How do you upgrade a stand-alone host to ESXi 6.5?

Upgrading a stand-alone host to ESXi 6.5 is as easy as downloading the offline bundle update, starting Secure Shell and running a few commands with the ESXi software command tool set.

There are a number of new features for the stand-alone host in ESXi 6.5, not least of which is the web management...

interface that is built directly into the host.

This means that you can manage the host from any HTML5-based web client. The fat client is no longer necessary and is going the way of the dinosaurs; ESXi 6.5 will be the last version to support the fat client.

Assuming you're already running ESXi 6, in order to upgrade to ESXi 6.5, download the offline bundle update from the VMware site. The offline bundle is essentially a package containing all the files required to update to 6.5.

Start the Secure Shell (SSH) service on the stand-alone host to begin the ESXi 6.5 upgrade.

In the client, navigate to the Configuration tab at the top of the page and select Security Profile. Click the properties hyperlink on the right-hand side and scroll down to the SSH service entry to make sure it is highlighted. Click the Options button and start the service by clicking the Start. This setting will last until the host is rebooted, though you can change it to start with the host, if you choose.

Once you've downloaded the offline bundle, use a tool -- such as Secure Copy or Windows Secure Copy -- to copy the bundle onto a local data store on the host. I'm using "datastore1" for this example, but your mileage may vary. Make sure the data store you use has enough space for this file prior to uploading it.

Copy the offline bundle.
Copy the offline bundle onto a local data store.

After the upload is complete, log in to the server using the SSH application -- in this case, we're using PuTTY -- to log in to the host as root. Once you've logged in, navigate to the uploaded bundle as you would do in any system.

Using the ESXi software command tool set, install the update using the following command:

esxcli software vib install -d /vmfs/volumes/datastore1/

Once this command is executed, you'll need to reboot the installation; to do this, simply run the reboot command and press Enter.

Now that the reboot is complete, the system should show up as ESXi 6.5. Open a web browser and type in the fully qualified domain name or the host name to access the new GUI client. The web client should open the new 6.5 GUI.

If, for any reason, you need to revert your stand-alone host to the previous version of ESXi, simply reboot the host and, when the progress bar starts, press the CTRL + R keys. The system will then ask if you wish to revert; press "Y" and the system will reboot.

Before attempting an ESXi 6.5 upgrade, be sure to check the VMware Hardware Compatibility Guide. This method of upgrading may not work for highly-customized versions of ESXi -- such as the Hewlett Packard Enterprise update -- because not all drivers are available in the vanilla upgrade. Vendors usually make updated packages available for download shortly after VMware releases an update zip file.

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