Cannot remove a License Key from VMware vCenter Server 4.x and 5.x
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Cannot remove a License Key from VMware vCenter Server 4.x and 5.x


Article ID: 343193


Updated On:


VMware vCenter Server


  • VMware vCenter Server Licensing page displays the license assigned key count as negative.
  • The Licensing page displays an incorrect number of licenses, more than it should have.

    For example:

    A count of -4 shows, while no hosts appear to be currently assigned to this key.

  • Clicking Remove and then Refresh does not remove the license key from vCenter Server. The key returns in the license field.
  • You cannot assign key to an ESX host because no available licenses are left.
  • You cannot add ESX host back to vCenter Server.


VMware vCenter Server 5.1.x
VMware vCenter Server 5.5.x
VMware vCenter Server 4.1.x
VMware vCenter Server 5.0.x
VMware vCenter Server 4.0.x


This issue is caused by a stale entry in the ADAM database.

Note: You must install Windows Support Tools to gain access to ADSI Edit, if this option is not already available within Administrative tools on the vCenter Server.

Warning: VMware recommends backing up the ADAM database before</u> making any changes. For more information see, Manually backing up and restoring the vCenter Server 4.x and 5.0 ADAM instance data (1029864).

To connect to the ADAM database:
  1. Log in to the vCenter Server.
  2. To open ADSI Edit, click Start > Run, type adsiedit.msc, and press Enter.
  3. Right-click ADSI Edit and click Connect to.
  4. In the Connection point section, click Select or type a Distinguished Name or Naming Context.
  5. Enter dc=virtualcenter, dc=vmware, dc=int
  6. In the Computer section, click Select or type a domain or server: (Server | Domain [:port]).
  7. Enter localhost
  8. Click OK.
  9. Navigate to DC=virtualcenter,DC=vmware,DC=int, OU=Licensing, OU=LicenseEntities. You see the CN=license_key containers.
  10. Right-click the container that shows the the serial number of the key that is negative within the vCenter Server Licensing page.
  11. Click Delete.
  12. Restart the VMware Virtual Center Server service. For more information, see Stopping, starting, or restarting VMware vCenter Server services (1003895).

Additional Information

If you are unable to add an ESX host back to the vCenter Server or a License key for this ESX already exists in ADAM database this error message may be reported.
The license key entered does not have enough capacity for this entity
If this issue occurs, check to see which key needs to be deleted in the ADAM database. As outlined in step 8 in the resolution section, when connected to the ADAM database and after expanding OU=LicenseEntities, you can see different key entries for each host. Right-click the containers until you locate the ESX host name or IP address with the issue. After it is located, click Delete and then retry adding the ESX host back to vCenter Server.

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