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Replica Set Arbiter

On this page

  • Release Version Considerations
  • Performance Issues with PSA replica sets
  • Replica Set Protocol Version and Arbiter
  • Concerns with Multiple Arbiters
  • Security
  • Example

In some circumstances (such as when you have a primary and a secondary, but cost constraints prohibit adding another secondary), you may choose to add an arbiter to your replica set. An arbiter participates in elections for primary but an arbiter does not have a copy of the data set and cannot become a primary.

An arbiter has exactly 1 election vote. By default an arbiter has priority 0.


Do not run an arbiter on systems that also host the primary or the secondary members of the replica set.

To add an arbiter, see Add an Arbiter to Replica Set.

Arbiters are not supported with quarterly rapid releases. If your deployment includes arbiters, only use LTS releases.

If you are using a three-member primary-secondary-arbiter (PSA) architecture, consider the following:

  • The write concern "majority" can cause performance issues if a secondary is unavailable or lagging. For advice on how to mitigate these issues, see Mitigate Performance Issues with PSA Replica Set.

  • If you are using a global default "majority" and the write concern is less than the size of the majority, your queries may return stale (not fully replicated) data.

For the following MongoDB versions, pv1 increases the likelihood of w:1 rollbacks compared to pv0 (no longer supported in MongoDB 4.0+) for replica sets with arbiters:

  • MongoDB 3.4.1

  • MongoDB 3.4.0

  • MongoDB 3.2.11 or earlier

See Replica Set Protocol Version.

For more information, see the setFeatureCompatibilityVersion command.

Use a single arbiter to avoid problems with data consistency. Multiple arbiters prevent the reliable use of the majority write concern.

To ensure that a write will persist after the failure of a primary node, the majority write concern requires a majority of nodes to acknowledge a write operation. Arbiters do not store any data, but they do contribute to the number of nodes in a replica set. When a replica set has multiple arbiters it is less likely that a majority of data bearing nodes will be available after a node failure.


If a secondary node falls behind the primary, and the cluster is reconfigured, votes from multiple arbiters can elect the node that had fallen behind. The new primary will not have the unreplicated writes even though the writes could have been majority committed by the old configuration. The result is data loss.

To avoid this scenario, use at most a single arbiter.

New in version 5.3.

Starting in MongoDB 5.3, support for multiple arbiters in a replica set is disabled by default. If you attempt to add multiple arbiters to a replica set, the server returns an error:

MongoServerError: Multiple arbiters are not allowed unless all nodes
were started with --setParameter 'allowMultipleArbiters=true'

To add multiple arbiters to a replica set using MongoDB 5.3 or later, start each node with the allowMultipleArbiters parameter set to true:

mongod --setParameter allowMultipleArbiters=true

When running with authorization, arbiters exchange credentials with other members of the set to authenticate. MongoDB encrypts the authentication process, and the MongoDB authentication exchange is cryptographically secure.

Because arbiters do not store data, they do not possess the internal table of user and role mappings used for authentication. Thus, the only way to log on to an arbiter with authorization active is to use the localhost exception.

The only communication between arbiters and other set members are: votes during elections, heartbeats, and configuration data. These exchanges are not encrypted.

However, if your MongoDB deployment uses TLS/SSL, MongoDB will encrypt all communication between replica set members. See Configure mongod and mongos for TLS/SSL for more information.

As with all MongoDB components, run arbiters in trusted network environments.

For example, in the following replica set with 2 data-bearing members (the primary and a secondary), an arbiter allows the set to have an odd number of votes to break a tie:

Diagram of a replica set that consists of a primary, a secondary, and an arbiter.
← Delayed Replica Set Members