Hyper-V VMs can fail to start if the host is copying a large file

I have a couple of Microsoft Hyper-V servers which I’ve been working with, one of which has 20GB RAM. It had two virtual machine guests, one with 12GB allocated and another with 2GB allocated. I created a third VM with 2GB and started it up. It worked initially, but on rebooting the VM I got the message:

Failed to create partition: Insufficient system resources exist to complete the requested service. (0x800705AA)

This was puzzling. Most people consider that the Hyper-V host does not need very much RAM for its own operations – Brien Possey suggests 2GB, for example – and I am running the stripped-down Hyper-V 2008 R2. 4GB should be more than enough.

After chasing round for a bit, and wondering if it was something to do with NUMA, or WMIPrvse.exe gobbling all the RAM, I found out the reason. At the time I was trying to start the VM, the Hyper-V host was copying a large file (a .VHD) to an external drive for backup. In order to perform this action, the host was using a large amount of RAM for a temporary cache; and was apparently unable to release it for a VM to use until the copy completed.

In some circumstances this could be unfortunate. If you had a scheduled task in the host for copying a large file at the same moment that a guest needed a restart, perhaps triggered by Windows Update, the guest might fail to restart.

Something worth knowing if you work with Hyper-V.

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