to restore system configuration. A security violation was detected.
security violation
  1. Failed to decrypt system configuration. 
Decryption failed
  1. Unable to recover the system configuration.  
recovery failed  

Note: Before ESX 8.0 U1, Quick Boot cannot be used when TPM is enabled.


VMware vSphere ESXi 8.0.x
VMware vSphere ESXi 8.0.1
VMware vSphere ESXi 7.0.0


Please validate that each step below is true for your environment. Each step will provide instructions or a link to a document, to eliminate possible causes and take corrective action as necessary.

Error message A:

  1. Check if your firmware security settings have been modified from what it was before.
    • If TPM 2.0 has been disabled, re-enable it.
    • If UEFI secure boot has been disabled, enable it back.
    • If execInstalledOnly boot option is set to FALSE, change it back to its initial value (i.e. TRUE).
    • Add "execInstalledOnly=TRUE" to the boot command-line (press shift+o when mboot starts and you see a 5 second countdown, right after the bios finishes running).
  2. If you would like to change the firmware settings and permanently avoid this violation message, See Enable or Disable the Secure Boot Enforcement for a Secure ESXi Configuration.
  3. If the firmware settings have not been modified, This means that either the TPM 2.0 chip is not working or has been replaced (possibly due to a motherboard swap) or the version of ESXi being booted is not genuine. In this case, you need to recover the ESXi configuration following these steps: 
    • Start the ESXi host.
    • When the ESXi installer window appears, press Shift+O to edit boot options.
    • To recover the configuration, at the command prompt, append the following boot option to any existing boot options.
      • Note: Don’t remove the information which is already present at the prompt. Just type the encryptionRecoveryKey=recovery_key immediately after the already showed commands.
    • Now, the secure ESXi configuration is recovered and the ESXi host boots. To persist the change, enter the following command: /sbin/
    • Reboot the ESXi host.

Note: For ESXi versions 8.0 U1 and 8.0 U2 (or any patch on these lines), if you encounter a PSOD after an ESXi Quick Boot upgrade, simply rebooting the host will solve the problem. VMware is aware of this issue and working on a fix.

Error message B

This means that a genuine ESXi version has booted, but the configuration data has been tampered with or is corrupted and cannot be recovered. see Installing and Setting Up ESXi.

Error message C:

This means that we are unable to recover with the provided recovery key. Ensure the input recovery key is correct; otherwise, see Installing and Setting Up ESXi.

To retrieve the ESXi recovery key, run esxcli system settings encryption recovery list