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HOW TO: Upgrade VMware ESXi 5.5 to VMware ESXi 6.0 using an ISO image

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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)
MVE^2, Expert of the Year 2017-2011, Scribe 2016-2012, Author of the Year 2017-6,2013-2012 VMware vExpert 2018-2011 27 years of experience.
As you upgrade your software from ESXi 5.5 to ESXi 6.0, you may want to use the traditional method of doing so with an ISO image. Especially if you are a free user, this is now your only option for upgrading due to VMware removing free access to the portal to download upgrades.
With that said, I will show you how to upgrade VMware ESXi 5.5 to VMware ESXi 6.0 using the ESXi ISO image in the following 4 steps. If you are a small business, you may want to complete this upgrade at a physical server.
Before you get started...
It is important to ensure you have valid backups of your virtual machines before you make any changes to a Production VMware vSphere Hypervisor ESXi 5.5 Host server, which is hosting virtual machines.All virtual machines must be powered off, and the server in maintenance mode.
Here are the steps to upgrade your software:

1. Download ESXi ISO image (Includes VMware Tools) from VMware.

2. Mount the ISO or Insert the CDROM in the Host ESXi 5.5 server.
  • Write (Burn) the ISO to a CDROM or DVDROM. If you have an HP or Dell Server, you can virtually mount the ISO in the CDROM drive since there is no requirement to burn the ISO to CDROM/DVDROM.

3. Power ON or REBOOT the Server
  • Ensure that the BIOS BOOT order is set to BOOT from the first CDROM device. At the Installer Boot Menu, hit Enter:
  • The installer will load.

4. Welcome to the VMware ESXi 6.0.0 Installation
  • At the "Welcome to the VMware ESXi 6.0.0 Installation" screen, select Enter to Continue.

  • Press F11 (function key 11) to Accept the EULA and Continue with the installation.

  • The installation program will scan for devices and installations of ESXi.

  • Select the installation disk which contains the ESXi 5.5 host OS to be upgraded. You can select F1 to show details of the current installation.

  • Hit Enter to continue. The next selection screen is VERY IMPORTANT. VMware Administrators which misread this selection can erase and destroy their ESXi 5.5 host server configuration, so please pay close attention and follow the instructions exactly.
There are three options:

  1. Upgrade ESXi, preserve VMFS datastore.
    Select this option if you want to perform an in-place upgrade of ESXi 5.5 to ESXi 6.0, keeping your existing ESXi configuration and virtual machines.
  2. ​Install ESXi, preserve VMFS datastore.
    Select this option if you want to perform a new installation of ESXi 5.5, keeping your existing virtual machines.
  3. Select this option if you want to erase everything - configuration, datastore and virtual machines
  • In this tutorial, we want to complete an Upgrade, so we will select Option 1. The system is scanned again.

  • Finally, confirm that you wish to complete the upgrade by selecting F11 Upgrade.

  • The upgrade will commence:

  • The ESXi 5.5 Host Server has been successfully upgraded to ESXi 6.0.0. Press Enter to Reboot. The server will shutdown and reboot.

  • After the server reboots, the DCUI screen should appear:

Congratulations, you have successfully upgraded your host server from VMware ESXi 5.5 to VMware ESXi 6.0 using an ISO image. 
Basic VMware Articles Series:During this series of articles, VMware released VMware vSphere 5.5 and 6.0 and VMware vSphere Hypervisor ESXi 5.5 and 6.0. These articles are also applicable to VMware vSphere Hypervisor ESXi 5.0, 5.5 and 6.0. For consistency, I have used VMware vSphere Hypervisor ESXi 5.1 throughout this series: 

Thank you for reading my article, please leave valuable feedback. If you liked my VMware article and would like to see more Articles from me, please click the Yes button near the: Was this article helpful? at the bottom of this article just below and to the right of this information. Thank You. Do not forget if you have a question about this article or another VMware, Virtualisation, Windows Server 2012 question, why not post a Question for Me and the other Experts Exchange Experts in the VMware, Virtualisation, Windows 2008, Windows 2012 Zones. I look forward to hearing from you. - Andy :- twitter @einsteinagogo
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Expert Comment

by:Seth Simmons
simple and straightforward...
one screenshot here was different from my install, possibly because i used HP OEM media of 6.0.0
it didn't ask about the data stores; only asked to install or upgrade
the upgrade otherwise worked fine and added to my new vCenter
LVL 130

Author Comment

by:Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)

sometimes there can be variations.

Glad you liked it.

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