How to upgrade a standalone ESXi host to VMware ESXi 6

When you deploy VMware vCenter, you have to ability to use VMware vSphere Update Manager (VUM) to centrally manage updating and upgrading your ESXi hosts. But if you are using one or more standalone hosts, this is not supported.

In this tutorial we will explain how to upgrade a standalone VMware ESXi 5.1 host to VMware ESXi 6. We will show how to do this both online and offline, in case your host does not have direct internet connectivity.

Online Upgrade

For the online upgrade method, we directly download the Image Profile to the ESXi host and perform the upgrade.

First you should shutdown / power off all VM’s on the host or migrate them to another host if available.

Login to your ESXi host with SSH. If SSH is not enabled, you can do that either via the DCUI (go to Troubleshooting Options and then Enable SSH) or via the vSphere client (go to Configuration, then Software, Security Profile and start the SSH service).

Put your host in Maintenance Mode.

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Verify your current ESXi version.

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Open the firewall to allow HTTP trafic (if needed).

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Determine the ESXi Image Profile name for the ESXi version you want to upgrade to. You can find a nice overview on the website of Virten.net. In our case we will upgrade to the latest version of ESXi 6.0.0.

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You will not see any output after executing this command. If you want to monitor the progress, you can look at /var/log/esxupdate.log. Once the upgrade has finished, you will see a list of all VIB’s which have been installed.

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You need to reboot the host to complete the operation.

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Once the reboot has finished, again login to the ESXi host with SSH.

If needed, again close the firewall for HTTP traffic.

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Finally, we can verify the new ESXi version.

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Once we have confirmed that our upgrade was successful, we can take our host again out of maintenance mode.

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Now you can start your VM’s again.

Offline upgrade

For the offline upgrade, we use VMware PowerCLI to download and prepare the upgrade package. Afterwards, the upgrade package is uploaded to the ESXi host and then applied.

First we use the Add-EsxSoftwareDepot cmdlet to add the ESX software depot to our PowerCLI session.

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Determine the ESXi Image Profile name for the ESXi version you want to upgrade to. You can find a nice overview on the website of Virten.net. In our case we will upgrade to the latest version of ESXi 6.0.0.

Next we will use the Export-EsxImageProfile cmdlet to download the Image Profile to the computer from where we are running the PowerCLI session and then export it to a depot .zip file.

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Once the .zip file has been created, we upload it to a datastore which is accessible by the ESXi host we want to upgrade.

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Shutdown / power off all VM’s or migrate them to another host if available.

Login to your ESXi host with SSH. If SSH is not enabled, you can do that either via the DCUI (go to Troubleshooting Options and then Enable SSH) or via the vSphere client (go to Configuration, then Software, Security Profile and start the SSH service).

Put your host in Maintenance Mode.

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Verify your current ESXi version.

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Now we can perform the upgrade. In this case we point our command to the depot .zip file we uploaded earlier to a datastore.

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You will not see any output after executing this command. If you want to monitor the progress, you can look at /var/log/esxupdate.log. Once the upgrade has finished, you will see a list of all VIB’s which have been installed.

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You need to reboot the host to complete the operation.

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Once the reboot has finished, again login to the ESXi host with SSH.

Finally, we can now verify the new ESXi version.

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Once we have confirmed that our upgrade was successful, we can also take our host again out of Maintenance Mode.

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Now you can start your VM’s again.

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