Upgrading a Standalone vSphere Host With esxcli

You may have heard that there's a new vSphere release out in the wild - vSphere 8, which just reached Initial Availability this week. Upgrading the vCenter in my single-host homelab is a very straightforward task, and using the included Lifecycle Manager would make quick work of patching a cluster of hosts... but things get a little trickier with a single host. I could write the installer ISO to a USB drive, boot the host off of that, and go through the install interactively, but what if physical access to the host is kind of inconvenient?

The other option for upgrading a host is using the esxcli command to apply an update from an offline bundle. It's a pretty easy solution (and can even be done remotely, such as when connected to my homelab via the Tailscale node running on my Quartz64 ESXi-ARM host) but I always forget the commands.

So here's quick note on how I upgraded my lone ESXi to the new ESXi 8 IA release so that maybe I'll remember how to do it next time and won't have to go Neeva'ing for the answer again.

0: Download the offline bundle

Downloading the Offline Bundle from VMware Customer Connect yields a file named VMware-ESXi-8.0-20513097-depot.zip.

Downloading the bundle

1: Transfer the bundle to the host

I've found that the easiest way to do this it to copy it to a datastore which is accessible from the host. Offline bundle stored on the local datastore

2. Power down VMs

The host will need to be in maintenance mode in order to apply the upgrade, and since it's a standalone host it won't enter maintenance mode until all of its VMs have been stopped. This can be easily accomplished through the ESXi embedded host client.

3. Place host in maintenance mode

I can do that by SSH'ing to the host and running:

1esxcli system maintenanceMode set -e true

And can confirm that it happened with:

1esxcli system maintenanceMode get

4. Identify the profile name

Because this is an upgrade from one major release to another rather than a simple update, I need to know the name of the profile which will be applied. I can identify that with:

1esxcli software sources profile list -d /vmfs/volumes/nuchost-local/_Patches/VMware-ESXi-8.0-20513097-depot.zip
2Name                          Vendor        Acceptance Level  Creation Time        Modification Time
3----------------------------  ------------  ----------------  -------------------  -----------------
4ESXi-8.0.0-20513097-standard  VMware, Inc.  PartnerSupported  2022-09-23T18:59:28  2022-09-23T18:59:28
5ESXi-8.0.0-20513097-no-tools  VMware, Inc.  PartnerSupported  2022-09-23T18:59:28  2022-09-23T18:59:28

Absolute paths

When using the esxcli command to install software/updates, it's important to use absolute paths rather than relative paths. Otherwise you'll get errors and wind up chasing your tail for a while.

In this case, I'll use the ESXi-8.0.0-20513097-standard profile.

5. Install the upgrade

Now for the moment of truth:

1esxcli software profile update -d /vmfs/volumes/nuchost-local/_Patches/VMware-ESXi-8.0-2051309
27-depot.zip -p ESXi-8.0.0-20513097-standard

When it finishes (successfully), it leaves a little message that the update won't be complete until the host is rebooted, so I'll go ahead and do that as well:


And then wait (oh-so-patiently) for the host to come back up.

6. Resume normal operation

Once the reboot is complete, log in to the host client to verify the upgrade was successful. You can then exit maintenance mode and start powering on the VMs again.

The upgrade process took me about 20 minutes from start to finish, and now I'm ready to get on with exploring what's new in vSphere 8!