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Methods of upgrading to ESXi 5.1

Purpose

This article provides high-level information that may be useful when upgrading to ESXi 5.1.
 
Notes:
  • This article does not include the steps for upgrading to ESXi 5.1. For more information about upgrading from ESX/ESXi 3.x or 4.x, see Upgrading to ESXi 5.1 best practices (2032756).
  • This article assumes that you have read the documentation for the update you are applying. For more information, see theVMware vSphere 5.1 Release Notes and the vSphere Upgrade Guide. The documentation contains definitive information. If there is a discrepancy between the guide and this article, assume that the guide is correct.

Resolution

Methods to Upgrade

VMware provides several ways to upgrade ESX/ESXi hosts:
  • vSphere Update Manager
  • Upgrade or migrate interactively using an ESXi installer ISO image on CD/DVD or USB flash drive
  • Scripted upgrade
  • vSphere Auto Deploy
  • esxcli (Command-line interface)

vSphere Update Manager

vSphere Update Manager is software for upgrading, migrating, updating, and patching clustered hosts, virtual machines, and guest operating systems. Update Manager orchestrates host and virtual machine upgrades. If your site uses vCenter Server, VMware recommends that you use Update Manager.

For instructions about conducting an orchestrated host upgrade, see Using vSphere Update Manager to Perform Orchestrated Host Upgrades in the vSphere Upgrade Guide. For instructions about conducting an orchestrated virtual machine upgrade, seePerform an Orchestrated Upgrade of Virtual Machines with vSphere Update Manager in the vSphere Upgrade Guide. For complete documentation about Update Manager, see Installing and Administering VMware vSphere Update Manager.

Note: Update Manager 5.x does not support upgrading ESX hosts to a later version of ESX (ESX 4.0 to ESX 4.1). It only supports upgrading from ESX/ESXi 4.x to ESXi 5.0.

Upgrade or migrate interactively using an ESXi installer ISO image on CD/DVD or USB flash drive

 
You can run the ESXi 5.1 installer from a CD/DVD or USB flash drive to do an interactive upgrade or migration. This method is appropriate for deployments with a small number of hosts. The installer works the same as for a fresh installation, but if you select a target disk that already contains an ESX/ESXi 4.x or ESXi 5.0.x installation, the installer upgrades the host to 5.1, and gives you the option to migrate some existing host settings and configuration files and preserve the existing VMFS datastore.
 
See Upgrade or Migrate Hosts Interactively in the vSphere Upgrade Guide.

Using a scripted upgrade

 
You can upgrade or migrate hosts from ESX/ESXi 4.x and ESXi 5.0.x to ESXi 5.1 by invoking an update script for an unattended upgrade. Scripted upgrades provide an efficient way to deploy multiple hosts. You can use a script to upgrade ESXi from a CD, DVD, or USB flash drive, or by PXE-booting the installer. You can also call a script from an interactive installation.
 
See Installing, Upgrading, or Migrating Hosts Using a Script in the in the vSphere Upgrade Guide.

vSphere Auto Deploy

Auto Deploy is a new feature in vSphere 5.x. After an ESXi 5.x host is deployed with Auto Deploy, you can use Auto Deploy to reprovision the host and reboot it with a new image profile that contains an ESXi upgrade or patch, a host configuration profile, and, optionally, third-party drivers or management agents provided by VMware partners. You can build custom images by using ESXi Image Builder CLI.
 
See Using vSphere Auto Deploy to Reprovision Hosts in the vSphere Upgrade Guide.

esxcli (Command-line interface)

You can upgrade and apply patches to ESXi 5.x hosts using the esxcli command-line utility for ESXi. You cannot use esxcli to upgrade ESX/ESXi 4.x hosts to ESXi 5.x. This utility requires the vSphere CLI. For more information, see Upgrading Hosts by Using esxcli Commands in the vSphere Upgrade Guide.

Note: The esxupdate and vihostupdate utilities are not supported for ESXi 5.x upgrades.

Summary of ESXi 5.x upgrade methods

This table summarizes the supported ESXi 5.x upgrade methods:

Upgrade Methods
Upgrade from ESX/ESXi 4.x to ESXi 5.x
Upgrade or Patch from ESXi 5.0 to ESXi 5.x
vSphere Update Manager
Yes
Yes
Interactive upgrade from CD, DVD, or USB drive
Yes
Yes
Scripted upgrade
Yes
Yes
vSphere Auto Deploy
No
Yes
esxcli
No
Yes



Supported upgrades to ESXi 5.0

You can upgrade an ESXi 5.0 host directly to ESXi 5.1, and in most cases, you can migrate an ESX 4.x or upgrade an ESXi 4.x host directly to ESXi 5.1.

The details and level of support for an upgrade or migration from ESX/ESXi 4.x and ESXi 5.0 to ESXi 5.1 depend on the host to be upgraded and the upgrade method that you use.

These ESX/ESXi 4.x and ESXi 5.0 versions are supported for upgrade to ESXi version 5.1:

  • ESX/ESXi 4.0, 4.0 U1, 4.0 U2, 4.0 U3, 4.0 U4
  • ESX/ESXi 4.1, 4.1 U1, 4.1 U2, 4.1 U3
  • ESXi 5.0, 5.0 U1
This table summarizes upgrade scenarios and support:
Scenario for Upgrade or Migration to ESXi 5.1Support
ESX/ESXi 3.x hosts
Not supported for direct upgrade.

You must upgrade ESX/ESXi 3.x hosts to ESX/ESXi 4.x before you can upgrade them to ESXi 5.1. See the vSphere 4.x upgrade documentation.

Alternatively, you might find it easier and more cost effective to do a fresh installation of ESXi 5.1

ESX 4.x host that was upgraded from ESX 3.x with a partition layout incompatible with ESXi 5.x
Not supported.

The VMFS partition cannot be preserved. Upgrading or migration is possible only if there is at most one VMFS partition on the disk that is being upgraded and the VMFS partition must start after sector 1843200. Perform a fresh installation. To keep virtual machines, migrate them to a different system.
ESX/ESXi 4.x host, migration or upgrade with vSphere Update Manager
Supported.
 
See Using vSphere Update Manager to Perform Orchestrated Host Upgrades in thevSphere Upgrade Guide and Installing and Administering VMware vSphere Update Manager.
ESX/ESXi 4.x host, interactive migration or upgrade
Supported.
 
See Upgrade or Migrate Hosts Interactively in the vSphere Upgrade Guide.

The installer wizard offers the choice to upgrade or perform a fresh installation. If you upgrade, ESX partitions and configuration files are converted to be compatible with ESXi.

ESX/ESXi 4.x host, scripted upgrade
Supported.
 
See Installing, Upgrading, or Migrating Hosts Using a Script in the vSphere Upgrade Guide.

In the upgrade script, specify the particular disk to upgrade on the system. If the system cannot be upgraded correctly because the partition table is incompatible, the installer displays a warning and does not proceed. In this case, perform a fresh installation. Upgrading or migration is possible only if there is at most one VMFS partition on the disk that is being upgraded and the VMFS partition must start after sector 1843200.
ESX 4.x host on a SAN or SSD

Partially supported.

You can upgrade the host as you would a normal ESX 4.x host, but no provisions will be made to optimize the partitions on the disk. To optimize the partition scheme on the host, perform a fresh installation.

ESX 4.x host , missing Service Console .vmdk file, interactive migration from CD or DVD, scripted migration, or migration with vSphere Update Manager
Not supported.

The most likely reasons for a missing Service Console are that the Service Console is corrupted or that the VMFS volume is not available, which can occur if the VMFS was installed on a SAN and the LUN is not accessible. In this case, on the disk selection screen of the installer wizard, if you select a disk that has an existing ESX 4.x installation, the wizard prompts you to perform a clean installation.
ESX/ESXi 4.x host, asynchronously released driver or other third-party customizations, interactive migration from CD or DVD, scripted migration, or migration with vSphere Update Manager

Supported with ESXi Image Builder CLI.

If an ESX/ESXi 4.x host contains customizations, such as third-party VIBS or drivers, upgrading with the standard VMware installer ISO will result in the loss of those customizations, and possibly an unstable system. See Upgrading Hosts That Have Third-Party Custom VIBs in the vSphere Upgrade Guide. You can use ESXi Image Builder CLI to create a customized ESXi installer ISO file that includes the VIBs or drivers. See the information on Image Builder in the vSphere Installation and Setup documentation.

ESXi 5.0 host, asynchronously released driver or other third-party customizations, interactive upgrade from CD or DVD, scripted upgrade, or upgrade with vSphere Update Manager

Supported.

When you upgrade an ESXi 5.x host that has custom VIBs to version 5.1, the custom VIBs are migrated.
 
See Upgrading Hosts That Have Third-Party Custom VIBs in the vSphere Upgrade Guide.
ESXi 5.0 host
These methods to directly upgrade to ESXi 5.1 are supported:
  • vSphere Update Manager.
  • Interactive upgrade from CD, DVD, or USB drive.
  • Scripted upgrade.
  • Auto Deploy. If the ESXi 5.0 host was deployed using Auto Deploy, you can use Auto Deploy to reprovision the host with an ESXi 5.1 image.
  • esxcli

based on VMware KB 2032757


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