vCenter 7 upgrade fails with “Exception occurred in install precheck phase”

NOTE: Since this article was written, KB83145 has been created which helps resolve the issue caused by this file and a few possible others.

I finally decided to upgrade my home lab to vSphere 7. First thing is always to upgrade vCenter. I had some issues with my 6.7 VCSA, specifically, that I lost the root password and kinda broke it when trying to recover. No big deal, I don’t use dvSwitches at home and I only have 9 VMs, so no great loss to set up a new vCenter.

After powering off the old VCSA, I deployed the lastest VCSA 7.0u1 image. Everything went well. The next day, I found out the 7.0u1a patch had been released. Since I hadn’t done more than add the vSphere hosts to vCenter, I jumped into the VAMI to perform an automatic upgrade. 7.0u1a was right there waiting for me. I selected it and started the upgrade.

About 30 seconds after starting the upgrade, I received this error:

Installation failed: Exception occurred in install precheck phrase

I googled for “Exception occurred in install precheck phrase” and didn’t see any result for this at all. Everything that looked close was way off. Hitting Resume just started the upgrade again, asking me to cancel or proceed. The cancel button did nothing, and the proceed button led right back to this error.

I tried rebooting the VCSA, figuring maybe it just needed a fresh boot. Logging into the VAMI – after the reboot – showed the same error. In addition, it grays out the left-hand menu. If you change the URL to remove the navigation (https://vcsa/ui) you do get back to the menu, but any attempt to perform another upgrade leads to the same cycle.

After deleting this VCSA and deploying another 7.0u1 instance from scratch, I encountered the same error! Again, google failed me, even a few days later. Thankfully, someone on the VMware{code} slack pointed me to an article on Paul Braren’s blog.

Though the error was somewhat different, the resolution worked for me! Paul’s post goes through the detail of how he ran into the problem and leads to an ultimate resolution of removing the file /etc/applmgmt/appliance/software_update_state.conf. Once I removed this file, I was able to navigate to and perform and upgrade in the VAMI.

I could, of course, have simply downloaded a new image of the VCSA and deploy it, but in production we don’t often have this luxury. We have to fix what’s out there instead of starting from scratch. I hope that by writing this post, which builds on Paul’s excellent work, this error message pulls up at least one result for you. Take that, denvercoder9!